Mobile startup Aloqa launched earlier this week at the MobileBeat conference, revealing their innovative interface for location-aware search. Their new application proactively seeks out nearby businesses, services, events, and even Facebook friends and presents them to you in a colorful yet streamlined interface. The app essentially lists everything that's nearby - with no need for you to perform map-based searches or launch a browser. Instead, all you have to do is look at your phone.

Mobile Search Should be "Push," Not Pull

The concept behind Aloqa's app offers a unique vision for mobile search that's quite different from how most people use their phones today. Currently, if you're looking for nearby restaurants, for example, you would first launch a mobile mapping application like Google Maps, let it locate you, and then perform a search for "restaurants." Once the results loaded, you could tap on the various pushpins to see the info about restaurants nearby, including names, phone numbers, and addresses.

In Aloqa, however, that same search would be much simpler. In fact, it wouldn't be a search at all. Instead, you would just tap on the icon for restaurants and immediately see a list of those nearby. When you see the one you want (oh look, there's sushi!), a second tap will display a window where you can choose to go to the business's web site, display the location on a map, call the business, or send the info to a friend.

This same sort of functionality can be used for anything from restaurants to retail stores to gas stations and ATMs. It can also help you find events that may spark your interest, like a nearby concert for instance.

Location-Aware Facebook Friend Finder

One of the even more interesting functions in Aloqa is its ability to find your nearby Facebook friends. Instead of building an entirely separate mobile social network like mobile social networks Loopt and Brightkite have done, Aloqa lets you invite your Facebook friends to share their location with you on the "Aloqa Buzz" channel. Then, when you and your friends are in proximity to each other, you'll be able to chat with each other via the mobile application. Although this still isn't the ideal solution for making Facebook a true mobile social network (nothing short of a location-aware mobile Facebook app would really do that), it comes very close. All you have to do is convince your friends to accept the invite.

About the Platform

In addition to proactively monitoring your location, Aloqa can also send out "push notifications" based on your own preferences for the types of alerts and levels of intrusiveness you want. For example, you can choose to receive a text-based alert when you walk past a nearby store offering a mobile coupon or you could receive a phone call when an important event occurs - like when your child leaves a pre-configured safety zone.

Surprisingly, Aloqa doesn't exclusively use GPS technology to deliver its location-aware information. If your phone doesn't have a GPS chip, then Aloqa will use cell towers or Wi-Fi to determine your relative position. Not only is this data "accurate enough," explains Aloqa CEO (and ex-Googler) Sanjeev Agrawal in an interview with VentureBeat, it's less of a drain on battery life, too.

Where to Get It

Currently Aloqa is available only on the Android platform in beta form. Over the coming weeks, the app will be made available for other phones, too. Stay tuned to this company's news - this is one app you're going to want to try.