The value of pre check-in services

A few weeks ago, I saw an email chain flying amongst my friends. It was “what are you up to on Friday night?” and “where will we meet you?”.  Locations, venues and times were being scattered all over the interwebs. The fundamental problem was meeting up at a similar time during the night, essentially a co-ordination problem as everyone has their own agenda.

As I have gotten older and the use of mobile phones have become more prevalent, there’s a culture of I’m out and about, I’ll give you a call and see where you are. I might have an approximate idea from an earlier conversation of where my friends are. But there’s no guarantee that I’ll stay there because I’ll see where the night takes me. We have more opportunities, more friends and more venues to visit.

An application like Foursquare / Gowalla tells you where you friends are when they have arrived and they decide to check-in. You can also see who else is at the venue. It’s great as post check-in data. However, you don’t know if your friend has left the building and moved on, and where they might be heading.

It would be *fantastic* if you could do a pre-checkin into a venue using a service like Plancast.

This could prove quite stalkerish intrusive, however hear me out.

Scenario #1: Meeting up at a Bar

I’m currently at work on a Friday afternoon. I plan to meetup with 7 friends to catchup at Bar #1. I have dinner plans at 7pm with another friend. I can do a precheck-in with destination  (similar to airline pre-checkin over the web) e.g. Bar #1. The approximate time of arrival could be also included. I could SMS them all, but don’t really want to SMS a group of 7 people.

At 7pm, my friends can see that I’m currently at a restaurant as I have “checked-in”. It’s currently 8.20pm and I’m running late. When I leave the restaurant, I can “checkout”. So my friends know that I have left and potentially on my way. Yes, I know I could also call them.

My friends have arrived at Bar #1 and I can see this on Foursquare as some of them have checked-in. Other associates can drop by, knowing that I’m at the bar.

Now, the data on my location based service is not old. Foursquare checkin’s have a timestamp, but I do not know if they are still at the venue. I might stay at a bar for 10mins or 3 hours. With a pre-checkin service and a post check-out service it adds greater utility and relevance to the user.

The main point is that I can pre-select a destination of arrival and my friends/associates can decide to join me during the night. Note – I don’t recommend this scenario if you have a stalker =)

Other benefits of Pre check-in services

I’ve listed a few other benefits of pre-check in data. Here’s how some pre-check in data looks like from my Plancast account. As you can see, I can view where people are going to be, what conferences, events and activities they are doing. I can also potentially hit “count me in” and meet up with them.

Scenario #2: Holiday Planning

If I was to head to a destination and do a plan where I’m going to be, then services/goods could be sold to me in advance.  For example, I’m heading to South East Asia next week. I’m planning to be in Bangkok, Thailand. Imagine, if I could receive offers from businesses like restaurants, bars, entertainment venues based on my location planning and activities I’m interested in BEFORE I arrive.

A hotel could say “would you like to stay 2 nights here”. A local restaurant could say “1 free meal with every main bought”. Perhaps I would like to see a  Thai kickboxing match and purchase a ticket in advance.

Scenario #3: Conference networking

I like to go to a lot of random conferences, often with a digital bent. I would like to know who’s going in to get a gauge of the crowd, who I might meet there, if its worth going to and importantly, if I know anyone attending!

That’s why I like Eventbrite when the attendee list is open. You can see names, positions, and companies attending. This is where Plancast is quite good. I can also see other interesting events that my peers are attending.

Scenario #4: Temporal events like concerts and conferences

My belief is that foursquare /Gowalla, etc.. works better with permanent venues and you can get tips, see visits, etc… When I attend The Forum, in the Entertainment Quarter in sydney, there were a bunch of people that left notes about the venue in relation to other concerts.

But the data gets old. And sometimes events do not occur in permanent venues. For example, the Microsoft Foursquare meetup happened at Martin Place. People that did not know of the event will not understand that it is not a venue. They might even think the event is still on!

It needs to distinguish between an event and a venue.

Scenario #5: Encouraging others to attend

Sometimes I like to post events I’m attending to encourage others to come. Its always more comforting and sometimes more fun if a colleague or friend attends. When my basketball team was in the finals, I posted the location and time on Plancast and then shared it via facebook. It was great as as “upcoming event” you should attend! Here is an example of a concert I was heading to and wanted friends outside of my immediate circle to come.

Similarly, if friends know that I’m heading to particular venue such as a bar, and they are at different locations, they are more likely to drop by. It could be too late in the night to suddenly change plans after I see a check-in from a friend.

I’m hoping for a Plancast integration with Foursquare / Gowalla. That would be mega interesting, along with a check-out feature.

I’m out like Mel Gibson’s temper,

Matthew Ho

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