Jon Ziskind knows how big the world is, and he doesn’t want people to get lost.
A former professional sailor, Ziskind traveled widely to compete in the America’s Cup, sailing’s most prestigious regatta. The sport relies heavily on Global Positioning System, or GPS, technology, so when Ziskind settled down, it made sense for him to start a company based on that technology’s increasing availably in mobile phones.
Santa Barbara-based Zos Communications has produced “zhiing,” a utility that lets users send their location from computers and mobile phones to other users, much like an e-mail or text message. The start-up employs about 15 people between its headquarters and a New York office and has raised about $1 million in venture capital so far.
Here’s how zhiing – a word Zos coined and hopes will become a nound and a verb like “text” – works: Users install an application on their iPhone or BlackBerry. The user presses a zhiing button and enters a friend’s phone number. The user’s location shows up on a friend’s phone in an e-mail like message, complete with a step-by-step map for the friend to follow.
GPS makes it all happen, though Zos has created workarounds for older phones and a browser add-on for sending locations from a computer to a phone. But the main thrust is to capitalize on increasingly widespread GPS-enabled smart phones in a growing industry called location-based services.