Apple + Presence and Location Awareness

What if you could take your mobile phone near a retail outlet and it would tell you the specials? Have your favorite cup of coffee waiting for you to pick it up? Personalize their offerings so that only the things you might like to buy would be presented to you? Allow the retailer to automatically know who the good and loyal customers are so you could be catered to?

Those are just some of the positives of Apple’s recent patent application discussed in this Forbes article.

The downsides? Too early to tell, but having an iPhone stolen would be one though there will undoubtedly be security implementations to avoid that problem. How about ordering something automatically — a cup of coffee or example — when today you had a hankering for tea?

My bigger concern is the perfect storm around presence and location awareness. Presence is when systems know where you are and that you’re online and/or your device(s) are capable of communicating with you (which is one reason why the Blackberry has done so well since YOU don’t have to check for email…it TELLS you when there’s a message). Location awareness is like the photo above when machines are aware of where you are geographically.

Both of these are huge for Google since every touch point where any of us could possibly receive and act on an ad is key to their strategy. Imagine you search for, say, an HDTV and the ads delivered to your phone or browser are specific to your location? Or what if you’re sitting in a Starbucks and corporate sends out a promotion while you’re physically there — and they know by your purchase history and interactions with them via your iPhone that you’re open to what’s in the promotion — and your phone vibrates with an SMS delivering the promo?

Slowly but surely we’re handing over more and more of ourselves and our privacy in exchange for what? I’ve handed over a lot and done so willingly (Gmail, Google Analytics, et al) but there is much I haven’t used (Picasa or YouTube with their complete ability to reuse your pics and video).

Lastly, I have to admit being sort of amused by Apple delivering this functionality since they’re the LEAST personalized and targeted company of their size on the planet. EVERYTHING that I receive from Apple is completely generic though they have my purchase history, machines and applications registered, and my credit history since I have an account at iTunes. Still puzzles me that they don’t bother to use any of that meaningfully.

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About Steve Borsch

Strategist. Learner. Idea Guy. Salesman. Connector of Dots. Friend. Husband & Dad. CEO. Janitor. More here.

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