While the iPhone 2.0 has already gotten significant coverage by the press and bloggers alike, I'd like to take a different look at the new iPhone SDK and API. As a new media guru and a believer that technology, when used properly, can literally make the difference between winning and losing elections, I see a huge opportunity with the new iPhone 2.0 firmware.
While I was not fortunate enough to have the opportunity to see Steve Jobs' presentation in person, I was reading live updates every minute thanks to MacRumors Live Feed. One of the items that immediately caught my eye was Apple's Location API. The Location API is used in two of the applications that Apple demoed today -- Loopt, a location-aware network that actually generates a map and shows on the map where your friends currently are, and the Mobile News Network, powered by the Associated Press, that makes use of the API by automatically pulling news from local sources.
Technology advances in campaigns have allowed them to engage volunteers from the comfort of their own home. John McCain and Barack Obama already have massive Volunteer HQ applications that allow volunteers to contact the media, make calls from home, and more. When I worked on Senator Santorum's campaign in 2006, we wanted to take this one step further and allow our volunteers to go door-to-door for us by simply logging in to a website, removing the need for them to come into the campaign office. A lot of barriers stood in the way of this -- the technology wasn't available to us, and the amount of management, development, and overhead to run something like this was tremendous.
Using the iPhone's new location API and GPS, functionality like this could be easily built. Based on the user's location, an application could use the API to create a door-to-door list and display it on the map. When they were on their way to a given house, all they would have to do is tap the pin on the map, and they'd be able to get driving directions from their current location and instructions and information for the household. If the campaign wanted to get further information or to try to use the walk to microtarget the voters at the household, it could easily add a script with questions to this -- and the responses would automatically be synced to the campaign's system after completion.
At an even lower level, if the person at the household wanted to receive e-mail updates from the campaign, there could be a field that allows volunteers to type in their e-mail address and become instantly subscribed to the campaign's e-mails. Similarly, if that person was torn between the candidates and wanted additional information, the volunteer could input their e-mail address and the system could automatically send a document with information about the candidate.
This is only one way that I see the new SDK for the iPhone potentially reshaping the entire playing field for politics. As I discussed earlier, the phone from home functionality is becoming more and more mainstream -- indeed, it is one of the pieces of the Mission Control software package that I have built. Taking this a step further, there could be a home calling application on the iPhone which provides volunteers with the phone numbers, question, and script, and after each call would automatically sync with the campaign's database. It would be as easy to use as plugging in your headphones and loading an application. There are many other possibilities as well, and I encourage you to discuss them in the comments.
The iPhone 2.0 represents another massive step forward in mobile technology for consumers and businesses. It also presents a wide array of functions that could give Republicans a serious leg up in elections.
Aaron Marks is a founding partner of Three Group, LLC, a Pittsburgh-based new media firm that focuses on providing technology-based solutions for Republican candidates and organizations, and in particular has built Web 2.0 campaign management software called Mission Control. Aaron also worked in new media and voter outreach on Senator Rick Santorum's 2006 re-election campaign.