Agent wants to make your smartphone smarter, gets additional seed funding

Using phone while driving

How smart is your smartphone? For most people, the “smart”-ness of their devices lies in how it’s able to provide access to data and information while on the go. Smartphones, after all, mostly rely on apps and a web interface in order to give users what we want. However, some apps or software go beyond this by trying to keep track of context and give users information depending on the need.

Take Google Now, for example, which keeps track of your whereabouts and the content you check out on Google. The app will then give you recommendations based on what it thinks you need at any given time. But Google Now can only do so much. Here’s where a startup called Edgemotion comes in. The company has built two apps — Agent and Trigger — that aim to make your smartphone even smarter.

What’s even more interesting is that one of Android’s co-founders has found interest in the startup. Recently, Edgemotion got a second seed investment of $750,000 led by Google Ventures. Notably, the effort was led by Rich Miner, who was among Android’s co-founders. TechCrunch finds this interesting, particularly in terms of platform improvement. “When a guy who helped create the platform you’re trying to improve pushes an investment in your company, you’re probably on to something.”

Just what does Agent do? A bit of history here. In 2011, Edgemotion started developing Tagstand, an app that modifies phone settings and does certain actions when you tap your phone against NFC tags. You can set-up NFC tags at home, your car or office desk, for instance. Tap your phone, and these will automatically inherit pre-defined settings that are appropriate to these places. For instance, an NFC tag on your nightstand or near your bed could silence your phone for the next few hours, giving you a supposedly interruption-free sleep.

But since not all devices have NFC, Edgemotion decided to extend the functionality of its app with Trigger (after selling the “Tagstand” trademark and NFC-based technology to another company). Again, since Trigger users mostly used certain pre-defined settings, the company further simplified its offerings with Agent.

The app users your phone’s sensors to determine your context, and it will act appropriately. For example, if Agent senses you’re driving, it can automatically reply to text messages that you’re on the road. If it senses the battery running low, it will switch to lower-power mode like turning off Bluetooth and sync, and so forth.

To date, the company has raised $1.85 million, and the latest financing round values the startup at about $10 million. Again, what’s interesting here is not the amount of money invested, but rather who the investors are. With Google Ventures backing the project, it may be an indication that Google itself may be interested in integrating such functionality into Android, if only to make the platform more intelligent, in terms of interacting with the environment and with the user.

Going beyond smartphones, of course, such context-awareness would also work well in an environment involving wearable devices. Your smartwatch or smart glasses, for example, should be able to know when you’re at work, at home, on the road, and such.

Of course, any technology involving location-awareness would bring up privacy concerns. But that’s the big tradeoff that mobile users today have to face. With our gadgets becoming smarter than ever, it means we might have to cede some of our decision-making to our devices and apps, and to some extent the cloud-based technology powering these devices’ “intelligence”. At the very least, these would be mundane tasks and choices, like whether to silence our phone, accept calls, reduce brightness, and the like. Let’s hope we don’t become too reliant on these technologies, however.

You can check out Agent via or on Google Play.

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