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SXSW – The context layer

There was plenty talked about at SXSW Interactive, and for the most part, it was reaffirming my existing knowledge more than anything else. One thing that did stand out, and that I’ve found myself talking about since I’ve returned, is this whole concept of a Context Layer to sit on top of all the content that exists on the web, and specifically in relation to Location.

This is isn’t something new or revolutionary, but it makes sense in feeling like the logical next step.

We’ve already seen Web 2.0 push personalisation, and the Social Web push relevance via social graphs [no doubt this will continue *cough* +1 *cough*], but utilising location, especially through mobiles, is still in its infancy.

Google’s Marissa Mayer spoke at SXSW about contextual discovery attached to location on mobile devices, and how the mobile bridges the Online and Offline worlds. She demonstrated Hotpot + Maps for food recommendations, and it worked nicely, but reading up on what she said about contextual discovery in this earlier TechCrunch interview makes it even more intesting.

“The idea is to push information to people,” Mayer said. She noted that on mobile devices this is particularly interesting because location can provide context. One example she gave was a menu when you’re in a particular restaurant. It would be great to show up and see that on your device — maybe with a bit of social flavor based on what your friends like, she added.

I have no idea if I’ll be using it in Google’s form, especially with Foursquare’s Explore [trends + recommendations via social graph + stats] absolutely killing it, but I do like the idea of the context layer for location. Who knows what awaits at SXSW 2012 in this space?!

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5 thoughts on “SXSW – The context layer

  1. I find this stuff really interesting. I think an advancement of Foursquare’s specials, merged with something similar to Groupon will be the next big thing and I think Facebook will likely do this for the mass market. Here’s my million dollar business idea. You are in the city trying to find somewhere to drink. You see a special near you but it requires you to "check-in" with 5 of your friends. You show up at the bar, you all check-in together and then activate a deal. On Marissa’s quote, Apple have had a patent floating around for something like that – http://www.patentlyapple.com/patently-apple/2010/05/apple-reveals-a-powerful-location-based-service-for-the-iphone.html. E.g. you walk into McDonalds and an app appears on your phone allowing you to order from their menu.

  2. c0uP says:

    Cheers for the very insightful comment, Christopher!You’re probably dead on with the Groupon + Foursquare model. It was actually really surprising to me, just talking to non-techie consultants at Deloitte that have absolutely no interest in something like Foursquare, but are ALL OVER group buying sites.I would hate to think it’s Facebook that brings it to the mass market, but I guess they have the reach. One interesting thing at SXSW was someone talking about how the Facebook check-ins +GAP deal worked an absolute treat, but repeat check-ins on Facebook Places [or whatever it’s called] is ridiculously low, compared to something like Foursquare.Re: Marissa’s quote, that’s a pretty sweet patent Apple has!

  3. I actually think there is too much focus on Foursquare and not enough on Catch of the Day and Groupon style sites when we talk retail. Those sites are very popular, especially for the non-techies. I think Foursquare in it’s current form is a fad with a short life – I think people will get sick of checking-in, but enhancing the deals will add a proper incentive once the novelty wares off. Re: Facebook, they have the reach but I also think they are more sophisticated when it comes to advertising and they have the brand presence to get multinational companies like The Gap on board.

  4. Totally agree with the personalised push notifications. I’ve seen the "check-in with 5 of your friends" offers floating around, but the uptake of Foursquare within my personal social groups is still in its infancy so I never get to activate these specials!I can see these personalised notifications potentially working to attract customers as "surprises" if they wish to opt in with them. For example, if a Foursquare user is about to reach their 50th check-in to a coffee shop, push them a notification if they are in the area to let them know on their next check-in their coffee for him/her and their friends is on the house …. etc etc.

  5. c0uP says:

    The big issue is definitely how to make these services more mainstream. Clearly even a big ass presence like Facebook getting behind it, hasn’t really worked so far.Going to SXSW though, SO MANY local businesses have got behind Foursquare and Gowalla, purely as a chicken & egg result of it launching at SXSW, people using it, consequently business realising this and offering specials, and then even more people using it as a result of seeing these specials. Then again, Austin, Tx, during that time is an edge case.But yes, the group buying element might just help incentivise it more.There’s also what Pon said today – "Social validation is the primary driver of activity on the web" . I’d never quantified it like that in my mind, but it makes sense, and it’s probably incorporating that into this too.

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