By Matt McFarland
The Washington Post
WASHINGTON, D.C. —
Imagine getting off a plane in a foreign city. You pull out your phone to make a call. What stares back at you? Aaron Adams, Aaron Austin and Aaron Brown. Maybe you search your address book or scroll through to find a friend you think might be in town.
The guys at Humin imagine a completely different experience with their app. Humin is essentially a re-imagined address book for your smartphone that aims to enrich human connections by presenting relevant information at the perfect time. Open Humin in Houston and you’ll see different information than if you were in Chicago.
“Did you know John was visiting San Francisco? You might want to call him up. These sorts of things are super useful as we change physical and temporal context,” said Humin chief scientist Sinan Aral said.
Humin wants users to receive helpful information from the app that they can take back to the physical world to make stronger connections.
“How do we help build meaningful relationships? There’s that awkward small talk when you first meet someone. What if the moment you got their number it’s already captured where and when you met and it’s helped us find common connections and will help tell me when this person is relevant moving forward,” said Humin chief executive Ankur Jain, who is unveiling the app this week in Munich at the Digital-Life-Design conference. Tuesday some partners will get early access to the app and a full launch is planned for late March.
Humin is part of a growing trend of apps and services attempting to use context and anticipation to better serve users. For example, Google Now will give you the best route home for your daily commute just as you’re leaving your office. Amazon.com has a patent for “anticipatory shipping,” in which the delivery process is initiated before actual sales. (Jeff Bezos, the founder and chief executive of Amazon.com, owns The Washington Post.)
Humin has filed for artificial intelligence and machine learning patents that contribute to how it ranks human relationships.
“If my executive assistant makes a day plan where I have ton of different meetings, I have a quick and automated, proactive set of information on all the people I will physical see in my meetings,” Aral said. Photos are attached to names you may not remember. Educational background, and how you first met and more can be available as well.
To do this the app sucks in a user’s contacts and calendar as well as connections on LinkedIn and Facebook.
When adding a contact Humin will automatically note where the connection was made. So the business partner you met at a conference in Omaha can always be discovered by searching for “Who did I meet in Omaha?”
Humin examines how people meet, where they meet, mutual contacts, where they work, who they work with, where they studied, who they studied with and where they live.
While you might forget the name of a helpful contact you made, you will probably remember how you met them or who they work with. Humin offers new ways to search your contacts, which are aimed to reflect the way the human mind thinks. For example, Who do I know that works at Google? Who do I know that lives in San Francisco? Who am I going to meet today? Who did I meet last week?
To make itself less of a target for hacking, Humin isn’t storing users email, Facebook and LinkedIn log-ins and passwords on its servers. That information remains on a user’s phone. The decision was made in light of how common hacking and security breaches have become.
“There’s no such thing as a fool-proof system. The only fool-proof system — to make sure no one robs it — is to have no gold,” said Percy Rajani, Humin’s chief technology officer.