|by Sean O'Neill||Apps, Helpful Websites, Innovations||3|
Up until now, using a smartphone to "check in" at a location—meaning, publish on the Internet that you've been to a particular restaurant, hotel, or other attraction—has been too weird for most Americans.
(Sample update: "Anton just became 'the Mayor' of B&O; coffee shop in Cebo City, the Philippines!")
But watch out. Facebook, the site that Americans now spend more time on than Google itself, is popularizing the idea.
Last month, Facebook introduced Deals, an app you can download to your smartphone and use to check in to a coffee shop or other location. The store's owners can then create a discount for users who check in. For instance, the Gap has used the service to give away free jeans to the first 10,000 people who used the tool at their store.
This online record of where you've been is valuable information for travel companies, like the startup TripTrace, which would like to use your "check ins" and other bits of travel history to recommend new places for you to try—and to offer you discounts on products and services.
Give the site access to the location-based service you use most—Facebook, FourSquare, Gowalla—and TripTrace will use the information to predict similar coffee shops, hotels, and other attractions that you might like to visit.
The site does more than just that, though. It also aims to be the place where you store your trip planning information forever. Many travelers, after they are done with a trip, toss out the train schedules, forget the names of hotels, and lose their airline itineraries. TripTrace would save all of that information for you—for your eyes only, it says—and then use that information to help predict what you might like to do on a future trip as well as introduce you to easier ways to plan your future trips.
TripTrace's most useful tool, I think, is a calculator that makes an educated guess about how expensive it is going to be to do something on your trip. Say you type in "bungee-jumping in New Zealand, for two people." The site would tot up an estimate of how expensive that will be. This allows you to budget for your trip more accurately.
If you give it a spin for one of your upcoming trips, let us know what you think about it.
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