In a previous post, I asked what technology you’re currently using to build community. (So, if you want to answer that question, please do so on that other post.) But it occurred to me: there are also some unrealized technologies I’m still waiting on that could be game-changers for us (or at least for me), if they ever come to fruition. In fact, there’s one in particular I wanted to tell you guys about.
Over seven years ago, Apple filed a patent for your iPhone to have the ability to scan for other nearby iPhones and make connections, based on user profiles. It’s called “ad-hoc networking” and it could have some huge advantages over internet-based social networking. Or, at least I should say: it could serve a very different purpose than many other current social networks.
For example, Facebook wants you to connect with people you know, regardless of location: from nearby friends, family, coworkers, and former classmates to those who live far away. Proximity isn’t a factor but real-world connection is. In fact, Facebook generally frowns upon you trying to connect with people you don’t know in real life.
Ad-hoc networking completely flips that model; instead of connecting with people you already know, regardless of how far away they are now, ad-hoc networking could allow you to connect with complete strangers whenever they come into close proximity. However, these connections would be far from random because all iPhones would carry users profiles and be constantly searching for other nearby profiles that reflect similar interests to your own.
Case in point: imagine you have an extremely niche hobby. For example, let’s say you’re a conlanger, someone who constructs made-up languages, like Klingon. (Hey, don’t knock it; Tolkien did it.) Now, try to imagine how unlikely it is you would ever run into fellow conlangers by accident through your day-to-day routine.
So, just think about how excited you would be to walk into a local bookstore and get a notification on your phone that says there’s someone nearby who shares your same hobby. (Furthermore, imagine you could send some messages back-and-forth before your decide whether or not to allow your phones to make a exchange the info for a real-world introduction.) Basically, this technology would make serendipity happen.
Hopefully, you can see where I’m going with this: as I’ve stated many times before, there are over 30 million unchurching believers (or “dones”) in the U.S. alone. Sure, I’d be naive if I thought all of them were looking to connect. But if only 10% wanted to connect, that’s still 3 million people wandering around out there, looking for one another, without any real-world rallying points.
Sure, we can always find others online. But this often lends itself to connections that function more like long-distance support groups than local communities. Yet, statistically speaking, 1 in every 10 people you pass on the street is a fellow “done”. So, could you imagine what could happen if we had the ability to create user profiles on our phones that helped connect us with other nearby dones? Hopefully, we’ll find out one day.