Foursquare Uses ‘Anticipatory Computing’ to Suggest Where You Should Go Next

With a cache of GPS and check-in data from its 45 million users, Foursquare is able to help consumers discover new things around them.


With so much private-sector data collection happening, it’s no wonder data miners want new ways to act on their cache of information. Search engines have tailored content, we get custom coupons – it’s normal. Foursquare wants to step up the tailoring by suggesting where to go and what to do —  because of a neat little idea called “anticipatory computing.”

Foursquare has been collecting data for years, according to Editor-In-Chief, Owen Thomas. In his article from April 2013, he stated that Foursquare had been tracking “not just [users’] explicit check-ins , but their local searches, tips and likes.” And in the past year, Foursquare has been leveraging this data in an attempt to provide anticipatory suggestions.

Daniel Dubois, a professor at the University of Liège in Belgium, defined an “anticipatory system” in the late 90’s as one “that computes its current states [by] taking into account its past and present states but also its potential future states.” With GPS data, and browsing history, Foursquare is perfectly poised to predict these future states, and that’s what they’re going to do.

With check-in and other data from 45 million users, Foursquare has a lot of data at its disposal. Given a love of pizza, or boutique stores, the app could signal users when they enter a new area of their city, or even their usual area on a different day. Dennis Crowley, CEO of Foursquare, extolled the virtues of a more active Foursquare to this week:

We know which places are interesting in the morning versus the afternoon and the seasonality of them… The mechanism that we are using right now, your phone buzzes and you take it out of your pocket, and you’re like “Oh Foursquare has something cool to tell me about this place, this neighborhood, this moment.”

What Crowley says is the difference between Foursquare and any other data-collecting company, like Google, is that Foursquare knows your relationships to real-life places. And that’s what the new developments are all about; turning Foursquare into a digital friend, that has all the good tips for where to go in the real world.