Got questions? Someone at the right place, time can help

MoboQ links social networks with location data, allowing you to ask time-sensitive questions about specific locations, and get them answered by complete strangers on the spot.

Some days you just don’t have enough time. You want to know how long the wait is at a restaurant, if the opening band has finished playing, or if parking's available off Broadway above 96th. Wouldn’t it be great if someone who’s already there could just tell you?

An application called MoboQ does exactly this. It links social networks with location data to let users ask time-sensitive questions about specific locations -- and get them answered by complete strangers on the spot. New Scientist reports.

A product of Shanghai incubator Diggerlab, the app’s only available right now with Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter-equivalent.

You ask a question about specific places in the physical world. Then MoboQ finds up to 15 Weibo users best positioned to answer based on their recent activity on Weibo and Jiepang, China's Foursquare-equivalent.

Since its launch last year, MoboQ has about 100,000 users (although, any of the 400 million Weibo users can answer your question).

MoboQ cofounder Yefing Lui foresees a range of uses: from tourists looking for real-time information about attractions to family members asking about the welfare of others during a disaster.

Twitter can almost do this, but only if respondents happen to be monitoring for the right keywords. In any case, Western firms are racing to come up with similar 'crowd-sensing' products:

  • IBM's Almaden lab polled people on Twitter whose Foursquare accounts identified at airports. They sent tweets asking how long it took to clear airport security.
  • Nearby is a mobile location-based service, and Graph Search lets you filter information using keywords. Combining the two Facebook services could allow you to search your network to find friends in certain places and ask them questions.

MoboQ will be presented at the International World Wide Web Conference in Rio de Janeiro in May.

[From New Scientist]

Image: dbrekke via Flickr

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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