Social Locale is a point of purchase social media system. It allows users to engage public spaces in a whole new, interactive, way. And it allows the owners of those spaces to engage with their customers in a whole new way.
To use it, a user simply checks into a location using any of the supported existing location based services; e.g., Facebook, Gowalla, or Foursquare. Once the user pairs their account with Social Locale they can walk into any location using this system, check in, and immediately see their user photo up on the screen along with any other media they may include (such as text). Users have a cool new way to interact with their location, their online social graph, and also an ad-hoc real space location graph; plus, they may also get a great deal. Retailers have a very easy, inexpensive, and configurable way to turn that passive display they've been using to light up a static graphic into a dynamic electronic display. The real value for the retailer though, aside from creating a cool new customer experience, is that it gives them a unique toolset to use social media to drive business goals.
The display is what the user sees and interacts with, although keep in mind they interact with this screen using their own device via whatever service they prefer to update their social graph via location data with.
Social Locale works in any environment, it only requires three things: electricity, wi-fi, and a display (preferably a large flat-panel display typically used in stores to flash static graphics or video loops). Just plug-n-play and Social Locale does the rest. It automatically generates the content that users will find engaging and interactive, while also drive usage statistics for the business. This is all based on Social Locale's server technology and social media algorithms that allow it to drive insight for any business.
The system is made up of three over arching pieces: server, display client, and the merchant dashboard. There are essentially two server pieces, with one inolved in aggregating, normalizing, and serving social media metadata and location information. This is what allows a person to check into any service and then appear on the screen associated with the store they are physically at in that moment. The merchant dashboard server tracks this activity in order to generate visualizations and reports for the store manager or owner to make sense of their customers using location based services. It also learns the group behavior and can make recommendations as to what the merchant should do to promote a product or service.
We pursued this project for a variety of reasons. First, we wanted to interpret this year's theme of "lightness" in a way that meant a small physical footprint. One of our core values was to also find a way to reduce paper consumption via advertising. 4 billion trees are cut down annually for all paper goods, which represents 35% of all trees in the world. We figure that approximately 20% of that number is used for the world's newspapers, therefore 800 million trees annually. From that 800 million, we calculate conservatively that 20% is used for advertising and fliers. We are primarily thinking of the inserts and fliers that almost everybody instantly throws away and never even reads. This is wasteful for us, and the advertiser. After all, why buy that space and waste the paper if no one is even going to see it. Our thinking is that if we could even make a dent in 1% of this, we could save 16 million trees a year.
We also looked for ways to create new experiences. Social ambiance is a theme from ubiquitous computing circles that we were interested in playing with, but we also wanted something that wasn't completely theoretical and experimental. We strove to generate a concept that could exist and may actually be something general users would find appealing.
Finally, what has kept us motivated is seeing how well it fits with how people use mobile technology today. When we did out first flat panel display study we quickly realized that there were these passive, essentially unused, displays everywhere. And there are also mobile device screens everywhere, with sensors, GPS, and messaging capability. Always on and always connected. Social Locale is, we feel, an exciting merger of these existing technologies in a novel and new way.