Home MyCityWay: Portals Are Back, This Time For Mobile

MyCityWay: Portals Are Back, This Time For Mobile

Last week in New York, I met up with two of the founders of MyCityWay. It’s a portal for location-based mobile applications for city navigation, available on iPhone, iPod, iPad and Android. Around 50 different services are currently available in the MyCityWay app.

Despite the 90’s style user interface, in some ways MyCityWay points to the future of mobile apps – because it offers up contextual and useful information to your mobile device, based on your location. The company’s latest release was launched last Friday and it’s focused on discoverability. I met with two MyCityWay co-founders, Puneet Mehta and Sonpreet Bhatia, to find out more (the third co-founder, Archana Patchirajan, wasn’t present).

MyCityWay started out as a New York City iPhone app, but it has plans to be available in 40 cities on iPhone as well as other smart phone platforms. In effect, MyCityWay is a modern-day guidebook for cities. The current apps features 50 “hyper-local apps” and they’re presented in a portal-like interface that reminds me of what Yahoo or Excite used to offer on the Web in the 90s. The app targets both city locals and tourists.

I first became aware of MyCityWay when it was pointed out to me by Mobile futurist Adam Greenfield, when I interviewed him earlier this year. Despite it’s retroactive portal interface, there is something very compelling about this app. As it states on the product’s About page, MyCityWay offers information about upcoming events, city landmarks, free things to do in a city, tickets to shows, restaurant inspection results, shopping, live traffic cameras, dining reviews, and much more. In short, the app is a one-stop shop for city data on your mobile phone. It’s the Web in your pocket in the real world.

Version 2 of MyCityWay was released last Friday and it features the ability to purchase event tickets, reserve restaurants using OpenView, and book tours.

Co-founder Puneet Mehta told me that MyCityWay receives spikes of activity on Fridays – from restaurants, bars and clubs. Saturdays are also busy for the same reason. Another spike of activity is experienced during lunchtimes, for example from users looking for street food vendors near their location.

The founders describe MyCityWay as a “discoverability portal.” Indeed, one of the things I like about this app is the amount of data it has – and not just the raw data that attracts users to the application in the first place, but data about how people actually use the app.

MyCityWay is moving to give some of this data back to businesses. For example, if it gets a lot of user requests for an Indian restaurant in a given location, it can advise potential businesses that an Indian restaurant might prove popular in that location. MyCityWay can do this because it is
collecting usage data every minute of the day, about what people want to do in cities and where.

According to the founders, the first version of MyCityWay was about search and the current second version is about discoverability. The next iteration, version 3, will be focused on providing “an experience.” Version 3 will take advantage of the next generation of the iPhone, 4G, which will feature apps running in background. When that functionality is available, MyCityWay will be able to push information to users.

At that point, MyCityWay will have a number of different drivers: the user’s location, their profile, and “situational awareness.”

A plan for the near future is to offer a platform for content curators. To that end, MyCityWay is building something it calls City Hacks. It will feature 100 hacks a city, along with a leaderboard. MyCityWay hopes that it will be able to sell some of this data, or enable the curators themselves to sell access to it.

Another upcoming feature is personalization – based on whether you’re a tourist or local, the app will serve up relevant information about a city. In other words, it will marry location with context.

As of now, MyCityWay is available in 7 cities – London was added at the end of last week. Others are NYC, San Francisco, Las Vegas, LA, Washington DC and Boston. The next release will add 3 more: Chicago, Orlando and Portland. Toronto is also coming soon. The goal is to reach 40 cities within the next 6 months.

Currently the NYC version is available on iPhone, iPod, iPad and Android. A Blackberry version is coming soon. The product also integrates with popular social networks Facebook and Twitter, and emerging ones like Foursquare.

Perhaps in 5 years we will look back on MyCityWay as akin to Excite in the 90s – a portal that was eventually usurped by more focused services like Google. But for now, MyCityWay is showing the way for practical location-based services on mobile devices.

Disclosure: MyCityWay was a sponsor of the recent RWW Mobile Summit. I ran into them independently in NYC last week.

See also: The Man on Your iPhone: 3 Government Apps Done Right

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