When Humin cofounder and CEO, Ankur Jain, took the stage at the Digital-Life-Design conference in Germany last month, he initially seemed more interested in performing magic tricks than talking about technology.
"I bet you that I could figure out who the most important person that your phone thinks is in your life, for almost everyone here," he told the audience at the HVB forum in Munich.
For abracadabra standards, the 24-year-old's psychic move wasn't exactly mind-blowing, but it did help prove a point. Our phones lack context, they don't organize our networks in order of how important certain contacts are to us and they, quite simply, don't think the way we do. The result, Jain says, is a smartphone that really isn't that smart at all.
Enter Humin, a San Francisco-based company that aims to connect the new world of smartphone users in a much more intelligent way.
Humin has created an app that works together with other important tools on smartphones, such as Facebook and email, to totally reconfigure the way in which the devices think about users' personal networks.
Its interface is built to both organize your contacts and allow you to search them in ways that factor in time, location and other contextual details. That means less of you trying to trying to remember which of the three Greg's in your phone is which, and more searching for contacts through other clues like where and when you first encountered them.
Key to Humin's appeal is that ability to "learn" and add more context to your networks with time. With each message written and each LinkedIn request sent acting as pieces of information for Humin to feed on, the app has the type of DNA that helps it perform better with time.
After a while, Humin could suggest a friend to reconnect with while traveling through a certain city or pop up a relevant contact card while you approach the time of a meeting.
No matter what way the app chooses to flex its intellectual muscles, Jain says the purpose that it serves for users will remain consistent: It's all about putting "your relationships in context of what you’re doing to help you better connect."
And while Humin's best features might imply to some that the app is built exclusively for only the most busy and most social of smartphone users, the cofounder assures that the app was built with every type of consumer in mind.
"Humin was not designed for the traveler or super-connector. It was designed for the everyday phone user," said the CEO, who cited practical situations in which the app could be helpful to anyone, like a college student who might discover the friends that he might have in common with his newest contact or the worker who needs to tell the person they're meeting with that they're running late.
Another concern a few skeptics might raise, besides a perceived appeal to only the "over-connected," is privacy. An app that has the power to indicate information such as a person's whereabouts, occupation, schedule and personal networks in such detailed ways would, after all, be a hacker's dream to exploit.
For this, Humin prepared a pre-emptive response, as the company says it will keep all information away from it's servers, where those looking to act on malicious intent at large scale might look, and onto users' phones.
Indeed, privacy seems to be the Humin aim in many ways. In the same way that Google made itself into a normal fixture of everyday life, Jain says Humin's goal is to fly under the radar and fade in into the background as an integral, but quiet, part of users' lives.