It’s Time For Social Networks To Go Physical Using New Proximity Technologies

This is a guest opinion article by Justina Kostinaite, Communication Manager at Uepaa AG.

It is very likely that every day we walk past strangers who could become our best friends, business partners or even significant others. What if we could discover those people around us – the ones we don’t know but probably should – based on their digital profiles? No matter if it’s dating, next career move or weekly tennis game – one could never know which opportunistic encounter might be the most valuable connection ever made.

Various social apps like Facebook and Foursquare have been experimenting with users’ location data to connect relevant people nearby. But so far, the technologies used for social discoveries were not able to offer seamless connectivity, both in close vicinity and on the go, resulting in an unsatisfying user experience. This existing “gap” could be overcome with peer-to-peer (p2p) proximity technology, which, unlike beacons, does not require any hardware, works both in and outdoors, doesn’t drain the battery and connects devices directly peer-to-peer without relying on satellite signals like GPS.

Discovering contacts nearby

With p2p proximity integrated in an app, every person carrying a smartphone could establish new social interactions with people at a shared time and place. Proximity would turn our smartphones into portable beacons and enable us to discover users, no matter if indoors or out in the field. This way, we would be able to hire and get hired on the go, or find a perfect Tinder match while simply crossing each other’s paths.

Without the need to physically deploy beacons, maintenance costs would be entirely eliminated and it would become much easier to expand business to other locations. For instance, to empower the Attendee Match and Around Me features at the SXSW venue, more than 1000+ beacons have to be deployed, set up and maintained every year (Mashable, 2015). With p2p proximity SDK, there would be no need for the hardware, because smartphones could discover each other directly.

Based on these reasons, the Blinq team decided to incorporate the p2p proximity SDK in their dating app. According to Alex Zimmermann – the CEO of Blinq – “the Blinq experience is now street ready – anywhere your match is, they can be found, whether indoors or underground”.

Quick-connect to someone new

In order to actually connect to each other, people still rely on emails, phone numbers, and tangible business cards, but typing has always been a waste of time, and a spark for confusion when spelling complicated names. P2p proximity could greatly simplify this procedure by enabling contact exchange between devices in close proximity.

Imagine seamlessly connecting to each other on LinkedIn while being at the same business meeting or a technology conference. The LinkedIn app would discover people in the same room and enable instant contact exchange without the need to take any action – our phones would simply know who is nearby and enable us to connect right away.

Reconnection on the go

P2p proximity technology could also enable smartphones to learn from past encounters, and reconnect users who have already crossed each other’s paths. Facebook has attempted to reconnect people in close vicinity based on GPS via the Nearby Friends function. However, as we learned just recently, “the feature for letting people see your precise location on a map is no longer active” (TechCrunch, 2016).

Contrary to GPS, peer-to-peer proximity interactions would not rely on absolute location information but rather on the relative distance between the devices. Peers could only interact and reconnect with users in close proximity, not depending on their position on the map – a tremendous privacy advantage over absolute location technologies like GPS or beacons.

Engaging in nearby trends

With p2p proximity, users could opt to broadcast and receive information about trending stories, activities or music around them. For example, users would be able to know what nearby commuters are listening to on Spotify, what they are reading in the news or what games are they playing. Such functionality would allow users to stay up to date with the most recent trends around them, and get engaged in new social activities on the go.

P2p proximity could also add a multiplayer dimension to the mobile gaming experience. Mobile augmented reality games like Pokemon GO or Ingress already had tremendous success, but proximity would create entirely new features, enabling interactions between people who are in close proximity but have never met before. This would create a hyper-local gaming experience in the physical environment, without the battery-draining GPS.

Apps like Craigslist or eBay could also fuel the concept of social trading and allow people to trade with each other on the move. So, if someone was looking for a bike and accidentally ran into another person who is actually selling one, both peers could discover each other and make a deal at that very moment.

Bridging the digital and physical

Over the past few decades, we faced a dramatic shift in how people interact. The challenge of connecting with people over long distances was overcome by mail, telecommunications and, finally, the internet. P2p proximity technology is about to solve another challenge – connecting nearby users in real-time and on the go. This new concept of social networking might soon merge our physical and digital environments forever and enable rich, life-changing social discoveries everywhere we go.

By Justina Kostinaite

Justina is a marketing professional raised in an international startup environment, currently holding the role of Marketing & Communication Manager at Uepaa AG – a peer-to-peer proximity technology pioneer. Justina is always passionate about cutting edge technologies and proactive teams with a good vibe.

Simon Edmunds

Simon is the former editor of Global Dating Insights. Born in Newcastle, he has an English degree from Queen Mary, London and after working for the NHS, trained as a journalist with the Press Association. Passionate about music, journalism and Newcastle United.

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