AskKinjo is a Toronto-based mobile communications startup which presented recently at TorontoTechWeek being held at the Metro Convention Center. Cellphone users can dial “#KINJO” from their phones to access the automated service and find out information about gas stations, ATMs, parking, and even traffic conditions close to their location. AskKinjo plans to add information about coffee shops, restaurants and clubs in the future. The service is free and their business model is based around playing a 10-12 second ad before telling the information to the user.
For the service to work, it needs the user’s location and AskKinjo is not able to automatically determine it in most cases due to technical and privacy issues. As a result, the user needs to speak out his location, in the form of the nearest intersection (eg “Yonge and Bloor”). Their voice recognition system then attempts to recognize it and process the request. However, this is where they have run into some issues in the Toronto area, which has a 50% immigrant population and a wide range of different accents. Also, the service number (#KINJO) doesn’t work for Rogers and Fido susbcribers and AskKinjo provides an alternate phone number for those users.
It is an interesting service, but it seems to me that the procedure of dialing the service, asking for an option, telling my location and then worst of all, listening to a 10-12 second ad will take up a minute at least. And then the nearby coffee shop or gas station is not even being shown to me on a map (since it is an audio service), rather I’m just being told where it is. So I would then need to look it up on a map in a separate service, as if I was already familiar with that area, I wouldn’t need the service in the first place! GPS-powered location-based services from Google and others which show local businesses on a map and will provide driving directions to that place seem like a formidable competitor to AskKinjo.