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Have you ever wondered what possible real-life use you could have for geo-based social applications like Foursquare? I mean, besides when you’re not just going out and telling your mates that you’re having more fun than them. It seems the folks at Sonar did think of a great way to use Foursquare and the like – and it’s really worth taking a look at.

What Sonar has done is that it has mixed up the location-gathering element of Foursquare and Facebook with the social graph you have in Foursquare, LinkedIn and Twitter. Basically, they’re finding people who are nearby and working out how you might know each other and what you have in common. This means, you’re connecting with friends of friends, not just people you already know or complete strangers. That’s quite powerful!

Finding People To Meet

The social graph of your combined services leads to an interesting mix. Obviously, your real-life friends and business contacts are often reflected by Facebook and LinkedIn, along with associates and contacts you have also connected with.

However, for Twitter especially this social graph is often reflective of celebrities and other organizations which you respect and pay attention to. So, Sonar would be connecting the dots by suggesting that you are both followers of a particular user, for instance @StephenFry. This at least would show an element of like-mindedness and a starting point for a chat. An extension of this Sonar may one day implement would be to include Facebook likes to determine some sort of compatibility.

Breaking The Ice

When Sonar finds people nearby they are plotted on a map as well as noted as being in a particular venue. Sonar will then calculate the connections between you and the people nearby and let you know the people nearest you should chat to, ranked by how many people you have in common.

“It’s simple — you open up Sonar and we tell you that the guy sitting across from you is Facebook friends with your college roommate, the dude by the jukebox is a VC that you follow on Twitter, and the cute girl by the bar also likes the Arcade Fire and Hemingway.”Sonar Founder, Brett Martin

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In order to break the ice before you meet in person, you can tweet directly from the Sonar application to say hi and mention that you’re nearby. Sonar has already told you who you have in common, so it’s as easy as saying “Hey, how do you know Jim? Apparently we’re both at SXSW. I wouldn’t mind saying hi!”

More Than Just People Who Have Checked In

Now, the real beauty of Sonar comes from the possibility of intelligent data gathering on location information. Sonar has mentioned they might use event data, such as responses to Facebook, Eventbrite and Last.fm events to determine where people are. This means people don’t even necessarily need to be checked in for Sonar to be fairly sure they are at a given venue.

The main use of the Sonar application will be clear at any major events and conferences. When there are a lot of people in the same general area who are keen to network, you are quite likely to find new people you’d like to meet via this application. Since people are more open to networking at these events, it’s also likely to get results. And it could be so much fun!

Get The Sonar Application

The Sonar iPhone application is available to anyone in the iTunes store, while the Android application is currently in Beta. You can get your beta access by using this link and the password “sonarMUO”.

What uses do you foresee for Sonar?

  1. @refinch
    March 23, 2012 at 4:55 am

    Sonar, and its close counterpart, Highlight, both cause severe battery drain because they are constantly pinging user location. Earlier this month at SXSW, Highlight was supposed to be the "it" app, but it was a bust: an app that eats battery in a venue that is crammed with people keeping cell towers overloaded is a disaster. I learned the problem a bit late. Without my Mophie battery case, I'd have been totally disconnected. I was a bit annoyed when I found out that Highlight had been making me sweat out wondering if I'd make it through the day.

    Until Sonar and Highlight come up with a more reasonable way for users to manage the frequency of pings and provide more granular control of how the apps use services in the background, these good ideas should be avoided.

    • Angela Alcorn
      March 23, 2012 at 3:05 pm

      Very good point. I hope both the Sonar developers and Highlight developers are paying attention to this complaint and address the ping times in future app releases.

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