One of the emerging technologies on the web over the past year has been real time search. With social networks such as Twitter — generating 55 million status updates per day — there is a ton of real time data from which to source. This has spawned real time search as a way for Internet users to see what’s being said right now about any given topic.
The real time data is powered by the people — it shows you what the pulse of the public is right now. It is produced when users of a host of applications post status updates to a social network.
As more and more activity migrates to mobile devices, and sites like Twitter and Facebook perfect their mobile applications, an increasing amount of the status updates will be geo-tagged. Moreover, web-based solutions will continue to implement geo capability so that users can attach geographical data to their daily updates.
By geo-tagging an update, users are basically specifying their current latitude and longitude. This latitude and longitude can then be converted into a specific location, such as street name or a more general location such as neighbourhood or city name. At the recent Chirp conference, Twitter wouldn’t comment on what percentage of their status updates are geo-tagged. However, they did confirm that an increasing proportion of updates are being tagged with geographical location.
Social networking is about sharing information with those in your network. While some users turn off the geo tagging to preserve privacy, many enjoy sharing their current location with their friends and colleagues. Also, to better comfort users, the technology will give users the option to only share the more general information such as the neighbourhood they are in as opposed to the exact address of where they are. As the customisation options improve, the methods users employ to get online and post status updates evolve, and the social networks make it easier to turn on geo-tagging; more and more users will be including this rich data along with their daily comments.
Select real time search engines have already begun to implement this data as a way to improve the functionality of their site. My site, Sency for Cities, allows users to search the real time web for updates made inside of 13 major US cities. The initiative also allows you to see what the current hot topics are in a given city, along with what venues where recently visited by people inside of a city. Real time search engine Crowdeye has also recently announced the ability to filter their search results based on location. Twitter’s official search engine also lets you filter by location.
The goal of real time search engines is to inform the public of what is going on right now. By adding location data, internet users can be specifically informed as to the happenings in a city.
For example, when the 7.2 earthquake hit Southern California this past Easter, a real time search for earthquake would have shown what everyone in the world was saying about the earthquake. However, a real time Los Angeles search disclosed what people directly experiencing the quake inside of Los Angeles were saying.
Later on that same day, when Donovan McNabb was traded from the Philadelphia Eagles to the Washington Redskins, tons of updates were made by users commenting on the trade. To gauge how local Eagles fans were reacting to the news, a real time search done with a Philadelphia filter would give you the buzz in the city. You could also then perform a search for updates from Washington DC, which would show you fans excitement or hesitance about getting Donovan McNabb.
The uses for this new type of search functionality are many. Businesses can use this data to learn how a new product, promotion, or advertising campaign is being received in different cities. Movie executives can instantly review feedback from users, broken out by city, the night of a grand opening. As more and more users turn on geo-tagging, and the real time engines develop improved technology, the uses and benefits will increase.
Real time search is a new industry which has the potential to continue to innovate. With location data added to the mix, this new niche will be enhanced when real time search and GEO are combined to offer rich information for internet users. Select real time search engines have already began to utilise this new data point and look for others to follow as real time search with geo implemented becomes the norm.
Evan Britton founded Sency in 2009. The goal of Sency is to bring real-time content, links, and tools to Internet users in an organised and simple fashion.