Monday, May 08, 2006

Points Of Interest and Mobile Interactions

The other day, when my family was in Miami for my brother's wedding, my dad decided he wanted some ice cream. He had been playing with his Garmin StreetPilot, and imagined that perhaps there was a Haagen-Dazs ice cream stand around, and maybe the data point was in the GPS.

Not only did keying in Haagen-Dazs pull up a location, but it yielded a nearby supermarket with a dedicated Haagen-Dazs freezer case. I was impressed and very surprised: my dad is not the kind of guy who, out of the box, would have gone looking for third-party databases to upload into the GPS. So I surmised that this unit actually ships with either (a) coordinates for all known Haagen-Dazs locations or (b) a mapping that could recognize Haagen-Dazs as a food brand, and infer that a large supermarket would be likely to carry the product.

Either way, someone ensured that the "Haagen-Dazs" literal could be used to find an unaffiliated business (i.e. not a Haagen-Dazs franchise) via the GPS database. A quick check revealed that not every major ice cream brand has the same coverage in this GPS, so I imagine that this is essentially a sponsored search scenario.

This rocks! A company went out of its way to make its product available to my dad in a situation where he otherwise would not have been able as easily to find it -- and they did it unobstrusively. No ads, just the right information at contextually the right time.

Haagen-Dazs has some other interesting GIS features: check out their online "flavor finder". I can't wait until more companies start realizing that greasing the skids just little can bring more sales and massive customer loyalty.

Meanwhile, Garmin has an open interface that allows third parties to publish Point of Interest databases (as text files) that a customer can then import into the GPS device. So if I want to open Adam's Ice Cream, my loyal fans can subscribe to my POI database via RSS, keep it synced to their GPS, and now I'm playing right up there next to Haagen-Dazs. This is brilliant. The two features together (dedicated placement for big brands, and a free open DIY-POI integration for everyone else) is great combo that covers the big bump and the long tail.

No comments: