Category Archives: Location Based Services (LBS)

At 8 p.m. on December 31, 2013, 6 year old Sofia Liu was walking in a crosswalk at Polk and Civic Center in San Francisco with her mom and younger brother when she was struck and killed by an Uber driver. Uber is a ride-sharing company that provides “car service on demand” via a smartphone app. Wherever Uber provides service, simply launch an app and Uber will automatically locate you and connect you to the closest driver. Within minutes a driver will pick you up and get you to your destination. There are several ride-sharing companies providing car services on demand, including Lyft and Sidecar. Uber has been growing and innovating beyond typical taxi services by promising quick pick-up and drop-off, as well as delivering Christmas trees and even kittens.

When the driver struck little Sofia, Uber stated he was “not employed by Uber at the time of the accident because he did not have an Uber customer in the car with him”. Since he was “between fares”, Uber claims they are not responsible for the death. However, an attorney representing the family of Sofia is filing a wrongful-death lawsuit against both Uber and the driver alleging that the driver was an Uber contractor using Uber’s app at the time of the accident. Furthermore, the attorney claims that the driver was “texting while driving” using Uber’s app to prepare for his next fare, causing him to be distracted.

Uber is declining comment over the lawsuit, but it seems like the attorney’s strategy is to associate the driver with Uber simply by the fact that the driver was logged into Uber’s app. This will take the discussion about if and how to regulate start-up services like Uber to the next level. Are the Uber drivers too distracted by technology in the car making them unsafe to be on the road? That will be the key question for a judge or jury to answer. In the meantime, San Francisco has one of the highest rates of pedestrian-vehicle collisions in the nation, so watch out for yourself out there! At least one San Francisco Supervisor seems to be “on the case“.

By the way, according to Uber, the driver that struck little Sofia has been “deactivated” as a driver in their system.

Facebook buys GlanceeLooks like Facebook is on a tear over the past week. Sure, no one at Facebook can really talk about the stuff that goes on behind the scene at the social network, but over the past few days, they’ve been making some definite waves that seems to be surely affecting the way people view the service and potentially their stock price. First, it was Facebook bolstering its photo capability with a monumental acquisition of leading photo service Instagram for a whopping $1 billion. Then, Facebook announced perhaps a life-saving and historic event–promoting being an organ donor. And now, it’s news that Facebook is moving its check-in feature beyond the traditional sense and making it more about introducing you to new people. Just how does the company plan on making this happen? By acquiring proximity app service Glancee.

Considered one of the latest products that could have been a “star” at this year’s South by Southwest, Glancee emerged onto the scene with some enormous potential, but also within a crowded marketplace. A couple months ago, there were nearly a dozen different of these so-called proximity applications, from market leader Highlight to others like Sonar, Banjo, Intro, EchoEcho, and several others, Glancee is probably the first such application to see an exit. Available for both iPhone and Android devices, Glancee states that it “makes it fun and safe to discover people nearby who share friends and interests with you.” Perhaps it was Glancee’s direct integration with Facebook that caused it to be appealing for an acquisition, since Glancee intended to leverage Facebook data to help you find people of interest instead of just showing you who is around you–it’s giving you some additional relevancy in helping you grow your social network.

EchoerWhat’s the hottest new place in town? Can you tell me where the coolest party is taking place? These are probably some of the questions you might be asking yourself when you’re walking around town after work or just need to find a place to chill and unwind.  Sure, you could use a service like Foursquare or perhaps Path to find out where your friends are, but that only tells you where they are at the moment–there’s no information about the vibe, the crowd, what people think of the venue, etc. Often times, you’re looking for some real-time information about a particular place or venue to help “justify” why you should make an appearance.

Enter Echoer. This proximity application is the latest evolution of what location-based check-ins and GPS technology have created and is simply designed to share with you people’s thoughts and experiences provided in the real-time stream via social data. Simply put, you can use the app to check out all the buzz that’s happening around you. It’s that simple. Think of it a little bit like Highlight meets Yelp but with a much faster curation of data. What it allows you to do is share your most relevant thoughts, events, and discoveries around you. If you happen to be wandering through a city like San Francisco during any given summer night, you might find that there’s lots of talk happening at nearby AT&T Park because of the San Francisco Giants, or that there’s lots of buzz happening at the Metreon Center because of a new movie, or maybe at a nearby hotel or bar to celebrate the launch of a new startup. By simply tapping on a particular venue on the map, you should be able to pull up thoughts, photos, and other content. Once there, you can either “echo” what others are saying, thereby amplifying their message or contribute your own.

