A recent article on a service in London and several U.S. cities that allows you to locate nearby public toilets by texting “toilet” on your mobile phone got me to thinking about the practical applications of locative media.
Many mobile advertising companies are hard at work creating platforms and services to push customized ads and real time “specials” to your mobile device as you walk by a store or drive down the street. But what about services that help you to connect with your neighbors, and enhance your community, or keep you safe. Aren’t those practical too?
For example, what about a mobile application that offers you the ability to know about the who lives in your neighborhood and what they do for a living. Maybe you need some work done around your yard or a recommendation for a good plumber. Wouldn’t it be useful to be able to identify locals (and other people they know) when you are in a public place and could receive alerts on your mobile device about who has a a particular expertise or connection that fits your needs?
What about the ability to know what happens in a neighborhood community center, library, or social service center as you walk by that location? Maybe there is an event or project that is aligned with your interests, or a volunteer opportunity you can inquire about on the spot – now that you can enable opt-in mobile alerts and stay better informed about happenings in your immediate surroundings.
How about knowing who in your neighborhood is a doctor or nurse, or where to go for help during a natural disaster when the Internet is down, phone lines, etc. are not working? A simple text messaging platform could offer such mobile services and direct you away from danger even when outside of your home.
There are many, many ways that mobile devices could (and should) be used to enhance our lives in practical ways. But the focus will likely remain on local business search and advertising for some time to come…because that’s where the obvious money is.
Not that finding a public toilet isn’t important when you need it, but hopefully we can do more and better than that!