Geolocation: Invasive Tech Or Helpful Assistant?

Imagine you finally just landed in LAX on a business trip. Your flight was delayed an hour due to snow in Seattle, and you have a meeting to get to in 30 minutes.

Let’s be realistic. You are going to be late.

Now, imagine having a personal assistant who automatically notifies the meeting attendees that you are running late, and calls you a ride as soon as you landed — all without any input from you.

Automating your everyday tasks isn’t a technical issue. You can hack a few APIs together to have an Uber driver automatically show up at your front door without you opening the Uber app.

The true challenge is getting people to trust an automatic purchase, email, or message without their input.

There’s no doubt that automating certain tasks would make our lives easier, but how do we ease people into tech that does things automatically for them?

Let’s go back to our airport example. It probably wouldn’t be wise to just order them an Uber without them asking. But you can start to move in that direction by understanding context and asking the right questions.

Let’s say as soon as the user lands at LAX, you send a message that says, “Welcome to LAX! There are 10 drivers nearby. Need a ride?”

By still letting the user make the final decision, the user is control but still feels the delight of the helpful suggestion. Additionally, features like this move us closer to the future of messages such as “I’ve gone ahead and ordered your Uber. You should be at the office before your 2 o’ clock meeting starts.”

But how can apps know when to make these suggestions?

Answer: Through context and predictable user behavior

Over time, and with the right tools, apps can understand users’ routines. Do they always take an Uber to work? What variables play a role in their decision to use a ride sharing service?

Once a user has trust in the technology, and the mobile app fully understands a user’s situation, they can ask users:

“Should I just call your Uber automatically from now on when you land at the airport?”

If an app can understand users’ behavior, it can make confident predictions on when a user will want to perform a certain action based on context. At that point, it feels like magic.