What Does the Pokemon Go Phenomenon Tell Us About Proximity?

Pokemon Go – suddenly everywhere, all the time

Ok, first a quick update for anyone who’s been on another planet for the last week.
Pokemon Go is an application for mobile devices that has taken the profile of the already-popular universe of quirky characters into the stratosphere. The app uses GPS positioning and the cameras of smartphones and tablets to lead players on a real-world search for virtual Pokemon. When they “appear”, players can engage them and receive in-game currency for “capturing” Pokemon. The app is free but it supports purchases for special premium items, this time for real currency. The Pokemon Go app was downloaded 15 million times in less than a week and the debut for its release in Europe had to be delayed because the servers couldn’t handle the traffic. It even has its own hardware support in the form of an optional wearable bluetooth device. Don’t bother trying to get one, though – it sold out immediately.

Pokemon Go is a very big deal.

The app needed barely seventy-two hours to become a global phenomenon and to explode out of the gaming world and into the mainstream. It quickly took over online buzz even in markets where it wasn’t available. The frenzy around Pokemon Go is nothing short of astonishing and the mad rush to “find” the Pokemon has produced some truly bizarre headlines.
But let’s leave it to others to analyze the social and cultural aspects of Pokemon Go and focus on the insights it has created for business generally and proximity technology in particular.
The main takeaway that jumps out at first glance is how everything about Pokemon Go is driven by proximity technology. The Pokemon are waiting in certain locations on the real-world map and players have to use a location-tracking device to find them. As players move about in pursuit of blue turtles or purple snakes, they are providing and receiving geolocation data to get closer to where they need to be. No proximity, no Pokemon.
It’s very interesting to note how easily the endless legions of Pokemon hunters around the world have accepted and quickly mastered the tech infrastructure interface that makes it all possible.

The massive, almost surreal, success of Pokemon Go shows that we are comfortable with the idea of using tracking technologies that we all have in our pockets for fun. Anyone with a mobile device is most likely aware that it can be used to locate things and be located.

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Many of the same people who are chasing rare Pokemon in remote areas or crowded city centers have used apps like Google Maps before but this is certainly the first time that so many people have immersed themselves in a proximity-based activity for so long and so intensely. The lesson here is that the potential and ease of use of proximity tech has been communicated to millions of people in the last week through a game. The worldwide craze that is dominating so many online and offline conversations this week will certainly be seen as breakthrough event in the timeline of the adoption of proximity technology.
Thanks, Pokemon!

Why you should care

The fact that millions of people around the world have suddenly developed a gaming obsession based on the idea of proximity and the technology that makes it all possible has massive and obvious implications for a wide range of businesses. Not only is the technology ready and easy to deploy, but Pokemon Go’s success has made it clear that we’re just beginning to uncover its many applications. It’s doubtful that before last week that anyone would have guessed that hunting for strangely cute animated creatures would be the basis for the app that got more businesses focused on proximity but these kinds of advances often have strange origins.

But the point is that any organization that hasn’t started taking a careful look at what proximity can do needs to start paying attention.

Right now.
The technology is ready. Today’s tech-savvy public is ready. The expertise for designing and deploying applications is ready. Pokemon Go’s amazing and unexpected ability to use proximity to drive people traffic, engage users and stimulate interest is the ultimate illustration of how seamlessly the online and offline worlds can be integrated and how users can quickly become accustomed to crossing back and forth.  
Proximity is now an established part of the social landscape. This puts it just a short step away from general acceptance in the workplace and professional environments. Interaction with apps like Pokemon Go is introducing huge numbers of people to the capabilities of what is now a familiar technology. As the comfort level and experience with proximity tech grows, so will the expectation to encounter more practical and beneficial applications based on it.
Your customers, your employees and your business partners are aware of proximity technology and recognize it as part of our world today. If you’re ready to learn more about how it fits into your workplace and supports your business, get in touch with Proximity Studio and let’s talk.