Geoloqi has been around as a multipurpose geolocation app for iPhone and Android since 2010, and its API has been available since last summer. But today the Portland, OR startup is releasing its real product: the Geoloqi SDK for iPhone and Android, which enterprises and developers can license to build white label location based mobile applications.
Using the platform developers can build a wide range of battery-friendly geolocation applications with near real-time precision. The company already has paying enterprise and government customers, including TATE Inc, a company that provides services to U.S. government employees traveling in high risk areas.
Geoloqi co-founder Amber Case explained in an interview that geolocation tracking with GPS units was unreliable for TATE because the data flowed one-way and employees tended to leave the devices in their hotel room. Now, instead of relying on GPS devices, TATE uses Geoloqi on mobile phones to track employees locations and send alerts if they are starting to get near a dangerous area.
“With Geoloqi, we’re able to track our personnel in real-time, anywhere in the world, on any device, ultimately saving lives in the process,” said David Ayres, of TATE, Inc.
Here are some more details on the platform from the announcement:
- Device/ Language/ Carrier Agnostic:Geoloqi offers a language agnostic, cross platform SDK with native support for iOS and Android, and is fully portable to Windows and embedded systems. The platform enables customers to easily add location to any device, on any platform, and deliver it through any carrier or system around the world.
- Geofencing/ Battery Safe Trigger Zones: The Geoloqi SDK enables accurate, customizable geofencing, auto-check ins, and automatically manages a device’s battery life while using location, so users can run the app all day without significant battery drain.
- Hosted Spatial Storage: Spatial storage allows you to create and store places, messages, and geofences. Create private places, quickly import datasets, search for nearby places and automatically sync relevant data to users. Geoloqi is optimized for use with real-time applications and battery-safe operations.
- Rich dwell-time and location-based analytics: Geoloqi provides deep, real-time analytics on users and their location data and history and allows customers to create custom reports. It provides rich analytics and visualizations for tracking users, geofences and message conversions, place dwell time, visitor metrics, and more.
- Location-Based Messaging: Push messages to end users upon arriving, dwelling or leaving a place, as well as based off of time or day or a user’s speed. Messaging works with any carrier and enables notifications for iOS and Android, SMS and Email for all devices.
Potential competitors include Urban Airship, which acquired SimpleGeo last year and will provide technology for developers to build location based push notifications into applications, and Locaid, a location platform that relies on GPS information collected by carriers.
One possible disadvantage is that the Geoloqi platform is proprietary. Case says some of Geoloqi’s technology may be open sourced in the future, but the product remains fundamentally a closed system. That leaves room for an open source competitor.
The founders, Case and Aaron Parecki, are the sort of young and technically minded entrepreneurs that you might expect to build an app in Node.js and MongoDB and host it on Amazon Web Services. But the stack is actually pretty conservative. Parecki explains that the backend is a mix of PHP and Ruby with MySQL as a database, all hosted in a colo. “It’s easy to do circles in MySQL,” Parecki says. “But now that we’re doing more complex stuff, we’re looking at PostGIS.” I asked him whether he’d looked at any geo-centric NoSQL implementations, such as SimpleGeo’s Cassandra based geo database. He explained that Cassandra would have been time consuming to learn and expensive to hire for, and MySQL met their needs.
The team is using some other technology such as Redis as “glue” Parecki says, and you can find examples on the company blog of how developers are using Node.js and other technologies to build near real-time applications on top of the Geoloqi platform. But the core stack is relatively conservative. “We have a lean stack that’s cheap to scale,” he says.
Geoloqi did start out using the cloud, Parecki says, but found their database usage was so high that it was easiest and cheapest to host their own hardware in a colo. The company uses Intel 320 solid state drives to improve performance.
Left: Amber Case. Right: Aaron Parecki. Photo by Mark Coleman
Case received an undergraduate degree in anthropology and sociology from Lewis and Clark College where she studied Cyborg Anthropology under Deborah Heath. Case defines cyborg anthropology as “the study of human and non-human interaction, especially tools and networks that are formed by networks of human and non human objects.” She did her thesis on the ” technosocial sites of interaction” of mobile phones. But after graduating she decided to go into the private sector to try to apply the concepts of human and machine interaction, instead of pursuing a graduate degree or Phd. She told me in an interview in 2010:
I was told to work two years in the “real world” before going back to academia, going straight to grad school would leave me at a disadvantage. First, I wouldn’t know what the real world needed, and secondly, I wouldn’t know anything else except for academia.
She started out as a freelance Internet marketer, but eventually made a name for herself on the lecture circuit as a speaker on cyborg anthropology. Later she joined Vertigo as a user experience designer. In 2010, at the age of 23, she was selected as one of the most influential women in tech by Fast Company and spoke at TED about cyborg anthropology. But what she really wanted to do was build the sort of stuff she talked about.
Case was obsessed with the “calm technology” ideas of Mark Weiser at Xerox PARC. She saw computer interfaces evolving from solid to liquid to air. Solid comes in the form of physical keyboards and mice – interface objects that are unchangeable. Liquid comes in the form of the touchscreen, where buttons and other interface objects change. Air comes in the form of location aware technology, where you can talk into a room and having the technology just work.
She met Parecki in 2009. At the time he was a PHP developer and had already been tracking his location in six second intervals for past two year. Case saw that Parecki was doing the sorts of things with location that she was talking about. The two started hacking on projects together during their free time. “I had to build something based on my research. I couldn’t sit back and watch other people try it, or worse have no one doing it.”
Geoloqi started in April 2010 as what the two referred to as a “non-visual augmented reality system.” They used it to track their own locations, trigger text message notifications and do things like turn the lights on and off as they entered and exited rooms. Case says they always wanted it to be a platform for developers and companies to use, but they weren’t sure how best to build awareness. A mobile app seemed like the obvious way, but the two didn’t know Objective-C or Java. Parecki ended up learning just enough about mobile development to get functioning apps out the door.
The two kept working day jobs for the first year, funding its development with winnings from hackathons. But as enterprises started contacting them asking if they could build custom versions of Geoloqi to meet specific business needs, Case and Parecki knew they had something on their hands.
“Companies were e-mailing us multiple times a day, but we didn’t have time to deal with it because we had day jobs,” Case told me. “We always wanted companies to use it, but we thought we’d have to go after them.” Geoloqi landed $350,000 in seed funding in July 2011 and Case and Parecki were able to quit their hire more developers so they could actually release their real product – the SDK.
“A lot of the things we play with have serious purpose,” Case says. For example, a real life Pac-Man game, inspired by a project from New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program. The game displays on the screen of each player the location of all other players in the game, and updates not only the location of each player but other in-game activities. Each player has to subscribe to the movements and actions of every other player, and it all has to be updated as close to real-time as possible. This is a hard problem to solve, and it has applications in the real world. A company that provides security at events wants to use it to help its security guards track each others movements, and provide a central dispatcher with an overview of where all the guards are and what they’re doing.
Case and Parecki are considerin developing more applications. These range from home automation and the Internet of Things to tracking lost pets and mapping traffic in real-time. But the two remain pragmatic. “We want to focus on today’s enterprise problems,” Case says Geoloqi won’t provide any services or customizations, but will instead partner with service providers. “We’re entirely focused on creating a rock solid product.”