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Wednesday, 22 August 2012 11:30

Interview: Jonathan Barouch CEO Roamz - cool tech is rudimentary

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Talking with Roamz CEO Jonathan Barouch on the eve of a refresh of the socially roaming app we still have a long way to go to exploit the power of today’s smartphones


In a space seemingly occupied and covered by the big social app players such as Facebook and Twitter, the Roamz app is finding a niche.  With 140,000 downloads it is certainly a significant player in the field.  

The CEO of Roamz, Jonathan Barouch seems to fit the profile for the demographic target, a constant traveller or urbanite looking for new experiences.  The advertising for Roamz reinforces the stereotypical user looking to use his or her smartphone to direct them to what is happin’ nearby.

“I think we are really at the tip of the ice berg,” says Barouch “I don’t think you have seen anything yet.  I think, when you are talking sensors, location awareness, connecting to friends and family and some of the augmented reality applications, we have seen nothing.  The technology that people are playing with and think is really cool, is pretty rudimentary, I mean it’s stuff you could have achieved with a computer often, I think where it gets really exciting is that you have got, particularly with the iPhone,  processing power, background location, you’re going to have social baked in with Twitter and Facebook, light sensors, noise sensors, camera, you can connect through the internet to potentially monitoring devices on clothes or shoes, there is so much still to do”


Right now Roamz seems to be playing in a field crowded by apps vying for our attention, attempting to mesh the experience conversational worlds of friends (Facebook) and followers (Twitter). “Yeah I think it is crowded, but for good reason,” says Barouch “I think it is disrupting the internet”

“there is a lot of collective experiences in the local area, people are tweeting, taking Instagram photos, adding to Google Plus, maybe in Bourke street there is a band playing, and the typical person won’t find out about that, That data exists, but the more and more social networks there are, the more difficult it becomes to find that data, and we are trying to solve that problem.”

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For example, Barouch cites a personal experience: “Last week I was in San Francisco, nothing to do on the Sunday, so I went out to Union Square, fired up Roamz, there was a band playing, a farmers market around the corner, there was a bunch of things down at the retailers and shops nearby , and I used that to guide me to the stuff, and that is the perfect use case because there is so much data, it is a very fun, buzzy city”

Tomorrow (Thursday 23rd of August) Roamz launches a revamped version of the app, attempting to synthesise the experience and personalising the information even further than the current offering.

The trick will be in bringing information to users that is interesting to them, doesn’t bother them, and doesn’t result in information overload.  That will be tricky, as different groups, perhaps generations, have differing levels of what constitutes information overload.

“Younger generation puts up with a lot more noise” suggests Barouch.

The new version features a Real Time search layer  “So you could type in ‘brunch’ and it will look for all the social media conversations in the local area around brunch, metatagged back to a physical location so you can act upon it,” says Barouch enthusiastically “where that is really cool is that it is not like a Google or Yelp search for reviews etcetera, this is live real-time what people are saying”

“The Star feature drops a geo-fence over the location of interest, so next time I am in the area, I will get pinged with a reminder to say, you wanted to check this out but couldn’t last time, now is your chance.”

The Roamz programmers have put a lot of thought into presentation of a customisable initial screen, giving a more overview of the current info enabling a drill down to more detail as required.  Ultimately the plan is to integrate the Roamz experience further into the users life, using calendars and other information to understand when there may be a gap that could be filled by some interesting experience nearby.

In typical roaming fashion, Jonathan Barouch concludes his demonstration of the app by lamenting the poor 3G signal, and travelling out into the cold Melbourne day in search of a 4G USB Dongle to improve the glean even more data from surrounding Roamz’ers.


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Mike Bantick

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Having failed to grow up Bantick continues to pursue his childish passions for creative writing, interactive entertainment and showing-off through adulthood. In 1994 Bantick began doing radio at Melbourne’s 102.7 3RRRFM, in 1997 transferring to become a core member of the technology show Byte Into It. In 2003 he wrote briefly for the The Age newspaper’s Green Guide, providing video game reviews. In 2004 Bantick wrote the news section of PC GameZone magazine. Since 2006 Bantick has provided gaming and tech lifestyle stories for iTWire.com, including interviews and opinion in the RadioactivIT section.

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