Talking tech since 2003

I recently sat down with Michael Chasen, former co-founder/CEO of BlackBoard, at SXSW to discuss his brand new app called SocialRadar.  As may have guessed by the name of the app, SocialRadar is a social discovery app, but instead of using location and interests like other apps, SocialRadar cross references social information and data to tell you who is nearby and how you are connected to them.  The idea behind the approach taken by Chasen and his team is that you get more value this way.

SocialRadar monitors data from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc and uses that data to give that much needed context.  Because the app monitors several different social networks, people who have signed up for SocialRadar have their complete profile auto-filled out for others to conveniently view.  The app also features chat functionality so users who both have the app installed can quickly message (which is great if you want to meet up with someone).  If you run across a user who’s nearby but doesn’t have SocialRadar installed you can choose to send them a message via Twitter DM, Facebook, or invite them to download the app.

socialradar-privacy
Different privacy settings in SocialRadar.

Within the app you can drill down into different sub-sections to find people nearby who have worked at the same company as you at some point to people nearby who like the same indie band.  Obviously with this type of information comes great responsibility on SocialRadar’s part which is why the app have a wide range of privacy settings, including the ability to be anonymous or invisible.

Chasen & Co. are very bullish on the fact that people will want to share their location data, according to him students and young adults are not concerned about privacy issues  that may arise from sharing their location.  As a young adult myself, I can say that I fall into the group; I’ve been an avid user of both foursquare and Highlight in the past.  However that being said, there is some current research that has data which states the opposite to be true for teens.  In fact, according to the research 46 percent of teen app users have turned off location tracking features on their cell phone or in an app because they were worried about the privacy of their information.  Of course, it is possible that as they get older their views may change.  Nonetheless, the SocialRadar team is convinced that sharing location data will become the norm.

socialradar-userlistSo why would you want to use an app like SocialRadar anyway?  The obvious answers include meeting new people, dating, keep track of friends, and networking.  The other is for informational purposes — just knowing who’s around you.  The way Mr. Chasen views SocialRadar is a Google Maps for the people around you (as opposed to the area around you). The app provides valuable knowledge of the people around you the same way Google Maps can tell you what is nearby. SocialRadar can even be useful if you want to approach people due to the fact it includes all their profile information which can give you a potential opening to a conversation.

Often times with apps like these battery life becomes a real issue because it’s keeping track of your location.  With SocialRadar that’s not really a problem, the app has a built-in battery manager where you can adjust how resource intensive it is.

The team is also working on a Google Glass version of the app which I was lucky enough to get a chance to test briefly (and it’s very cool).  Basically you will be able to walk into a room and see who’s around you with all the necessary information from their social profiles in a card-view.  This is the future.

In terms of monetizing, SocialRadar wants to take advantage of commerce opportunities that will arise, such as allowing stores to better know their customers.  In addition to that the company plans to open up its APIs to other developers and allow them to build on top of the technology.  It’s definitely an exciting time for location-based apps.


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