Travel Writer, Host Unveils Versatile New App Firef.ly
PHOTO: Screen shot of Firef.ly app. (Photo courtesy Firef.ly)
There is a multitude of travel apps out there from which to choose. The endeavor of finding one to utilize each and every trip can seem daunting at times.
Thankfully, there is one now available designed by someone who understands the fellow world traveler.
We had the pleasure of touching base with Shawn Low who is a former writer at Lonely Planet and a host featured on National Geographic who is excited to unveil a wonderfully versatile travel app called Firef.ly.
Perfect for those who want an app that can track your adventures in real time and archive them in a way that you will enjoy long after you return home.
At the moment, you can download the app for iOS for free, and it caters to those visiting eight cities with guides for London, New York City, Paris, Rome, Amsterdam, Singapore, New Orleans and Rio de Janeiro.
Low was nice enough to delve into the app, its value and the impetus behind the innovation.
You may have seen his work on the Internet or on National Geographic’s “Roads Less Travelled.”
His latest undertaking is an app that can give you ideas of where to hit next on your trip or to log where you have been, offering immensely valuable context to those daydream sessions back at home when you recall past holidays fondly.
PHOTO: Screen shot of Firef.ly app. (Photo courtesy Firef.ly)
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Here is the interview where Low informs us of where Firef.ly sits currently and what you might expect in the future – all of which sounds very promising.
TravelPulse: Thank you again for your time. You know the travel industry quite well. What was the impetus behind the Firef.ly app?
Shawn Low: Firef.ly was really born out frustration with the need to use so many different tools for travel planning, journaling and sharing. You’ve probably experienced that before: jumping on 30-40 websites to find flights, restaurants, sights. Pinning things on Google Maps, taking hundreds of photos which will sit on your SD card or camera roll, posting things on disparate social media channels…
We wanted an app that would neatly fold all your travel touch points into one channel.
Firef.ly is a smart, location-based mobile app that distills the best of trip planning, travel guides, journaling, sharing and personalized mementos, designed for today’s smartphone-enabled traveler.
We feel that the level of technology and people’s reliance and ease towards adopting new ideas is at a nexus: Firef.ly is really about us looking at a way to launch a ‘super’ travel app that manages to connect all the things a traveler would want in a single app.
TP: Is this an app that will always be on in the background, following our every move or is it something we might turn on when, say, we are on vacation?
SL: Great question. We’ve found that it can work both ways. As a personal tracker and journal, there’s no reason why you can’t capture your daily commute or weekend plans. Recommendations in our travel guide can be used by locals and tourists alike. Whether you’re looking for a new local café this weekend or a contemporary art gallery whilst on holiday…we got both bases covered.
We also offer users a very easy way within the app to adjust your privacy setting. With just two taps, you can adjust your level of tracking.
Rest assured though, we’ve set our systems up such that personal identifying data is anonymized to us. This means that cannot personally identify movement to a particular user.
TP: The app uses motion, can you explain a bit more on that technology and how much a drain the app might be on battery life?
SL: We use a combination of the GPS, cell signal, Wi-Fi signals and broad location updates to work out where you are. While use of the GPS does strain the battery a little, we've worked hard to ensure that users can get a day's use out of the phone. I believe that Pokémon Go drains the phone more than Firef.ly does! Of course, like many users out there, I always carry a battery pack when I go out.
TP: What is your favorite part of the new app?
SL: That's a tough one! It’s akin to asking a parent to pick a favorite child!
I geek out over maps and really enjoy firing up the app to see where I’ve been and looking up all the photos and notes I’ve captured where they took place. Eventually though, the hope is to leverage contextually relevant information to make accurate recommendations and notifications. For example, if you’re in London and it’s looking gloomy, we will suggest an indoor activity based on your interests. Like contemporary art? We’ll suggest you visit the Tate Modern. This will make Firef.ly extremely clever and helpful to users.
TP: The very notion of having an all-in-one guide and archive is particularly inviting to tourists. What cities can we hope to see in the future along with those eight already offered in the form of travel guides?
SL: We are tackling the list of Top 20 cities by tourism volume as well as feedback and demand from our users. On this list is Asian cities such as Hong Kong and Bangkok, North American cities such as LA and San Francisco and closer to us, Istanbul, Prague and Vienna. Let us know what cities you’d like us to cover!
On another note, where we don’t currently have bespoke coverage of a particular city, we have a partnership with Factual to serve up points of interest from a database which amalgamates data from sources such as Yelp and Foursquare.
TP: We know it's new, but what are some thing you hope to maybe add or smooth out over the next year or so on Firef.ly?
SL: We are still a work-in-progress with a few rough edges. In the future, we are excited about adding a social element to the app: we like the ability to share your journaled moments and ‘trails’ with friends as well being able to communicate with them. I often have people ask me for my recommendations for Singapore (where I grew up) and I’d love to be able to just share my Firef.ly Singapore list and trails with them.
We are also looking at partnerships with brands and businesses in order to offer location-based deals as well as thematic trails and trips. For example, we might send you on a Scotland-highland distillery tour or a graffiti-art walk in Shoreditch, London or a food-truck trail in LA. Possibilities are endless!
Another feature we are excited about is our memtoes: we are working with a good printer to get beautiful canvas and giclée prints of your Firef.ly trails. Eventually this will expand out to photo books, postcards and more.
TP: Lastly, is there anything you feel our readers would love to hear about this exciting new innovation?
SL: We are working very hard to build an app we think is extremely useful and rewarding for people. It’s free so there’s really no reason not to give it a spin! We love feedback so please drop us a line or send us a message within the app.
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