Sorry, More on Foursquare: The Business & Life Tracking Opportunities

As if I wasn't a big enough evangelist already, Foursquare's announcement of a location dashboard for businesses is further proof to me of how disruptive the location check-in game will be.

The early iteration of the location dashboard that Foursquare revealed at SXSWi lets businesses view the data around the check-in activity at their own location. Right now this is limited mostly to who & how many people are checking in at what times of each day, but you can already see the seeds being planted for a much deeper platform. Foursquare mentioned they are looking at including weather data so stores can see how their foot traffic is impacted. What if Foursquare opens up the platform so any data layers of a propper format could be brought in, similar to how Google Calendar operates? Businesses might be interested in traffic patterns or holiday calendars. They might want to import purchase volume or coupon history. They will also benefit from tracking their various location based ad offerings.

And what about companies being able to use check-in's for their loyalty cards or personal visitation records through the Foursquare dashboard or API? It sounds like Tasti-Dlite is working on this, and I'd love to see Starbucks count my check-in towards a free coffee. It also makes sense for my gym not to have to swipe me in once I check in.

The location dashboard is great for businesses, but it's also exciting to consider the different opportunities that this hints at for the Foursquare users. Right now every time I look at my check-in history on Foursquare.com I think of Mint's metrics. We have access to limited data so far, but we could be able to dive into our entire historical trends in order to see how our choices of how we spend our time have evolved over the year. And just the way I use Mint to figure out my years expenditures for insurance, I want to use Foursquare to see my years gym visits for my health insurance.

In fact what I'd really love is somehow be able to mary the data between Mint and Foursquare. Usually one reflects the other, but if I ceck in at a restaurant and don't use a credit card then It would be very cool if foursquare could somehow tell Mint to leave a placeholder for a cash transaction. Though Mint and Foursquare seem far apart in some ways, the fact that they both help me to track and analyze my life patterns makes me think the data should be merged and leveraged together.

I could go on but the point is clear. On the surface Foursquare is a social network and a game, but the data layer below it is a powerful utility for us players and the business owners we are interfacing with. Foursquare's API is already getting used, but as it becomes more robust and people start truly start innovating on top of it's platform, I look forward to seeing the possibilities.

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Roger Ebert Finds His Voice Again

I guess I was living under a rock but I completely didn't know the courageous story of Roger Ebert. For everyone under there with me, here's the quick summary. After years of terrible health issues that left him stripped of much of his face and throat, he completely lost his ability to speak in 2006. His body is terribly weak, he's a sliver of the size he used to be, but nothing has slowed him down. He does the movie reviews he's famous for, but he's also returned to writing in a way that he'd left behind. He writes a prolific blog that has thousands of engaged readers. And until yesterday he was forced to handle speaking needs through post-it notes or computer generated read-outs in a blocky voice.
But yesterday a company called Cereproc gave him his voice back. They were able to take the audio tracks that Roger Ebert had recorded for movie studio DVD extras and stitch together a full framework of his voice. Now when he types into a computer, the output will be his own voice speaking to his wife or children. It may be a small change, but it makes a huge difference in enabling Ebert and his loved ones to feel like they're speaking to the real him. Yesterday he demo'd the difference between his computer voice "alex" and his revived personal voice, and its heartwarming to watch.
Ebert's history was told in this month's issue of Esquire, which I coincidentally read the morning before the story broke. It's magnificent. Read the article, read about the breakthrough that Cereproc enabled, and watch the video.