How Proximity Services Help People Navigate Their Lives Better [My Ideal City]

How Proximity Services Help People Navigate Their Lives Better [My Ideal City]

Location-driven mobile technology platforms make it easier for anyone to find and tap into services and information.

  • 19 may 2013

Mobile technology platforms are leveraging location as a key metric for helping citizens seamlessly access a host of services to help them better navigate their urban environments. Whether providing a real-time map of available parking spots or instantly connecting nearby people around location-specific conversations and meet-ups, these solutions make it easier for anyone to easily find and tap into services and information when they need them most.

Gary Hack, a celebrated urban planner with experience directing large-scale revitalization projects like NYC’s West Side highway, has most recently lent his expertise to a crowdsourced plan in Bogota, Colombia called MyIdealCity. He believes that the future of urban planning is in proximity services:

We can be deceived by our ability to communicate with everyone, everywhere. We still occupy only one place at a time. Cars need to be parked somewhere. We can only handle many items for sale in the shops where they are sold. Real power comes from mating our new forms of electronic access with our understanding of places.


An example of this is ZapKab, which is a smartphone app that invites people to hail cab with their mobile devices by tapping on their screens. Users’ GPS coordinates and ride requests are sent to cab drivers and nearby, available cabs can be viewed on a map in realtime. The service, paid for by participating taxi drivers via a small monthly service charge, helps cab drivers connect with their customers more efficiently, saving everyone involved time and hassle. A similar service in Colombia called Tappsi offers an on-demand, location based service to order a taxi by phone.


Ayesha Khanna is the Director of the Hybrid Reality Institute, a research and advisory group exploring the  human-technology co-evolution and its implications for society. Khanna believes  believes that the free flow of real-time information amongst citizens can help improve urban life:

The key to unlocking a city’s greatness lies not in technology but the principle of generativity. Generativity is the ability to use technologies to create an enabling infrastructure for connectivity and creativity.

Proximity services offerings vary: Saga is a service that notifies users about what they might like to do nearby based on past likes; Meporter is a mobile news service that lets residents find real-time news stories happening around them; and Sonar is a social network that connects users to people they know who are nearby.

Whether providing a real-time map of available parking spots or instantly connecting nearby people around location-specific conversations and meet-ups, these proximity services  make it easier for anyone to easily find and tap into services and information when they need them most.

Q. “What local services do you want to connect to on your phone?”

Submit your answer now at the MyIdealCity site – or tweet your suggestion using #MyIdealCity and #SensibleCity


Over the next 6 months, PSFK and a team of experts imagining the future of a city will be asking you what you envision as ‘My Ideal City’. Tweet us your ideas using the hashtag of the week and view all the submissions at the MyIdealCity site.


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