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The next revolution of the Internet is upon us, and not only is it continuing to shape the way we do things, it's changing the way our things do things. In 2008, the number of devices connected to the Internet surpassed the number of people on the planet, and just like people these "things" are talking to one another via the Internet and wirelessly now more than ever.



Proximity-based social networking applications, which use geo-proximity as the main filter for discovering people and places, are instrumental in this online evolution, as our immediate needs are often dictated or affected by how near or far we are from something.


As more technologies enable devices to discover one another over distances through Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and NFC (Near Field Communications), businesses and marketers are using social networking, mobility, and gaming to dive into the proximity pool. The emerging proximity-based mobile social networking market is expected to reach $1.9 billion in revenues by 2016, according to an analysis report by Gigaom Pro. This is paving the way for innovation in retail, finance, healthcare, construction and transportation.


Concurrently, the proximity trend is anticipated to lead network operators to develop new business models, as a significant amount of content will come through local wireless networks. For consumers, the ability to use these opt-in services to discover new people and places is key, and a more micro or local approach to catering to consumers is going to be crucial for any networks and businesses that want to remain relevant. With any disruption comes the opportunity to instigate change for the better. Where technology is concerned, any disruption that can be leveraged to propel businesses forward can typically be used to benefit humanity beyond consumerism.


How can proximity spark social change?

The possibilities that proximity services can provide for the sake of connection, protection, and social change are just beginning to unfold. Case in point: the presence and location technology company, 3M Monitoring, provides products and services for the criminal justice industry. Harnessing GPS, RF and cellular communication, 3M's Domestic Violence Proximity Notification System tracks aggressors, and sends early alerts to victims and law enforcers. This is done through security layers that are created around the victims, as proximity notification layers are built around the aggressors. So far, 3M has worked with local criminal justice agencies to develop successful domestic violence deterrence programs in Europe.


While 3M focuses on using proximity for protection, the mobile proximity-based social network POS REP facilitates reconnection and reintegration. Created exclusively for military veterans, the platform reconnects veteran who served together and connects them to resources in their area. POS REP Founder Anthony Allman says the inspiration for the network transpired after the suicide of Purple Heart recipient and veteran advocate Clay Hunt. "I have been able to identify no less than 5 vets that live just miles from me," shared, Allman. "Without POS REP, I would have been looking for bumper stickers to pin other vets. Those days are over."


Could proximity-based social networking for social good become a trend?

Allman says that with respect to trends, POS REP is in discussion to license its technology to various interest groups that perceive value from our proximity-based product. "We are heads down trying to prove the model in our veteran community, but we hope to ultimately serve as a partner platform for any organization looking to accomplish the same goal," Allman said.

As devices or "things" start to communicate with one another and develop their own intelligence more, what they'll be able to accomplish through proximity and beyond is going to change daily human behavior, as well as our notions about benefitting humanity through technology.


By Melissa Jun Rowley


The contents or opinions in this feature are independent and do not necessarily represent the views of Cisco. They are offered in an effort to encourage continuing conversations on a broad range of innovative technology subjects. We welcome your comments and engagement.


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