LoKast raises the proximity bar

08 Apr 2011

In future, we will all share multimedia via proximity-based apps that enable smartphones to be aware of each other within Bluetooth or Wi-Fi range. In theory. The trick is making it easy and fast for smartphones to connect and exchange the proximity data necessary for such apps to work.

A company called NearVerse has reportedly raised the bar in that regard with an app called LoKast.

LoKast – which works over 3G, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth – bills itself as a “disposable social network” that lets users share music, videos, photos, web links and contacts with any smartphone within 1,000 feet.

It’s been around for about a year, but Technology Reviewrecently tried it out and concluded that LoKast actually works better than other proximity-based apps to date.

For one thing, it uses proprietary peer-to-peer links similar to Skype. Also – unlike other proximity-based apps that transmit direct to smartphones via Bluetooth – LoKast uses an intermediary server in the cloud, according to TR:

As in any phone conversation or a Skype call (or, as with LoKast, the video and photos), the media is recorded very quickly in near real time and then transmitted back to the caller […] Using a server is more costly, but it provides a smoother transmission, because the network is faster and more reliable, and it transmits over greater distances. For LoKast, there is another advantage: the company can track actual usage and show that data to advertisers. The server can also keep the app developer informed on exactly how good the streaming quality is.

One major downside to LoKast, TR notes, is a complete lack of privacy settings, which means anyone with a LoKast app can tap into your media stream. NearVerse CEO Boris Bogatin tells TR that doesn’t matter because LoKast is designed for “disposable proximity media sharing” – which essentially means that privacy is defined by your proximity to other LoKast users. (Or, put another way, if you don’t want people accessing your media files, don’t turn LoKast on.)

The other thing, though, is that given how nervous content companies get about streaming media and sharing it, it’s hard to imagine they’d be all that crazy about proximity-based apps like this. NearVerse seems to know this – LoKast users who access someone’s iTunes music library on an iPhone are redirected to the iTunes site to download those songs, which isn’t exactly the kind of media sharing users typically have in mind. That could limit its appeal.

If nothing else, however, NearVerse says LoKast has been downloaded over 200,000 times, and announced a partnership with Qualcomm in February to use its AllJoyn device-to-device tech to improve the app's performance.

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