CourierWe’re all pretty busy individuals, whether it’s in our personal lives or when we’re at work. Quite frankly, I don’t think anyone would mind some help when it comes to getting things done, right? Take for example if you’re at work jam-packed with meetings and deliverables, but you’re hungry and also need to pick up your dry cleaning or even buying that new jacket you know is on sale, which ends today. Just how are you going to be able to do all of that? You might be able to source it out to TaskRabbit or even Zaarly, but you want someone dedicated and vetted, not necessarily crowdsourced. Don’t get me wrong, I’d totally use TaskRabbit and Zaarly, but I consider them more of a crowdsourced assistant for a variety of other things besides just deliveries. But in the example given above, I’d have to give my trust over to Postmates, an on-demand delivery service that is disrupting the way traditional couriers are currently operating. No longer are they just business resources, but for personal use too.

Postmates appA battlefield finalist at a recent TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco, this “stealth startup” (as listed on Crunchbase) is geared to help make your life simpler by having anything delivered in three simple steps: by using the Postmates app (currently available only for the iPhone), just enter the locations where you want pick-up and delivery, a brief description, and delivery time. That’s it! If you want, feel free to include a photo of the item you want to pick up/deliver. This might make it easier for both the courier and the recipient to know what’s coming. The Postmates app also will allow you to track your delivery in real-time so you know when it will get there–no more waiting around because the courier service said it’ll be there between 7-11am or other ridiculous times. Oh, and Postmates will deliver it within two hours or less!

Being hailed as the “Uber for courier delivery” by PandoDaily, Postmates is looking to bring more luxury and professionalism into the traditional courier industry. In fact, they’re totally disrupting it by offering dedicated couriers that have been vetted and they’re levering cool technologies to make it happen–very much like what Uber did with car service.

Pig getting arrestedIt seems that famed entrepreneur Kevin Rose has had enough with one of his startups. Yesterday, he announced that one of the first projects to emerge from his new company, Milk, was going to be shuttered so that additional resources could be focused elsewhere. But is it a sign of entrepreneurial smarts or giving up? The startup in question is Oink, a “rate everything” service where you don’t focus on rating the venue or facility, but rather the things inside it. So if you happen to be at a restaurant like Fogo de Chao, the idea would be that you would use Oink to rate the food and the cuisine, rather than the establishment as a whole.

As PC Mag stated, “Oink was originally founded with the hope of bypassing the hierarchy of location-only preference and focus on the experiences and products offered at those locations. Essentially, the app was designed to be a ‘decision engine’ that eased the process of making choices when you’re out and about. Frequent ‘Oinkers’ also gained reputation points.” So the idea wasn’t to basically check-in everywhere you go a la Foursquare, but at the same time wasn’t going to 100% compete with Yelp, either. You might say that it was probably a macro-hybrid version of Yelp and Foursquare. But now, it just is dead.

On the Oink homepage, Mr. Rose stated that when they started Milk, Inc. (the parent company), it was to rapidly build and test out new ideas. Their first test was Oink and now they’re ready to move onto their next one and felt that the resources could be better focused elsewhere. This “experiment” was actually started in November 2011 and five months later, the results are in…the traction probably wasn’t good enough for the service to continue. TechCrunch reported that when it first launched, 100,000 people downloaded the application within the first two and a half weeks–but they probably attributed it to a strong brand name recognition belonging to Mr. Rose.  By December 2011, it was revealed that they reached over 150,000 users.

Maybe it was because of the tough barriers to entry and fierce competition from services like Foursquare, Yelp, and the other mobile rating services that caused Milk to abandon Oink. Whatever it was, while some may forlorn the loss of this app, most people are probably interested in simply praising Mr. Rose and his team for recognizing the speed to pivot and try other things. No word yet on what that next project will be, but with $1.5 million in the bank from Google Ventures to Milk (not to Oink), the team needs to probably build and test things out quickly before it all goes away and they’ll need to raise again. But with a philosophy of building and releasing products quickly, I’m sure that we’ll be able to see some more “experiments” coming soon–we probably just shouldn’t get too attached to the products until Milk feels that it’s actually worth something. With this first test, hopefully Mr. Rose will be able to use some of the data gleamed from Oink’s usage to help build a better product.

If you have a Oink account, you have until March 31, 2012 in order to download your data before the service is shuttered for good. You can take with you all your ratings and pictures and you’ll simply need to enter your username or email address and it will be sent to you.

Photo Credit: TechnoLlama

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