Posted by: lrrp | April 26, 2007

The Singles Scene: Bleep! She’s Your Type!

Add matchmaking to the list of things mobiles are good for

June 7-14 issue – Christoph Oswald has no problem approaching women. As he makes his way through the crowd at his favorite Frankfurt club, his cell phone scans a 10-meter radius for “his type”: tall, slim, sporty, in her 30s—and, most important, looking for him, a handsome 36-year-old software consultant who loves ski holidays. Before he reaches the bar, his phone starts vibrating and an attractive blonde appears on its screen. “Hi, I’m Susan,” she says. “Come find me!” Christoph picks her out of the crowd, and soon they’re laughing over a drink.

Both Christoph and Susan have phones equipped with Symbian Dater, a program that promises to turn the cell phone into a matchmaker. By downloading Symbian, they installed a 20-character encrypted code that includes details of who they are and what they’re looking for in a mate. Whenever they go out, their matchmaking phones sniff out other Symbian Daters over the unlicensed, and therefore free, Bluetooth radio frequency. If profiles match up, the phones beep wildly and send out short video messages.

Since the service started in September, more than 155,000 people, mostly in Western Europe and Southeast Asia, have paid 5 Euro each to install it on their phones. If the growth of wired online dating is any indication, the potential market is enormous. In 2003, revenue from online personals was $450 million, up 50 percent from the year before, say market researchers ComScore.

New, more powerful wireless programs are on the way. Scientists at MIT’s Media Lab are developing another Bluetooth matchmaker, called Serendipity, which logs on to the Net to check members’ online profiles. This allows users to go into greater detail about their heart’s desire and find out more about likely mates.

In the United States, the biggest online dating service, with 12 million members in 246 countries, plans to exploit the E911 location-based service that the U.S. government has required for emergency tracking purposes. That would allow cell phones to notify their owners when potential soul mates come within 700 meters and where, exactly, the other person is. VP Jeff Rudluff thinks the obvious privacy concerns won’t derail the service. The urge to find love, after all, is nothing if not powerful.

Emily Flynn

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