The grey-haired set usually eschews the cutting edge of technology for the blunt, flat edge of comfort. However, a new batch of location-based services for mobile phones could have seniors taking a second look at joining the techie revolution.
Tech companies know that senior citizens are their least likely customer base. "Older people seem slower to adopt new technologies," says Darren Litt, vice president of business development for the mobile based social community, MeetMoi.com. "I know they use email and ‘the google’, but that's about it. They seem about five years behind."
However, mobile technology has become more accessible to the older crowd since Apple's (AAPL), introduction of the iPhone. "As a generalization, they seem to like the iPhone, maybe because it's more of a gadget," says Litt. And along with the gadget comes a bevy of new capabilities, including a glut of location-based services.
These apps read your current location based on your cell phone signal and then provide you with local information, from the site of the nearest Starbucks (SBUX), to whether those looming rain clouds are headed your way. And they can greatly enhance the lives of seniors in this brave new world.
Where am I?
Sometimes, even if you know your location, you don't know where you are. But with a cell phone signal, this problem is easily solved. MeetMoi’s application seemywhere.com enables you to create an account using a person’s cell phone and track the person through their phone service. Family and friends can log on to the site and see the location of the family member in question. "This is a great way for family members to keep track of one another," says Litt. Forget worries about Big Brother. Think of it more as a safeguard against losing a grandparent.
Shopping For Deals
No one loves a good deal like a card-carrying member of the AARP. Look up gas prices online using a location-based application from GasBuddy.com. Download this widget to your smartphone and it will find your location and tell you how much gas costs at different stations in the surrounding area. And for those who like to haggle, Litt predicts this is just the beginning for wireless comparison shopping. "With a little more time and technology development, you’ll be able to tell an application what you're looking for and see what other stores are selling the product, its cost and distance from you," says Litt. "Or you’ll enter a UPC code from a product and see if there's a better deal around the corner." Either way, seniors who love to bargain or are living on a fixed income will be able to find a good deal no matter what they're shopping for.
While musty photo albums might be the grey-haired generation's preferred mode of reminiscing, a good online photo album that can link up with their grandchildren's world wide exploits makes for a great way to show off photos with friends over a game of canasta. And with geo-tagging photo technology, there won't be any guessing to what European cathedral little Betty is standing in front of in that lovely shot. Geo-tagging links the photo with the location of where it was taken. Services like Yahoo-linked (YHOO) Zurfer.com (which is still in prototype) allow you to install an application that turns popular online sites like Flickr into a mobile photo album on your phone.
While it might take a young 'un to find and download these apps for their grandparents, there's no doubt that any savvy senior would benefit from cruising around town with a little location-based help.