Thursday, January 05, 2006

HereCast: Your Virtual Bulletin-Board

Wireless is ubiquitous, access points cover whole cities and you walk around with the result of technological convergences: a mobile device that is a cross of a MP3 player, GPS, cell phone, camera, video, PDA and everything else you want to carry around in your pocket.

And let's say that you like chocolate. A lot. And this great store has some special tart that you just can't live without, but only rarely they get it. So you happen to be walking by it one day but you don't want to stop and ask one more time if they have it. But the store happens to provide feeds about their shipments.

So you decide to subscribe to any message the store sends out thru those feeds. And that day while walking by it your wireless PDA recognizes the store's location and pops up one. You get the message about your favorite chocolate being available that day, right now, right there.

Magic? Near future guess? Nope. You have the whole technology available for use today.

HereCast, provides a location-based service and the client software for your PDA to make this happen giving you a glimpse of times to come. LBS's are cropping up and research sponsored by Intel and done at PlaceLab already shows where this might be going. Navizon already implements some of its vision.

And this provides a proof that the idea of location-based services can work. But you might have a hard time convincing someone of the usability and convenience of these services.

Upload places first

You first create an account at HereCast.com and download its client software. It installs on the PocketPC as an item in the Today screen. If it recognizes a "location" that it knows about, it displays a line saying that you are near it.

At this point there aren't that many known "places" at the HereCast database, when close to an open access point you can upload one by providing its full qualified name, for example: United States, California, Santa Cruz, Pacific Ave, Lulu's Carpenter, Ground Floor. With that, Lulu's becomes known and the client software will be able to recognize it while you walk by it.

PlaceLab uses the wireless access point database collected by Wigle.net for its research, this is where HereCast could get a jumpstart.

HereSay

Now let's say that you want to be notified when you walk by Lulu's about their new coffee drinks. You log into your HereCast account, go to the Database Browser and at the entry for Lulu's you select HereSay under services. You have the choice to receive messages or RSS Feeds.

Now, this part you shouldn't need to cover but because Lulu's doesn't really sends mail about itself yet you give it a help and just to see if this thing really works you send a message from the Lulu's entry at the Database Browser saying that you really liked their Cappucino Ultimo, a dark triple shot that will leave you awake for better part of the day.

Finally, you go to Pacific Ave. and check the HereCast client that might be saying "I don't recognize this place" or that "You were last seen at home". Wait until you have your PDA connected to their access point. After a while you see a little ballon popping up with your message. Location-based. From there you can load the corresponding URL to leave your own message.

Now imagine the possibilities here: you can leave reviews on a restaurant, movies, shows, stores, deals announcements. Find out about the history of a building and its events. You have a virtual bulletin-board and whatever you can make out of it. You just got a message at 36.98N, -121.93W.

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