I recently started working at Findwise after having finished my thesis on location based information delivery in a mobile phone. The purpose of my thesis was to:
- Investigate how location based information (as opposed to fixed locations) could be connected to search results
- Improve quality of location based information by considering the course and velocity of the user
To start with, I created an iPhone application with a location-based reminder system. The reminders described location constraints and users could create reminders with single locations (at home) or groups of locations (at any pharmacy). To find these groups of locations, the system searched for locations with associated information (like nearby pharmacies) and delivered this information without users having to click Search repeatedly.
This is an unusual approach to search as the user is passive, instead the system is performing searches for the user. However, to make search results relevant one has to add contextual constraints to describe when, where and to whom a piece of information is relevant. When all constraints are met, information should be relevant. If not, the system lacks some crucial contextual constraints.
When search is automated, the importance of relevant search results increases and the more you know of the users world, the better you can adjust the results. However, traditional search can also benefit from contextual information. It can be used as a filter where search results that are irrelevant in the current context are removed. Alternatively it could be a part of the relevance model, improving search results by reordering them according to context. Hence, whereas automatic information delivery is probably undesirable for many types of information – contextual constraints can still be of good use!
The people who tested my application created 25% of their reminders as groups of locations and found it useful as it helped them find places they weren’t aware of, facilitating opportunistic behavior. The course and velocity information reduced the number of false-positive information deliveries. Overall, the system worked well as a niche product.