Grokr, the Sunnyvale-based mobile startup, is poised to unveil a brand new iOS app which has the potential to revolutionize the way search gets done on mobile devices.
Similar to “Google Now” (the Android app developed by Google to offer proactive results based on previous search behavior), Grokr has some additional tricks in its bag which should intrigue mobile advertising agencies far and wide. With search technology like this coming on stream, new mobile advertising strategies may also emerge.
Google Now plus extras for iOS
While Grokr can do pretty well everything that Google Now can, like providing updates on everything from the weather to your favorite sports team to the traffic, it also sucks in data from your social media profiles on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook (Google Now confines its results to its own services). The start-up’s CEO and co-founder, Srivats Sampath, explained that he wanted to reinvent search on mobile, moving away from the traditional approach of simply miniaturizing search methods designed for PCs.
Instead, Grokr has shifted from a keyword-based model to one based on the meanings behind the words, and from a manual process to a predictive one: it can distinguish between Taj Mahal the singer, the hotel and the monument, for example, based on user search behavior. It draws not only from Freebase, the community-contributed datastore used by Google, but between 50 and 75 other data sources like Rovi, Factual and Yelp. The results? As Sampath puts it:
“Right now, we have 700 million facts in the database, and we have 25 million entities. Then we built machine-learning algorithms around that. That allowed us to rank those entities.”
A new predictive search engine?
Although its Google Now-type proactive alerts will entice many, Grokr can also be used as an alternative search engine. The search box in the app generates web-sourced results based on Grokr’s understanding of its users’ interests.
“We’ve essentially built Google Now for iOS, but what we’ve also done is added more signals than what Google Now has. Google Now primarily uses location and time of day. We use location, time of day, your interests, your intent – just a whole bunch of signals to bring forth all this information to you.”
And there’s no tracking of individuals involved – all data is personalized and anonymized.