You’ll never have to walk into a crowded room again unsure if there’s someone there you already know. SocialRadar, founded by ex-Blackboard CEO and Co-Founder Michael Chasen, launched Thursday morning on iOS to bridge the social divide of just that, integrating a user’s social network profiles with geo-locational information to provide a real-time picture of the people around them.
“I got to spend a lot of time on college campuses, and even though we were an enterprise software company we were building an app for the students and faculty. And that gave us an opportunity to see trends before they took place and got out of the college campuses.” Chasen recalls experiencing Facebook when it launched at Harvard, before it hit more campuses and then the mainstream.
One of those biggest trends Chasen picked up on was that students were starting to share their locations. “If you were in college now you would use Apple ‘Find My Friends’ and share your location with all of your friends all of the time and you didn’t care.” With a billion smart phones in people’s pockets around the world that can be locational beacons and even more social profiles stored in the cloud, Chasen believes the cross-referencing of that information will revolutionize the way social networks interact.
That’s the basic concept behind SocialRadar.
With the app, there’s a chance that new users could see it as pointless, unnecessary or even overkill. However, Chasen uses an analogy to Google Maps and a physical atlas to relate the way he believes SocialRadar will impact users’ lives.
Before the smart phone and a brilliant maps application, people didn’t carry around a physical map or atlas to help navigate their daily world. But now that they have the power of a world-wide responsive map in their pocket at all times, people use a map more than ever.
“Until you had the technology available to you, you didn’t know there was that problem,” he said. In the same vain, right now people might not think it’s weird to go to an event and miss a connection with someone they know. But Chasen said, “That’s only because there’s no technology ready in the palm of your hand.”
And then there’s the obvious worry from those extra-private individuals in society. How can they use SocialRadar, an app meant to broadcast personal information in a locational setting, while maintaining a level of privacy?
It’s quite simple, Chasen answered. SocialRadar’s foundation was completely built around the preserving people’s ability to remain private, though it may seem contradictory to the nature of the app.
“When we were researching this, the number one feature people cared about was privacy,” Chasen said. “So we made privacy at the very forefront of the app. At the top of the very main page you have a privacy slider. You can be public, which I am at all times; you can set it to ‘friends only;’ you can be anonymous or invisible.” Anonymous mode shows certain aspects from your profile like education and employment with your location, but not you name. Invisible, though, makes you completely invisible to other people.
And during the beta testing period, though privacy was the biggest concern, Chasen said most people left themselves public. “They were fine in sharing their information as long as they could control it,” he said. “We’re the only app out there I know that lets you easily control your location privacy, and it turns out to actually not be heavily used.”
As of Thursday, SocialRadar is available in the United States and Canada on Apple iOS devices, with a roll out on Google Glass next, and then finally Android. To scale out the product, Chasen plans to take deep dives into individual markets one by one around the country, obviously starting here in D.C. first.
For now, the plan is to get the product out there into consumers’ hands to let them experience it, while pushing the app out on the other devices. Eventually, though, Chasen envisions this being more than just an application.
“We want to move toward being a platform, more than just being a consumer app,” he said, something third party developers can access and expand upon. “That’s sort of our long-term strategic planning.”