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Behavior-Based Anticipatory Computing Coming To Social Networks

We’ve been sharing our locations with friends and family for years, whether it’s checking in on Foursquare or enabling location information on Instagram. Even with Twitter’s latest update, users are encouraged to share their locations and metadata. But what, exactly, social networks are doing with that data has been somewhat unknown, until now. 

By aggregating personal data and preferences based on your check-ins, applications can begin to tailor suggestions for you, effectively driving decision-making and transactions. 

Your Smartphone Will Tell You What To Do

With Foursquare’s latest iOS update, the company is continuing its vision of telling you where to go next, not just where you are.

Foursquare is rolling out push notification recommendations and an application redesign that makes it easier for users to find out what’s happening around them. The company began testing the anticipatory computing functions earlier this fall for both iOS and Android, and is now launching the service to all iOS users.

People that opt-in to receive the real-time notifications will get an update on their iOS device that suggests what to eat at a restaurant, or what to do when they visit a new place. The feature runs in the background, and while it might seem like such a feature is a battery drain, the team at Foursquare promises it’s easy on your battery.

Foursquare has tried a number of different notifications, but the ones the company is launching today were favored among beta testers, Foursquare’s vice president of product experience Jon Steinback said in an interview with ReadWrite.

“We only want to send you something that will help you make your life better,” Steinback said. “The moments that we’ve chosen – when you sit down at a restaurant, or when you venture into a new neighborhood – people interacted with them the most.”

Foursquare will only provide notifications that are relevant to you personally. The application learns your behavior based on previous check-ins and recommendations. You won’t get notifications everywhere you go; rather, when you’re at a restaurant, Foursquare will crawl the tips and if there is one that fits your profile, you will be notified.

Additionally, a new swipeable carousel of suggestions at the top of the application’s home page will show location-based suggestions, such as deals around the corner or something saved to your to-do list nearby. 

Let’s Circle Up

Circle, is an app that shows you what’s happening in the surrounding community. It recently announced an update that includes a “proximity popularity algorithm.”

Already the application monitors your behavior and begins to learn your likes and dislikes. It can highlight different information based on your specific location. For instance, it will understand that you prefer to read about local news, but will also surface popular events happening nearby if the Circle thinks you might be interested. 

Circle lets users share and discover news and events, and members can select a variety of categories they are interested in, turning the application into a “virtual newspaper” that only displays relevant local information as it happens.

“Circle is Twitter for Main Street. We want to make it easy for people to discuss, discover and share what is going on around them,” Circle CEO and founder Evan Reas said in a statement. “We’re connecting the mobile Web to the real world in a way that hasn’t been done before. The Circle community is local to you wherever you are, and is a place to find and share what matters to you.”

While Circle is still a relatively small social network – it boasts 10 million users, compared to Foursquare’s 40 million – it is leveraging the desire for location-based news and suggestions to grow one million new members every month. 

Check-In To A Financial Opportunity

As Owen Thomas pointed out when Foursquare first unveiled the push recommendations, the company has set itself up for location-based advertising and can now help drive consumers’ spending decisions. 

Already we’re on social networks sharing information about ourselves, so why not have social networks instead tell us what’s going on? By suggesting where and how users spend their money, location-based social services could become a prime target for local advertisers. 

Big companies want to get their hands on your geographic data, too. We recently told you why it would make sense for PayPal to purchase Foursquare to boost local business and developer relationships, and other businesses, payments or otherwise, would benefit from an infusion of location-based consumer information.

Whether or not consumers will find this type of location-based app advertising attractive … or invasive … remains to be seen.

We still don’t know what, if anything, other networks like Facebook or Twitter are doing with our check-ins, but if Foursquare’s update is any indication, our applications might soon be telling us what to Like even before like it ourselves.

Lead image by Memotions on Flickr

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