A company named Bump took to the stage at the DEMO conference in Silicon Valley this week, offering a peek at technology that ties you to your license plate number and gives "mobile" communication a whole new meaning.
At first glance, the concept is scary, creepy and slightly disturbing - the ability for drivers to communicate with each other by text or email simply by sending a message to a license plate number. Sure, Bump.com has included some safety features, such as allowing users to reject or block certain messages and keeping names anonymous. And, of course, the service is opt-in only. The user has to enter - and verify - the plate number.
There's a good profile of the company and its background by Dean Takahashi over at Venture Beat, who also explores some of the marketing usages - such as fast-food restaurants capturing information about favorite menu items as you roll through the drive-thru.
As a native Californian who learned how to drive on the Bay Area freeways, I immediately imagined new scenarios where road ragers send each other nasty messages. But then, as I started to hear more about it, I envisioned a number of other legitimate uses for the technology. So, I put together a short list of good things and bad things about this sort of technology - and I'll let you decide which is which.
If you have more for the list, please add them in the talkbacks
- You could let a driver know that he left his cup of coffee on the roof of the car. Or that his turn signal on. Or that he has a low tire.
- You could send a note to the cute girl in the next lane to see if she's single and free for dinner.
- You could tell that idiot who's zig-zagging in and out of traffic to cool his heels already - or something to that effect.
- Rental car companies could register their cars to monitor the driving habits of their customers, assuming others rat them out for bad driving.
- Government agencies, utility companies and commercial businesses, such as electricians or repair services, can monitor complaints about poor drivers (an online version of those "How's My Driving?" bumper stickers).
- Fast food companies could track customers menu favorites and target them with marketing messages.
- A good samaritan might warn you that the time on your meter has expired and that a parking enforcement officer is in the area - or a tow truck.
- Someone could tell you if they witnessed another person hit your car in a parking lot - and then flee the scene. Or, maybe the honest person who hit your car could send you a note, instead of leaving one on your windshield.
- Parents could gain some insight on how a teen driver is behaving on the road - again, assuming others rat him out.