Getting to Know Locale and the MIT Team Behind It

The application Locale is one that has to be admired for its simplicity.  It’s one of those programs that you wonder why it hadn’t been invented long ago.

We’ve seen programs that change ringtones, sound profiles, and turn on features like WiFi or Bluetooth before, but they’re all time-based.  If you have anything but a Monday-Friday 9-5 job, you know that this can be hectic and more of a hassle in your daily life. Sure, you can set your phone to go to loud rings at 5:01PM since that’s when you’re supposed to be off work, but what happens if you leave work early, or have to stay late?  Did you WiFi start searching 2 hours before you got home, unnecessarily draining your battery?

Locale offers a very compelling alternative by basing your profiles and more around your location.  Let’s say you work at random times because you’re in retail.  You never have the same shift from week to week, but you want your handset to go silent as soon as you get near work.  Once you’re out of the building, you’d prefer a loud tone with vibration alert.  With Locale, this is no problem.  Even if you left for an hour over lunch, it would adjust for you during that time.

There’s a great read over on xconomy that profiles the team of MIT students who helped create Locale.  They talk about the ideas that birthed it as well as where it can help to improve our lives.  It’s a 3 page read that’s somewhat detailed.  If you’re like me, you’re a fan of the behind-the-scenes stuff that this article has.

Other location based handset changes include, wallpapers, WiFi, GPS, and call forwarding and more.  Imagine being able to tell your phone to automatically silence itself at theaters, hospitals, funerals, and other places.  Such a small task, yet incredibly useful.  Locale can also be integrated with other programs to help those around you.

“We wrote a Twitter client that posts updates to your Twitter account based on whatever is going on with your phone.  Say you’re on a trip to San Francisco, and you want your family back home to know that you got there safely and you want your friends in San Francisco to know that you’ve arrived. As soon as you land and your phone detects that it’s in San Francisco, it can automatically post that fact to Twitter.”

The Locale team is asked whether or not they plan to make this app for the iPhone and it’s here where we find one of the fundamental differences between Android and Apple’s operating system.   Until that gets changed, look for programs like this, and many others, to draw interest to Android.

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  1. This is one app that I’m really excited about. No more fiddling with the volume in class because I forgot to turn off the ringer, no more missing calls because I forgot to turn it back up.

  2. First app to be downloaded to my G1 :)
    I used “profiles” on my treo, which is great – but like the article mentions, it’s only time based. And yes, I work in retail haha – this’ll be great

  3. at first i thought this app wasn’t really worth it since it’s not that hard to change volume. but the more i think about it the more it’ll come in handy.

  4. Think of the wonderful uses…..

    silent/vibrate mode for church (so I don’t embarrass myself during mass or a bible study)
    Loud mode for work (I work as a construction project manager….and it gets loud at work)
    download programs,updates,and whatever else download intensive stuff could be set to home where i have wifi….

    I love the idea of this program

  5. People don’t realize that this existed a LONG time ago. I had a Nokia Symbian phone about 6 years ago and I had an app that did EXACTLY this – based on cell location data. These guys from MIT surely did NOT invent this concept.

  6. JAMIE: HI HATER! they may not of invented it but it seems like they are perfecting it. no one cares about your symbian phone from six years ago.

  7. I’m not a hater – it’s just everyone thinks this is a new idea. I am a fan of Android and commend this team for bringing an awesome concept to the platform. So there!

  8. Nice work, MIT guys. However, once they realize they can make a dshillion more money TODAY writing it for iPhone’s thousands of jailbroken phones, that’s where they’re going.

  9. They already got $275 000 from the Google developers challenge, that’s $55 000 per person and I don’t think they will be complaining about it. So I don’t think there is much reason for them to go after the unlocked iPhone’s as a market right now, besides, Android will be a much bigger market for them in the future than the iPhone.

  10. A very cool app indeed!

    I work in a pretty tight-lipped R&D environment, where camera phones aren’t allowed. It’d be cool if they rolled in the option to disable your phone’s camera, so that when security asks me if my phone has a camera, I can say “yes, but it’s automagically locked out when I come within a hundred feet of this place!”

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