News & Analysis

Adelaide startup Oi demonstrates that nanosocial applications have a future in B2B

- July 30, 2014 2 MIN READ

The media has been rife with headlines about US-based app Yo over the past month. It’s been called everything from the world’s stupidest app to a venture that could potentially see itself valued at a billion dollars.

With millions of downloads and plenty of praise for the role the technology has played in the Middle East for civilians warning of rocket launches, it has sparked conversation and theory about a new type of social media – nanosocial.

In its simplest form, nanosocial is all about sharing contextual and spacial information like an activity, location, time of day, current event, the proximity of something, etc. Nanosocial applications, which are about to become the next wave of social media, do not rely on content, pictures, graphs or text – but rather a moment between two participants. It is not about what is being said, but instead when it’s being said and who it’s being said to.

The other interesting point to make is that this type of social platform does not subscribe to a need for followers, friends, status updates and other traditional social media norms we have become accustomed to; and that is because each interaction is a temporary one.

Whilst Yo seems to be focused on figuring out how to use their technology to revolutionise push advertising – the reason the app has been so attractive to investors – Adelaide based startup Oi which launched on Friday has decided to take a different approach with their nanosocial venture.

The functionality of Oi in its most basic form is exactly what you would expect – users can send an “Oi” as well as emoji’s to one another.

The app sends an "oi" to your friends. But the API allows you to do much more.

The app sends an “oi” to your friends. But the API allows you to do much more.

I have to admit, at first I rolled my eyes when I found out about it, but my interest was piqued when I discovered it was founded by Steve Barrett and Chhai Thach – significant figures in the South Australian tech scene, who own a development company and a range of tech applications. Thach also runs the popular South Start event which takes place in Adelaide in February.

This is not a case of novice entrepreneurs thinking they can emulate the virality that Yo has experienced. Barrett and Thach have a very specific long-term strategy about how the Oi API which they open publicly next week, will be used for developers to create various nanosocial driven applications for business.

An example of this already exists with an application they created called receptionforipad.com – the system which replaces sign-in books and the need for a full time receptionist. It enables visitors coming to an office for a meeting to sign in and then using the Oi API sends either the person who takes care of the desk or even the person with which the visitor is there to see an “Oi” to let them know they should get out the front to greet their guest.

“By opening the API we are excited to see the creations that developers come up with, there are so many disruptive ways in which this technology can be used,” says Barrett. “For example we have looked at how the technology could be used in Foodcourts, Pubs and Cafes to replace the physical buzzer / pager systems, and instead send people an “Oi” to their phones when their meal is ready to collect”.

When you hear the idea explained in that context, it certainly makes you think about the space in a whole new way. Nanosocial could become a new industry sector in the same way social media did.