The future of searching (almost) anything

In the week that the new Wolfram Alpha search engine has gone live, I’ve been thinking about our need to index information electronically

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By  Gareth Van Zyl Published  May 18, 2009

In the week that the new Wolfram Alpha search engine has gone live, I’ve been thinking about our need to index information electronically. I then stumbled upon Mac Funamizu’s blog, which illustrates futuristic scenes of a paper-thin transparent device that when hovered over a particular section of an apartment building displays information that states “Mr. Smith is in until 17:00”.

Funamizu is a web, graphic and industrial designer working in Tokyo, Japan and while his graphic displays may look like the stuff of science fiction, we perhaps aren’t that far off from experiencing it in reality.

In fact, technology similar to this is available today. The iPhone already has a number of applications that give end-users the ability to identify elements in their local environment with the Locly and AroundMe applications for the iPhone.

The Locly app, for instance, taps into the iPhone’s location-based services to help you discover what’s around you, such as ATMs, taxi firms and other local amenities.

The way it works is that the software is comprised of two parts – one part being a native application that uses the iPhone's location services to determine where you are, and the other part which passes the information onto its website component.

The website then lists several categories of useful information, including Wikipedia articles on local points of interest, pubs and restaurants. It's the information-driven listings that prove most useful, especially when trying to find a venue or a cash machine.

Then you have the AroundMe app that identifies your position and allows you to choose the nearest Bank, Bar, Petrol Station, Hospital, Hotel, Movie Theatre, Restaurant, Supermarket, Theatre and Taxis. It shows you a complete list of all the businesses in close proximity to where you are. A route to get there is then displayed on a Map on your phone and the ‘Nearby’ listing feature allows you to find information using Wikipedia about what is around you.

All this is interesting and it points to the possibilities around more dynamic electronic search. What it also clearly indicates is that it is going to become increasingly important for businesses to list themselves on services such as these. It provides another interesting avenue for advertisers, especially in the developed world where print media is rapidly losing its advertising appeal.

As more smartphones are taken up by the mass market; so, will more of these applications and I think Mac Funamizu’s vision of the future will become reality. The future of search may not necessarily lie in the hands of those behind Google and Wolfram Alpha, but rather in those hands holding mobile handsets.

3554 days ago
joachim

thank u for this well written and insightful article wow!

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