Social networks to merge with Bluetooth apps?

Dating – especially handing over contact details – is a tortuous business at times, so how much easier would it be to network if the point of contact was made easier to control? Social networks have this opportunity right now, but how do you take it into the physical world?

UK based First Move is a dating site where you create a private profile then buy black or pink credit-card sized cards that have your First Move user code on them, costing about £1 each. When you see someone that takes your fancy you hand over the card with your anonymised profile on it, they view your profile and contact you. “You Caught My Eye!” is printed on the back of each card.

A similar idea – in various guises – is being pushed by London-based NanoFlirt, NewWayToDate and US-based Hitchoo.

TechCrunch US trashes this idea, saying “If someone has the guts to approach a person they are attracted to but can only muster up the courage to shove a plastic card in their hand and then run away, they should probably stick to purely virtual meetups.” This is totally fair comment, plus Face Move’s £30 charge to get the service makes it a non-starter.

However, Mr Arrington may be unaware of the drinking culture in Britain which gives us astounding courage, superhuman strength, “beer goggles” and a propensity to engage in sexual relations barely knowing each other’s first names. (If you think I’m wrong check out our teenage pregnancy rates – the highest in Europe. Makes you proud really…).

As a result the First Move idea – if not the site – may have a future. Especially given that it’s easier to block and delete a bunny-boiling ex-partner on a social networking site than it is to try and have their incessant texts and calls bared from your mobile network. (I may add that I do not speak from experience, being happily married!).

First Move – on a charging model – is a dumb idea. A social network which doesn’t charge for this service but uses it as a customer acquisition strategy is not such a bad idea.

Bu hell, why print cards? Just give them your ID on the anonymous social network of your choice. (Obviously not Facebook – although perhaps there is a market for a Facebook application which could anonymise your profile to any potential suitors?)

I digress. As Mike Arrington points out, mobile phone applications could soon replace physical cards, assuming people change their behaviour to look at their phone not the the people they like the look of in the room.

German based Aka-Aki, a mobile service broadcasts information about yourself (picture, dating status, etc.) to the mobile phones of other users around you via Bluetooth. The Paris-based MobiLuck has a more general application for socially networking and content sharing.

Almost exactly the same idea was pioneered by Nokia almost three years ago (see the demonstration below). It’s Nokia Sensor application used the mobile to broadcast a little profile about yourself and a kind’ve ‘blog post’ over Bluetooth. But the application never took off (although you can still download it, probably because dating wasn’t explicit in the offering and Nokia never fully marketed the idea, somewhat mysteriously.

Other mobile startups like MeetMoi are trying to do this with the mobile network (monetised via SMS charges of course) and there is the famous Dodgeball which has not exactly panned out for Google. The latter is no doubt building something into its rumoured mobile phone, and surely an app which used Bluetooth to bypass those pesky operators completely would be ‘a good idea’?

All in all, it’s early days but perhaps all that’s needed is a mobile client version of your existing social network (Facebook, LinkedIn etc) which you can just set to “dating” mode when you’re in the club/pub, ready to find the love of your life…