Justin du Coeur (jducoeur) wrote,
Justin du Coeur

Bump: might actually be a reason to turn on location services

One of the features common in modern smartphones is location sensing and publication. Whether that's a good thing or not is kind of subjective. Some folks think it's incredibly cool, and certainly there are a fair number of startups making use of it. (Most notably Foursquare.) Personally, it's always made me a little uneasy -- while I am by no means a privacy extremist, the notion of having my phone broadcasting where I am all the time is just a hair creepy, and none of the applications to date have been especially compelling to me.

But here's one that is just clever: thanks to Tim Bray for the pointer to Bump, a remarkably simple and useful-looking smartphone app. The notion is great: if you want to share data with somebody, just bump your phones together. The phones sense that they've been bumped, send a packet off to Bump's servers, which correlates the times and locations, and assuming it finds two phones that appear to have been bumped, ask what you want to share. It's simpler than pretty much any other sharing approach I've heard of to date, and has the additional advantage that it works across platforms -- you can bump an iPhone against an Android, and it just works.

Of course, there are a host of questions. They claims that their communications are properly secured, but that needs to stand the test of time. Their FAQ doesn't clearly state that they will not use any of the transmitted data (aside from contact info), and I want to see that specific assurance. Related to that, I don't yet understand their business plan, and I never entirely trust a company that makes too much about being free. Everybody has to make money somehow, and if I don't know how you're doing it, I'm going to get suspicious.

Still, it's a cool app, and potentially quite useful if they get it right -- it's one of those apps that is all about network effects, getting more useful the more users it has. And it's got an open(ish) API, so that you can build additional "bumpable" apps. (They apparently have PayPal integration already, which is scary, dangerous, and mind-bogglingly useful: just bump phones together, say how much to transfer, and *poof* you've paid somebody.) I may have to take the chance and try this one out...
Tags: technology

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