Carbon Project received $100,000 in funding from the National Science
Foundation to further develop its product, ((Echo))MyPlace. There is a
possibility of up to $1.1 million in additional funding. The company is
seeking $3 million in private investment. I asked The Carbon Project's
founder, Nuke Goldstein, and its CEO, Jeff Harrison, some questions
about ((Echo))MyPlace. To be honest, there is still quite a bit the two
are not ready to discuss publicly, so some reading between the lines is
Nora Parker (NP): What exactly is ((Echo))MyPlace?
Jeff Harrison (JH): ((Echo))MyPlace (Echo) is "geosocial
networking" software that uses 2D and 3D mapping to allow users to
share real-time photos and other information - directly from one
computer to another. With Echo, people are sharing what is happening,
where it is happening. What this means is people can watch their
favorite content, whether from down the street or across the world.
What's cool is that the content is likely to be created and shared by
the same people you see in your local grocery store or coffee shop, not
some big company thousands of miles away pumping you up with what they
want you to see.
Nuke Goldstein (NG): [Jeff's] response will be something
like this: ((Echo))MyPlace is a location-based social networking
solution, or Geosocial Networking, where people can share their content
on top of the Microsoft Virtual Earth globe or map. A more meaningful
response is: Echo is a way to combine our powerful CarbonCloud
peer-to-peer system with cutting edge 2D/3D mapping from Microsoft and
a brand new channels system that allows streaming of content to and
from users. The end
result is something never seen before, a very cool looking application
that allows people to select and watch
their favorite content as it is geographically referenced. More than
that, users are able to chat or multi-chat (multiple friends chatting
simultaneously) and share content directly and securely with each
other. The notes shown on the map or globe can be anything from
pictures and HTML to Flash or Silverlight movies; there's no limitation
to what you can do. This is just a part of it, but we're not ready to
reveal all our secrets.
NP: How is it different from other offerings in the market?
JH: There's nothing like it. Nuke has given you some insight into
the technical designs for the interface. I'd add that we took a fresh
approach, based on a new generation of Internet media technologies,
that gives power back to users. This is different because Echo is
powered by everyday people and a philosophy that says, "Let people
create their own channels and target their message to their local
community." This is different than being fed content from some cable TV
network or a massive Internet company.
NG: In commerce, it's a combination of Google ads and e-bay
with a geospatial twist; people can advertise and sell using channels
and community interaction. In terms of interactivity, it offers
advanced communication capabilities between friends and with customers,
plus the ability to create and publish your own channels. One key point
is that this is not just Echo, the client application. We have our own
back end for channels and peer-to-peer. This allows us to think way
outside the box for where we want to take this as Echo becomes a suite
of services and products.
NP: How/why is federal funding involved?
JH: They must have seen some potential.
NG: They know good technology potential when they see it. I
believe they see the huge potential in this, something you will not
find in Facebook add-ons.
NP: What is the revenue model going to be to monetize Echo?
JH: Echo is designed to let local entrepreneurs target their
message to the people likely to be interested in their products and
services, enhancing the value of their advertising. A key area in this
effort is connecting buyers and sellers of products and services that
change rapidly and unpredictably, and differ from place to place. Local
entrepreneurs do this by easily (and cheaply), creating their own
channel for their local community. This capability has been largely
ignored by online advertising provided by large companies. However, we
think this portion of the social networking and advertising market is
just emerging and represents significant opportunity for new
applications like Echo.
NG: The commerce side is based on a channels system. Of course
Echo will be free; we will ramp up the community and the content
offered through partnerships. This will allow a broad base for exchange
of information and goods.
NP: What else are you currently working on at the Carbon Project?
JH: Lots. We've just released release a major update to CarbonArc
PRO, our Open Geospatial Consortium Spatial Data Infrastructure
(SDI) 1.0 extension for ArcGIS, at the ESRI Federal User Conference
last month in Washington, DC. CarbonArc PRO 1.5 wraps the OGC SDI suite
of standards into a new generation of user friendly data production
tools for the ESRI ArcGIS 9.2 desktop. We also just released an update
to CarbonTools PRO, our .NET geospatial interoperability toolkit. This
release is special because we've included the source code for some of
our most popular libraries, like Microsoft Virtual Earth.
We are also working on a new version of our popular Gaia application,
software that accesses online geographic data services and allows users
to seamlessly share event-specific location content. The new version
includes a complete update to the entire Gaia user experience and a
redesign for the application using the latest Microsoft technologies,
including .NET 3.x and Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF). This
redesign provides a far more exciting and engaging user experience -
which we believe makes using SDI WMS and WFS layers more attractive and
engaging than some commercial map services, and definitely more