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Foursquare's Future Depends on These Futuristic Ads

Foursquare is banking on ads that will pop up instantly when you're near stores. But it's not the only company planning to make money by tracking your every move.
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The future is here in the world of advertising. Well, almost.

In a new interview with Wired, Foursquare's senior brand partner Brian Williamson told Wired's Ryan Tate that some time soon, Foursquare users may get paid ads pushed to their phones based on their locations. "You could see where this could go for retailers," Williamson said. "The power of how they could use this--to say: 'Hey, are you near my store? Here's something you should check out'--hearkens back to Minority Report, where a mannequin is physically talking to Tom Cruise as he is walking by a store."

Because that whole tracking people's every action and location thing worked out so well for Tom Cruise in that movie, right?

Of course, Foursquare doesn't plan to go as far as talking mannequins. Still, co-founder Dennis Crowley told Tate that paid location-based advertising, at least, may be in the cards. "We have all these specials on Foursquare, and we can make people more aware of them," he said. "We're really good at recommending places to people, and you can imagine some of that is paid promotions at some point." Right now, Foursquare's app delivers users tips based on their locations and activity on Foursquare, but they're not paid ads, and for the near future, Crowley told Wired, it will likely stay that way as Foursquare improves upon its existing app.

As Foursquare continues to tweak its technology, however, other companies are hard at work bringing similar technology to market. Apple, for instance, is using its iBeacon technology, which allows nearby iOS devices to send push notifications to each other, to alert Apple store shoppers about products and other offers directly on their iPhones. And a slew of start-ups including Estimote Beacons, Roximity Beacons, and Sonic Notify (and others, I'm sure) are popping up, selling their low-cost hardware beacons to retailers. Brands can purchase these small devices, set them up around their stores, and instantly push discounts and other messaging to nearby shoppers.

What's different about Crowley's plan for Foursquare's location-tracking technology is that it's more ambitious--cut out the middleman and own the entire advertising channel. And with good reason. Foursquare needs a sustainable revenue model.

This technology, once relegated to the dark reaches of Steven Spielberg's imagination, sounds promising indeed. It's no wonder plenty of companies are more than ready to see it become a reality. Still, the question remains: are we?




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