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LinkedIn Proximity Linking

LinkedIn recently pushed out version 3.0 of their mobile iPhone/Touch app [iTunes link]. It is a complete rework of the mobile LinkedIn experience. I’ve only had a brief glance, but it already looks more useful.

What I’m really excited about, though, is the inclusion of a new mechanism for connecting accounts with other LinkedIn users. Now if two people are using the iPhone app and want to connect, they can take advantage of the nearfield communication of Bluetooth to provide a handshake between the accounts, instantly connected on LinkedIn after an in-app verification. No more searching for names and e-mail addresses while you try to hunt down the account of the person standing in front of you. Now, standing in front of someone is all the context needed to establish a connection. This is how it should be.

I know that this isn’t the first mobile app to use the context of proximity to exchange information. Bump and Handshake are two notable examples of applications that have done this well already. There was even IR beaming of business cards in the Palm days. However, I believe this may be the first time that a social network as large as LinkedIn has made it so easy to establish a connection with another user.
I wonder how long it will be before the rest of the social media networks integrate this type of connection mechanism into their mobile experiences. I’d love to be able to follow someone on Twitter by launching Tweetie and seeing that they are close to me. If Facebook added this to their app, it would make a friend request that much more intimate and personal. For most instances of my own “social networking” I typically don’t add someone unless I have met them in person. To me, establishing a virtual connection “in real life” makes that connection that much more valuable and pertinent. I’m a fan of anything to ease the transition of an in-person meeting to an online connection.

Google Maps Navigation

We all saw this coming… but I didn’t think it would be this feature rich right out of the gate. Google has launched a beta of Google Maps Navigation on the new Verizon Droid Android phone. It has a ton of great features, like using streetview to show you what turns look like as well as what your destination looks like. It is only on the Droid right now, and will be released for other Android handsets in time. Whether it makes its way to other platforms like the iPhone, Windows Mobile, or Blackberry… I don’t know. It is certainly a strong selling point for the Android platform if it stays exclusive.

ocell.net Mobile

ocell.net Mobile

Lately I’ve been working on making my websites more accessible for advanced mobile devices. I started with an iPhone theme for my blog, then got my industrial design portfolio mobile. Last weekend I sat down and tried to tie it all together.

Now my main www.ocell.net landing page is very mobile friendly thanks to the iWebKit development package. This links to my design and photography portfolios which are mobile thanks to iShowPro. I used to use iWPhone to format my WordPress blog (what you’re reading now) for the iPhone, but when I realized it wasn’t testing for the Palm Pre and Android browser user agents I went out in search of an alternative. Now I am finally on the WPtouch bandwagon, and I have to say, I’m extremely impressed. In fact, the WPtouch version of this blog has more functionality than the desktop version… something I hope to address in the future.

ocell.net mobile on a Palm Pre

Also, thanks to @vara411 for confirming that the mobile version of www.ocell.net does load properly on a Palm Pre. The phone call link even launches the Pre’s phone app. You have to love when standards are honored across platforms.

Part of my focus on getting the loose ends tied on my mobile interface is because of the 2009 IDSA National Conference in Miami next week. I’m hoping that having a viable mobile site will give people an easy way to see my work and interests from their mobile devices, on location.

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Google Traffic Aggregates User Data

Dash ExpressA couple years ago a new dedicated GPS device hit the market called the Dash Express. Dash planned to crowdsource their traffic data. Each Dash Express GPS unit reported location and speed back to the service. Dash then aggregated this data and pushed the results back to every Dash unit. In theory, users would get extremely current and accurate traffic data. In reality, the concept requires a large install base in your area to be effective. If I remember correctly, the Dash unit was nearly $400 at launch, and required a $14/month service plan. In November of 2008 Dash must have seen the writing on the wall, because they quit being a hardware company and started focusing on pushing their system of aggregating traffic data to other platforms and devices.

The concept has been revisited from time to time, and rightfully so, because it’s a solid concept. There is currently a mobile application called Waze that combines geolocation of friends/family, driving directions, maps, traffic data, and accident reporting into one app. The company claims to have a healthy install base in Europe but adoption in the US is still very low. Waze has taken a step in the right direction by being a cross platform application, so the potential install base is much higher than software tied to a single piece of hardware like the Dash Express. As far as execution though, Waze doesn’t cut it for me. At least on the iPhone, the UI is poorly implimented, service is slow, and the previously mentioned small install base keeps the true benefits of crowdsourced traffic from being realized.

gmm_arterials_z15This is where Google comes in. They have reached this space from the opposite direction. Google Maps for mobile devices already has an overwhelmingly large install base… a perfect source of information to build traffic data. The Google Blog recently laid out how they are using location data from mobile devices using Google services to build real-time data information for Google Maps users. Google Maps traffic data was recently expanded to secondary roads thanks to the abundance of information gathered from user data. The software that makes this happen comes bundled on Android devices and the Palm Pre, and is an easy download for Blackberry and Windows Mobile. I’m sure most people didn’t even realize they were contributing to the project. The Google Maps application on the iPhone doesn’t have the location reporting feature unfortunately, but I hope it will get added in a firmware update soon. Fortunately for iPhone users though, you don’t have to report data to benefit from it. iPhone users and desktop browser users alike will see the results of crowdsourced traffic data when they use Google Maps.

I know one of the big concerns you’re probably having right now: privacy. Of course there’s always a conversation about how much you should trust a large corporation like Google, but Dave Barth goes to great length to explain how Google is protecting user privacy in the Google Blog post, so please read through the last two paragraphs for sure.

If it’s not obvious by how much I’ve rambled about the subject in this blog post, I’ve had crowdsourced traffic data on my mind for years now, and I’m extremely excited to see it reaching the point where it can benefit a ton of users whether they’re aware of what’s going on behind the scenes or not. And really, I think the best applications of technology are those that don’t require attention or effort from the users in order for them to see the benefits.

Links: The Official Google Blog – The bright side of sitting in traffic: Crowdsourcing road congestion data, Waze, Dash

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RTM Push Notifications

I don’t have a real solid task management system in place right now, but I’m still a big fan of Remember the Milk (RTM) and still use it pretty frequently. The RTM iPhone/Touch app [iTunes Link] recently got an update that added push notifications, so now you can have task reminders sent directly to your mobile device. For me, this is killer. You could have RTM remind you of things through e-mail before, but with push notifications your todo reminders can live in their own space without invading your e-mail inbox. Notice that I can now select my iPhone as my notification destination in the RTM Reminders settings.

RTM Reminders Settings