Mobile

Sonar tells you why the people around you matter

I saw plenty of startups today at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in New York City, but Sonar, a newly launched iPhone app, stood out from the crowd because it offered up a simple new way to take advantage of the social data we’re increasingly surrounded by.

True to its name, New York City-based Sonar lets you ping specific locations to show you who is there, and most importantly, it also tells you why certain people will be more relevant to you than others. The app relies on location data from check-in heavyweight Foursquare, but it also taps into your Facebook and Twitter accounts to get a decent sense of your tastes and friends.

As TechCrunch reports, founder Brett Martin describes the app like this:  “It’s simple — you open up Sonar and we tell you that the guy sitting across from you is Facebook friends with your college roommate, the dude by the jukebox is a VC that you follow on Twitter, and the cute girl by the bar also likes the Arcade Fire and Hemingway.”

The app also makes it easy to introduce yourself to strangers who are somehow connected to you. Martin showed off how the app can easily generate a Twitter message to someone mentioning a particular friend you have in common.

It’s amazing that it’s taken this long for an app like Sonar to appear, and I suspect we’ll be seeing plenty more new startups on the horizon trying to demystify the torrent of social data around us. I find Sonar fascinating on a conceptual level, though it’s sure to rile detractors who think it’s yet another app that’s killing face-to-face communication. I would argue that it supplements real world communication, and it could be particularly useful for shy people who find it difficult to strike up conversations with strangers.

As for monetizing Sonar, Martin said the aggregated data the company collects could be particularly useful to brands and businesses. He also mentioned that the company was considering letting people pay to push up their ranking on Sonar, a system similar to something that dating sites are doing already.

Sonar was founded last year and so far has raised $200,000 in funding.

We’ll be exploring the most disruptive mobile trends at our fourth annual MobileBeat 2011 conference, on July 12-13 at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco. It will focus on the rise of 4G and how it delivers the promise of true mobile computing. We’re also accepting entries for our mobile startup competition at the show. MobileBeat is co-located with our GamesBeat 2011 conference this year. To register, click on this link. Sponsors can message us at sponsors@venturebeat.com.


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