This Helpful Technology Figures Out Where You Are And What You're Doing Based On Your Smartphone

Sam Liang's chart

Photo: Where Sam Liang has spent time in the past few months. This excludes home and work.

Sam Liang thinks modern smartphones are much smarter than people think, and should be able to track your every move to help you make better decisions on where you go and spend your time.Liang, co-founder of Alohar, explained that the company’s platform allows app developers to use sensors in a mobile phone to track where a user has been — without requiring them to check in manually like Foursquare does. (The chart to the right breaks down how Liang spends his time, outside of work.)

Alohar is helping developers build apps in the shopping, restaurant, and health and fitness spaces. Liang also said that people who are part of the quantified self movement love Alohar because it automatically tracks what they are doing and their activity — all data points that are important to people who believe collecting more data on their lives will help them live healthier.

One of the apps built on Alohar’s platform is Placeme, which can remember the names of places that you went to.

But he interesting thing isn’t really the location, it’s getting the phone to understand what the users are doing, Liang said. Is that person having dinner, working out, or shopping? “It detects if a user is walking, driving, or stationary,” Liang said.

It can also be used for more serious purposes.

Black Friday

Photo: Alohar

For instance, the accelerometer in a smartphone can detect when a big car crash happens. It can send a signal to a web server and call 911 automatically, giving the exact location of the accident.

“Those are the types of applications we want to enable,” Liang said.

When people think of ambient location apps, they think of battery-draining apps like Highlight. However, instead of using GPS continuously, Alohar uses lower-power sensors to determine if a person is in motion.

Liang was part of the Google Location Server team, which gave all Google mobile apps location information.

If anyone can pull off a next generation location-based platform, it is Liang. He is the guy who helped launch that blue-dot that you see when you turn on your map on your iPhone and Android phone.

Angel investors include David Cheriton, who wrote the first check to Larry Page and Sergey Brin in 1998, along with Andy Bechtolsheim.

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