iPhone vs. Android - Paintball Edition

If you're like many smartphone users, you've wondered about the other side of the fence. And if you're like only a few smartphone users —say, all 16 of us, you've wondered how the top smartphone platforms would handle the battlefield.

Wonder no longer.

Pretext

Blame the tinkerers. We couldn't just go play paintball. No, no. Already been done. We needed it to be faster, more efficient, more intuitive, and decidecly more… geeky. There really wasn't a whole lot of discussion about it. We decided we needed two native apps and it was off to the races to see who could get them done first (Mark Rickert won on both counts.)

One thing we pride ourselves on at Skookum Digital Works is displaying the quickest ability to go from idea to implementation. So, this was that. "Hey, that would be awesome!" Done. Made. Realized. Had.

And thoroughly enjoyed.

Development

Not enough mobile apps harness the true power of our phones. Especially for brands, you see a lot of re-skinned websites posing as apps, brochures masquerading as digital-must-haves, and general lack of creative or technical ability to build something truly useful for the end user.

Audio I/O. Video I/O. Accelerometor. Bluetooth. The touch screen. GPS.

In this case, especially GPS. Each mobile device sent data back to a web-service at regular intervals. The devices reported their date/time, longitude, latitude, GPS accuracy, and team (iPhone or Android). This data was stored in a MySQL database which grew to almost 16,000 records in the span of two and a half hours.

The location plotting after the fact was actually pretty straightforward. We wrote a PHP script that pulled each unique user's device records out of the database, filtering on records with 40 foot accuracy or better (since GPS reporting can sometimes be wildly inaccurate till a signal is locked-on). This PHP script spit out some basic XML which we packaged into a Google Earth KML file. From there, Google Earth could plot everyone's locations over time, as well as provide a birds-eye-view of the playing fields (literally) and our locations at any given time. And just by assigning image files to the user ID, we were able to plot the location of the days events, group by team, and also filter by specific users (so we could track the actual air-speed velocity of an unladen Don Post). We created not only a real-time CIA-spy-mission-map but also a short trail of everyone's movements to give a sense of direction and speed. Like that hockey-glow-puck thing that nobody remembers.

On-field viewing of the map was only hindered by our crappy cell coverage at the playing field. Also, the live Google Maps webpage was kind of a hog on some of the slower phones (eherm, iPhone3 lame-o-s), so those players were less digitally effective (because projectile games that cause pain and body bruises can always use more expensive, breakable silicon, glass and plastic, right?)

Practical Applications

As if playing smartphone paintball wasn't good enough purpose?

Group Game

Large outdoor venue. Concert. Festival. Players work either collectively or in teams to locate other players or teams. Team Blue only knows where Team Red is. Team Red only Team Green. Plants in crowd or actors tip off teams and provide clues. AR, QR code, social media, buzzword, buzzword, something something.

Transportation

Bus schedule/route tracking anyone? "Gee, was that last bus early or late? How long am I going to stand here? Oh look, the #7 is only four blocks away. Sweet."

Logistics

Have a fleet? Need to see where all your trucks/vans/pizza delivery dudes are at any certain time? (Note to Pizza Dudes, this doesn't have to be nefarious—maybe your team needs you pick up some more ice on your way back.) Want to manage your vehicles to compensate for traffic patterns, congestion, and time overruns?

Art

Want to drive out your name in cursive across the country?

Venue Managment

Want to see that Popcorn John is in Section 134 and Soda Jane is in the nosebleeds? For large outdoor venues, an execution like this would work great (and in case you needed it to work inside, we've thought of some non-GPS versions too).

Point Being…

All of those above possibilities have been available for years. But only now are sophisticated systems like this available for the marketer, consumer, small business, or local government. The hardware is no longer a barrier.

But your current mobile application "developer" might be.

Open this file in Google Earth to watch the events of the day and play with the data.