Just read a great paper by Motorola on mobile motion presence, using your mobile phone to keep track of when a friend is stationary or in motion.
There are lots of way you can do presence, Twitter for example is on the onus of a user to publish their presence, followers are pushed an SMS, etc…another service Groovr, is well into location presence a similar way by using check in/out commands.
Then we have GPS location tracking services where you can exactly know where a person is located, this is no messing around.
Motorola could offer anything, but this study is careful, it’s testing different types of users: couples and friends, and how they feel about different types of presence methods.
There was a general feeling that full on GPS location tracking was a bit intrusive, I tend to agree.
Anyway, their idea is motion presence using cell towers, if you are on the go, you pass different cell towers, if your phone registers passing these towers, then it means you are moving…they are kind of like check points.
When your phone passes 2 cell towers within 5 minutes that were not visible within the previous 15 minutes, it is considered “moving”.
The updates are passive meaning you don’t have to ping to find out, or you don’t get notifications, basically it’s always on (it works by SMS which lives in a log)…just check your phone to see your list of friends and next to each friend there will be a status “moving” or “not moving” and also a number denoting how long they have been in this state.
I tend to agree, in my opinion this is the most non-intrusive way for this type of information, but then Motorola want to know if it’s too far removed and useful at all.
I know my wife is sick at home today, but I see she has been in motion for 30 minutes…aha what’s the bet she’s shopping again.
My friend has a meeting but I can’t remember the exact time and I don’t want to ring him, but I see right now he is “moving” so here’s my chance.
My wife doesn’t need to ring me to see if I’m on the way home, or how far I am, as she knows I have been “moving” for 45 minutes, and I usually take 60 minutes to get home from work, (this gives her time to do her own stuff before I get home) if I’m still moving at 75 minutes she’d probably call me.
It’s 2.30pm and my husband should have picked up the kids and be on the way home, but he’s “not moving”, turns out he was asleep.
We have a sick child at home and my husband went to pick up some medicine, it’s been 15 minutes and I see he is “moving”, I can infer that he’s on his way home.
It was also documented that some people checked the log frequently for something to do or as a habit, but on busy days they may never look at it…thanks to no notifications it doesn’t bother you if you choose not to care.
In all these examples motion doesn’t really have any context itself unless you know the person, or their plans for the day, in this light you may be able to infer location or activity.
Some particpants wanted a little more information, like if they were waiting for a lunch meeting, knowing the person was “moving” was not enough, they wanted to know how far way they were.
Others wanted a history of motion, like todays motion of person A so far is:
not moving 60
not moving 120
not moving 240
From this a person can infer that my partner has gone for a 10 minute drive to her friends house, stayed 2 hours, then drove back home, and has been home for the last 4 hours.
Others stated it would be useful to check up on their kids “hmmm, I dropped them off at their friends house, so why have they been moving for 30 mins, what are they up to?”
Motion presence could still be seen a bit intrusive, depends on the situation, I guess you have to weigh up if it would be more useful than not, and put up with the nots, in the end you have to infer, it’s not telling you direct stuff.
More on Social Presence
Here is a list of location-specific presence services I know of, as you can see presence location is a hot space.
[ADDED 6/12/07: Google Maps pinpoints your locations by triangulating between cell towers (for those without GPS)]
[ADDED 7/2/08: Companies Betting on Location Based Mobile Ads]
[ADDED 7/2/08: Mobile presence : Iotum-Talk Now and “The Swarm”]
[ADDED 5/03/08: JotYou: Location-Based Mobile Phone Messaging]
[ADDED 16/10/08: Share Your Earthly Journey in Detail on Trailino]