Google Labs’ Open Spot: A Useful Application That No One Uses

May 28, 2011
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Upon opening Open Spot, you are shown a map of your surrounding area. Based on your location, the user will be able to see open parking spots within about a mile radius. As you move, so does the radius. There’s one big problem, though. Open Spot’s data doesn’t come from some spy satellite that Google has watching the Earth’s every move. Instead, Google uses user submitted data to push out available parking spots to the app.

I’ve always been a fan of passive use-cases. To further elaborate, I believe that in order for an application like this to work, there should be as little user interaction as possible. Any time you have to rely on users to provide data to the database manually, your aggregation of information will be limited (with the exception of an app such as FourSquare). Google’s Open Spot is at a polar opposite to what I just explained.

google-open-spot

google-open-spot

In order for Open Spot to be useful to people, other users must submit data when they leave their parking spot. Without this user interaction, no parking spots will show up on your map. This brings me to the following two points about Open Spot: 1. Not enough people use the application and 2. Of the people that have the application, not enough of them inform the system when they pull out of their spot.

For example, I have never, NEVER, seen a spot appear on my map, whether I am in New York City, Queens, Brooklyn, or somewhere on Long Island. Surely, there must be some users out there?

 

But I have some good news. With Google’s recent dive into the world of Near Field Communication technology (i.e. Google Wallet), maybe this application can finally work. Can you see a world where Google places NFC chips in both cars and on every street? Users would never have to take the phone out of their pocket to tell the system that the space is now open. All users would have to do is look at their phone when they are trying to find a new, available spot. How useful would this be? I think it could change the way city drivers operate their vehicle. No longer would people be arguing and fighting over a spot on one corner when they know that another spot is just 50 feet down the street. How great would this be!?

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