Better Apps and Better Data Needed

Better Apps and Better Data NeededWhen it comes to certain types of software or social networking sites, I have tended to hold back and let others to be the first to jump on the bandwagon. For example, Twitter was around a year or two before I decided to sign up and see what all the fuss was about. I did the same thing with Facebook. After all, it seems in the initial stages there are dozens and dozens of similar types of sites that are trying to compete for the big prize, and I refuse to sign up for any or all of them until it becomes clear that they are doing something to set themselves apart to garner real interest. In the past I’ve signed up for plenty of sites and it seems like I’m the only one present. The formula is easy – the more people that sign up and actually use a site, the more useful it becomes.

In the smart phone realm I’ve been hearing people talk a lot about Foursquare. I kept hearing it mentioned, but really had little clue what functionality it offered. I kept hearing about Starbucks discounts and Mayors in conjunction with Foursquare and wondered what on earth that was about and what that had to do with a smart phone app.

Since I’m the proud owner of the Sprint Evo 4G smart phone, I’ve been checking out all sorts of interesting Android apps. The Foursquare name kept periodically coming up, so I decided I would check it out.

Once I loaded Foursquare on my Evo and opened the app up for the first time I was presented with a Foursquare login screen and realized I had to go to their site in a browser to create an account, which I did. As part of the Foursquare account generation process, they present you with options of connecting your new account to Facebook and Twitter – very smart on their part, because it helps to connect with friends that are already Foursquare members.

After I logged in on my phone, it was cool to be able to see where those friends had been when they “checked in” from various restaurants and businesses around the country and the world. That’s cool. However, the “Location” tab makes the app EXTREMELY useful for me. I’m an over-the-road truck driver, constantly driving up and down freeways across the country. I happened to be at Gas City, Indiana when I installed Foursquare, so I was a bit surprised to see listed all the restaurants and convenience stores at the exit I was at along I-69, and the distance in meters they were away from where my truck was parked. It uses the phone’s built-in GPS chip so that it knows exactly where it’s at and what businesses are around – within “four square miles” perhaps?

All of these GPS-enabled smart phone apps are great, but they don’t solve all of my problems. I’m constantly looking for truck washes (refrigerated trailers constantly need washed out before reloading) as well as truck stops and truck parking. Even Google’s database has been gamed – try typing “truck stop” or “truck wash” along with the city name of your choice into Google and see if the search results aren’t misleading. “Truck wash” and a city name will often result in car wash business listings, useless for my purposes.

The bottom line is there’s still plenty of room for future smart phone app development. More specialized apps and better databases are two elements that can result in more useful apps.