Pokémon Go has millions of people using their GPS’s every day in an innovative, exciting way. Many people don’t realize that the latest innovative technologies in mass notification systems, also have the capacity to reach large populations using their geographic coordinates.
The two technologies have the capacity to work hand in hand to make gamers, communities, and existing organizations safer and more connected. Simply open an app on your smartphone, drop a point on a map, and quickly alert everyone of a dangerous or problematic situation.
Everyone is now familiar with the term “augmented reality” thanks to Pokémon Go, using a smartphone camera and GPS to place an artificial world on top of our reality world. Twenty-one million daily active users were reported on July 11, 2016, and the numbers have probably grown by the time you are reading this. People are spending more time playing Pokémon Go than they are on Twitter, Facebook, or Google Maps. Who can deny that it may be more fun living in a virtual world than it is to live in the present ordinary world? Pokémon Go has not only turned players lives into a fun fantasyland, but has also created some unintended consequences, both good, bad, and somewhere in between.
On the positive side, local businesses have stumbled upon secrets of unlocking more revenue. They simply play the game to find out if there is a PokéStop near the business location, and then create a “lure,” bringing an unprecedented amount of increased foot traffic to many places. Device Stop, a small business in Minnesota offered free charging for Smartphones and increased foot traffic by 100 people per day. Tasty Burger in Harvard Square offered free tater tots with players’ entry to their business and saw new and increased commerce. There have even been reports of businesses on the verge of collapse becoming revitalized by being close to a PokéStop. A once struggling ice cream shop in Anacortes, Washington had its owner exclaiming, “the Pokemon light has shined down on me!” after finding out it was a PokéStop by an incredible amount of new foot traffic and has re-awakened business.
On the other hand, trying to capture spawns and other fantasy creatures is entertaining and fantastic, but may be slightly more exciting than players anticipated. Distracted searching for Pokémon creatures has led players to unwanted places and has sometimes led them to being robbed or killed. In San Francisco Park a 20-year-old ball player was killed, and in Maryland three people were robbed playing the game after they were lured in on purpose. From the property owner’s perspective, players have been found loitering in unwanted places and disrupting traffic.
On a mixed note, gamers have also stumbled upon crimes, dead bodies, and discovered beautiful places. With such a popular game, and other augmented reality games sure to become even more popular in the wake of the Pokémon Go publicity, we are certainly only catching a glimpse of the types of issues these types of games will create.
Creative approaches and preparation are key. Like so many other problems facing society today, complications and emergencies regarding Pokémon Go can be reduced with more community participation and communication. Regroup Mass Notification is proud to be part of that community. In addition to one-way emergency alerts, there are two-way, or group messaging options. Even if there is no phone service in the area, players can use our app to send push notifications or our Quick Post button, immediately alerting local police and emergency responders. We are proud to be one of the technological leaders, helping people, campuses, businesses, and all other organizations stay safe and connected.