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Google Field Trip and The Future of Real Estate

By Colin Ryan

Industry News

Google's new discovery app is a glimpse at the future of real estate technologyRecently, the folks at Google released Field Trip, an Android app that employs location data to offer users facts about the places around them. As its name suggests, Field Trip is largely geared toward tourists, with a wealth of historical, architectural, and cultural trivia as well as reviews of restaurants and attractions.

What sets Field Trip apart from other geosocial and discovery apps is that it runs continuously, providing users with its treasure trove of tidbits unprompted. Basically, it’s Google without the search bar—and it has major implications for the future of consumer tech, both at large and in the real estate industry in particular.

Your Very Own Tourism Guide

Field Trip and other apps like it signal a sea change in the way we think about online search. Until now, search providers and applications have focused on returning the most relevant results possible based on queries provided by users. Even voice assistants like Apple’s Siri and augmented reality apps like Yelp’s Monocle operate on this principle.

By contrast, Field Trip is designed not just to respond to users’ questions, but also to anticipate them. Users can customize the kinds of details and landmarks Field Trip selects, picking and choosing sources from Zagat to The Historical Marker Database.

Real Estate Search, Reimagined

If the appeal of a predictive search app for the real estate industry isn’t obvious, consider what John Hanke, the Google VP at the helm of Field Trip, had to say about it:

“The idea behind the app was to build something that would help people connect with the real, physical world around them.”

This, of course, is exactly what real estate professionals are doing every day: connecting people with the physical world. The question is how they’ll make that connection. Until now, the answer has been the real estate website. But given the growing importance of smartphones and tablets, traditional apps and mobile websites are starting to look like an archaic solution to a modern problem.

“From the comfort of your own home” has been replaced by “from wherever you are.” But that’s only the first phase of the mobile revolution. Increasingly, people are looking not just for new ways to experience the web on the go, but also for new ways to experience the real world on the go.

A predictive app for real estate does this by taking the “for sale” sign from the front lawn and putting it in your hand, along with a wealth of information. Imagine plugging in your parameters for your next home, then taking a drive through your target neighborhood and getting detailed specs and contact information for an available property as you roll by.

Predictive or Annoying?

Of course, the key to unlocking the potential of such an app will be making sure it doesn’t become invasive. However advertisers might feel about it, nobody wants to be bombarded by ads everywhere and all the time, like Tom Cruise in Minority Report.

While Field Trip allows users to choose how often they’re pinged, and what about, the app is occasionally more irritating than helpful. Still, Google is no doubt working on ways to improve the user experience—and you can bet that Realtor.com, Zillow, Trulia, and every other major real estate tech company are watching closely.

What do you think? Are predictive apps like Google Field Trip the future? Or will people stick with more traditional real estate apps? Tell us in the comments!

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