Uber is a cool new car service that Jenna Wortham recently wrote about in this article for The New York Times. Intersect is an equivalently cool new site that for all practical purposes is the opposite of Twitter that is all based on location and what is happening in a specific location at a particular time so it becomes a chronology of everything that happens at that location. Their web site does a better job of describing it than I do.
I’ll get there, but it reminds me of something my friend Tom, who is an executive at Microsoft, was telling me a couple of years ago about modern phone technology (in this case the design of Windows Phone 7). He pointed out something pretty obvious, but at the same time prettty incredible. Historically with computer technology the size of the screen of the device software was written for was known and fixed. Also, things like “up” and “down” were fixed. Now with mobile devices like phones and tablets, we expect to turn the device upside down and have it turn the screen around for us, and if we want to change the amount of information in the screen, we are now able to pinch in and pinch out and slide – and we expect that. That has been trasformational for mobile devices.
Back to Uber and Intersect.
It wasn’t so long ago that it was a safe assumption that when we were on the internet and using technology, that we were sitting down looking at a screen in a pretty knowable location, such as home, work, a coffee shop. What has changed just in the last couple of years is that more and more of us use our mobile devices all the time all over the place, checking sports scores, checking to see if The White House is going to release the recent photos of bin Laden, e-mail, you name it.
So it shouldn’t be surprising that Intersect is taking that fundamental shift in assumption, and they are assuming they want to write about what they are doing wherever they are. Foursquare makes a similar assumption. Intersect takes a different tack and uses the location of the cars to determine which car is closest to the customer and then lets the customer track where the car is as it gets closer. The Intersect assumption is that everyone (in their target market) has a mobile device with location services and they then use that location information to bring together two people who don’t know each other, and who haven’t met, and who might never see each other again. Location based supply and demand in real time. That wasn’t possible for the masses until very recently.
It’s companies like these that are going to continue to transform the way we socialize and transact business and rattle core assumptions we used to have about how we get through our day. It’s all opportunity for the entrepreneurs out there, and all risk for the established organizations that don’t take a step back and rethink what this means for them.