Beyond the check-in, a big location-based development

The check-in has collected most of our attention when it comes to location-based services.

I understand that. And Joel has pointed out some of the interesting possibilities. There’s a larger story too.

But frankly, I’ve found very little about the check-in phenomenon specifically that’s compelling from a real estate perspective. To date, it’s produced many more “TMI” moments than viable real estate use cases.

FourSquare, Brightkite, Gowalla and the like do suggest all kinds of things for big brands, merchants and others. However that doesn’t mean that these services, in their current incarnation, will have any meaningful impact in our industry.

Even the rapidly maturing mobile/local ad space being advanced by companies like Placecast seems to glance off the edges of real estate’s sweet spot. I may be compelled to act on a Starbucks ad that’s aware of my proximity to one of their locations, but a brand ad for a real estate brokerage or a “featured home for sale” ad” not so much.

So I’ve been watching other facets of the location-based service boom. And this week brought a big announcement.

Factual, a tech company founded by the guy who created the technology that became AdSense, made a massive dataset of geo-coded information – 14 million U.S. businesses and points of interest – available to developers. For free.

Even better, this new API is read/write, meaning you can pull the data into your application, but also send your own data back to the database. In this way, the data, to use Factual’s term, becomes “living” – more accurate, more useful.

Why this matters


We look for properties – but we do this as part of a larger quest for a place to live a life. That means that a great digital real estate experience must deliver the principal piece of location-based data – the property – but also provide a view of the things that surround it.

Many do this now. But they do it with expensive, lifeless datasets that are updated infrequently and integrate poorly.

Factual changed that, and in so doing has unleashed more innovative potential into online real estate than the pinging of a billion check-ins.

That’s something to get excited about.