Jan. 15, 2008 -- Our cell phones have quickly become the center of our digital universe, no longer containing just phone numbers and ringtones but photos, e-mail, music and a continuous text-message conversation with friends. As these devices grow smarter, we conversely demand them to be smarter.
An entirely new market has popped up around this idea — that of our cell phones knowing where we are and what we need. They may initially strike the paranoid among us as a bit invasive, but the following technologies, along with a host of others, are helping our cell phones help us more.
"Harry Potter" fans are familiar with the Marauder's Map, a magical document that shows the person holding it the exact location and activity of all the people around them at all times. If you've wished for that ability in the Muggle world (I'll stop now), check out Mobiluck. Using Bluetooth technology, Mobiluck turns mobile phones into radar devices of a sort, which can then be contacted by nearby devices via instant message.
It works on any cell phone that has a Web browser and identifies users, their locations and whether they're currently connected, making it very useful for highly targeted local advertising. Though this does have Big Brother-ish implications, Mobiluck emphasizes it has protections in place.
Users can choose how and what others see about them and can turn the technology off. Additionally, Mobiluck integrates rich filtering capabilities, letting users show specific information to specific people.
Smarter Agent provides Global Positioning System search capabilities for those of us looking for apartments or researching home values.
If you're looking at houses on a specific block, Smarter Agent can provide the past three years of historical sales prices for that block. It's available nationwide on Sprint phones via a downloadable application and will support other major U.S. carriers soon. By the end of 2007, the company will add for-sale (Multiple Listing Service) information as well.
With one click, Smarter Agent will return information about all the homes for sale near the user's current location. The service isn't free — consumers pay $2.99 per month for apartment information and $4.99 per month for historical home sale prices — but anyone who has traversed the real estate gauntlet can recognize the value in such a service.
Whrrl encourages people to share opinions with friends who are part of their personal networks — the Whrrld Lens. If users are visiting San Francisco, they can, for example, search for restaurants within five miles of their location and find out what their friends have said about those restaurants.
All reviews will be user-generated, but the company has licensed factual data for questions such as whether or not a restaurant has outdoor seating or accepts reservations. Whrrl is live in 10 major U.S. cities as of this writing and, though currently solely focused on restaurant reviews, plans to add movie listings, musical performances and other forms of entertainment. Its target audience is social urbanites between 18 and 30 years old who travel frequently.