Home Omniscient Mobile Computing: What if Your Apps Knew Everything About Where You Are?

Omniscient Mobile Computing: What if Your Apps Knew Everything About Where You Are?

Geographic data provider SimpleGeo announced yesterday that it now offers US census data for any location an app queries for, along with all the other types of data about what surrounds that place. Gender breakout, commute time, age, housing prices and other data gathered by the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey is now included in the offerings of one of the most interesting companies on the market.

I’m not going to write at length about this, because too few people will appreciate it, but I do want to say that I think this is downright magical. A service that breathes life into latent data about the places users find themselves, to be served up by mobile apps built by independent developers, that’s magical. Census data is just all the more exciting.

As I wrote about SimpleGeo nine months ago when the company brought on Jay Adelson, one of the most successful tech startup executives in recent history, to be its CEO:

If you’ll indulge me in a little Allegory of the Cave talk: the geodata these companies are compiling describes qualities of physical places that we haven’t previously been able to see, on-site or remotely. They make demographics and social trends, commerce and politics, culture and history visible, tied to specific places and accessible through the mobile devices we carry in our pockets. [It’s like walking out of Plato’s cave.]

First computing became democratized, then it became social, and now it is leaving the desktop and changing the way many of us experience the places formerly known as the offline world. All of those transformations have produced tidal waves of new data, upon which new companies, user experiences and types of economy have been produced.

Here’s how the company describes its own SimpleGeo Context service:

“Do you know what 37.7787, -122.3896 means? Your users don’t either. SimpleGeo Context does (It’s the Giants’ Stadium in San Francisco, California).

“This simple API is the easiest way to obtain meaningful information such as real-time weather, population density, and geographic features from a latitude/longitude in a single call.”

Yesterday SimpleGeo partnered with mobile push notification provider UrbanAirship to launch what might be called Geofencing 2.0. Imagine having an app send you a push notification when you enter into a place where the Census data fits a particular profile.

There are a lot of services like this but SimpleGeo’s new enablement of Census Data is really interesting. Offering that data as part of a larger API is like instrumentinghyperlocalsociology.

You could say it’s a step towards Omniscient Mobile Computing, if you will: what could apps on your phone do for you if they knew everything there was to know about the place where you are? Hopefully that will never literally happen, but the movement towards ever-increasing awareness of real-world context, at the present moment and throughout history, is potentially an incredibly powerful platform for the development of innovative products and services.

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