The mobile social location space is heating up. EchoEcho will unveil a new version at SXSW that will find your friends indoors, where GPS doesn't work. Imagine being at the Austin Convention Center with 10,000 people. You know your friends are in the building somewhere but you can't find them. EchoEcho plots your friends on an indoor floor plan map, in real time, so you can find them with pinpoint accuracy, within 2 meters. None of the other location apps can do this. A Stanford startup, WifiSlam provides the indoor location maps to EchoEcho. Both companies have been building this functionality in stealth mode. This weekend at SXSW in Austin people will be able to use it for the first time.
EchoEcho uses GPS signals outdoors to locate your friends anywhere in the world. Lots of apps can do that. But, EchoEcho goes further by plotting your friends on a street map, then showing what building they are in. If that building has been mapped by WifiSlam then EchoEcho takes you inside the building and plots your friend on a floor plan so you know exactly where they are. Think of being in a shopping mall, or on a college campus, or at an airport or theme park. You could find your friends or family members anywhere, any time.
Privacy is an issue with some of the mobile social location apps. Do you really want random friends of friends, people you don't really know, to be notified that you are in the area? Do you really want to be notified that a person who "Liked" The Simpsons on Facebook is near you? Seriously? EchoEcho users individually opt-in to being visible to specific friends. And, you can easily decide when you want to be visible, and when you don't. Privacy matters.
The problem is not finding more random people who might have clicked on a Facebook Like button that you also clicked on. You already get inundated by too many notifications, messages, spam, and random people. The real problem is how do I find my real friends among the sea of humanity. That is what EchoEcho does, with privacy in mind.
Dead batteries in Austin. Don't be surprised to hear users of the other popular mobile location apps complain of dead phone batteries. The way they use GPS and ping their servers will drain your battery within hours. EchoEcho thought of that too. They have engineered some clever ways to get the location data without draining your battery.
Disclosure: I am an investor in both EchoEcho and WifiSlam.
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