When NeuAer finished its stage presentation at the LAUNCH conference today, Joyent CEO David Young had just one thing to say: "It puts the smart in smartphone." We, and many in the crowd it seemed, were equally impressed.
Imagine if your phone could tell you when your friend walked by so you could call them, or when your ex arrived so you could duck beneath the table. Imagine if you could automatically drop a pin on Google Maps every time you turned off your car. Just think about a phone that could perform all sorts of functions just based on who or what is near you and where you are - that's NeuAer.
According to company's website, the NeuAer platform "enables any smartphone to automate aspects of your digital life from whom or what is detected in it's physical space." It can do all the those hypotheticals we posited above and more. It can change your call settings according to where you are, automatically check you in on LBS services and any number of other features, but without the use of battery-draining GPS.
How? Simple. NeuAer uses Bluetooth, WiFi and Near-Field Communication (NFC) technologies to detect situations and locations and react accordingly. "When known 'tagged' objects get close to or move away from a user," the company explains on its website, "you can trigger an alert, drop a pin on a virtual map, or check-in on social websites."
Currently, an Android app called ToothTag is available as a demonstration of the technology. The description of the app in the Android Marketplace gives a bit more insight on NeuAer's vision:
"This application is for people who are tired of looking down at their phone to see where their friends are and want to look up, live life and interact in the real world.
You 'tag' wireless Bluetooth and WiFi devices, then setup rules to automate actions on your smartphone. These can be cool things within the phone like playing a favorite song as you walk by a coffee shop where your friends are hanging out. Or, you can automatically drop a pin on a map where you park your Bluetooth enabled car. Never again will you hunt for your lost car in a city street.
Rules can be setup for both connect or disconnect events, often without the requirement for pairing your phone to another device. That means if you want to see when someone gets too far away from you, like your child, you can setup your phone to vibrate upon a disconnect. Conversely, if you want to see when your ex-significant other gets too close for comfort, you can sound an alarm on just 'seeing' their phone!"
The company is the brainchild of Dave Mathews and Rob Meadows, who demonstrated potential applications on stage today. They showed how, using their technology, you could tag any number of different WiFi points to trigger different events, which means if you tag your friend's phone, you can be alerted anytime they wander within WiFi range.
But beyond that, the true potential here is that the company will be releasing an API for developers to work with. They have created the technology and now others can run with it. As venture investor Chris Sacca commented, what they have created is a sort of "real-world scripting language." The possibilities are endless. It can automatically log you into your computer when you get close enough or set your Google Voice account to forward to a different number when you enter a known area of bad signal.
The platform is only available on Android phones, but the company says it will be keeping an eye out for when it can make its way onto iOS. With the next version of the Nexus, the Nexus S, coming out with an NFC chip embedded and hopefully the iPhone 5, a platform like NeuAer's ProxPlatform could be the breeding ground for a lot of new and interesting apps.