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PhoCusWright 2010 Innovator: Goby

I spent three action-packed days in Scottsdale recently at the PhoCusWright 2010 conference. While some of the companies that were at the conference have products that are so behind-the-scenes the average traveler may never know about them, some are very much consumer-oriented – so I thought I’d highlight a few of them that might be of particular interest to business travelers.

Anyone who has ever been on a business trip knows that free time is a scarce commodity. I, for one, have stopped pretending that I’m going to have any free time to explore a place because I almost never get enough time between conference sessions, meetings, and business dinners or parties. This means that if I do by some miracle have a little time to myself in a destination I’m unfamiliar with, I typically have no idea what to do there.

Now that I know about Goby, however, I won’t have any excuses for just wandering aimlessly or giving up and staying in my hotel.

Goby is a search tool that helps you figure out what to do in just about any location around the world. It’s entirely centered on things to do, so you won’t use Goby to help you find cheap air tickets or the best deal on hotels – but you can use Goby to help you find places to eat, things to see, and stuff to do wherever you are. It’s a tool that can be used before you leave home, and now that there’s a new Goby mobile app you can also use it remotely – this is especially handy for those of us who find ourselves with a bit of unexpected free time on our hands.

Either by using Goby online or on the mobile app, you simply plug in the city you’re in and – if you want to narrow it down – the category of activity you’re looking for. There are more than 350 categories to choose from in Goby, so you can get as specific as “yoga” or be as general as “places of interest.” Using something called “deep web” technology, listings are pulled from things like existing social networks and travel sites, so it’s not exclusive to Goby – but it is aggregated in Goby in a way that it isn’t elsewhere. So rather than searching through several diffrent sites to find the information, you can go to Goby and get most of it in one place.

Goby is free to use, and you can share what you find with friends via Facebook, Twitter, or email – so once you find that perfect restaurant, hike, music venue, golf course, or local festival you can let other people know about it so they can join you.

At the moment, Goby only covers the United States, which is definitely limiting for some travelers – but there are plans for international coverage. Another drawback is that the mobile version isn’t available on the BlackBerry (says the BlackBerry user who wants to try it on her phone), but if you’ve got an iPhone/iPod Touch, iPad, or Android you’re all set to use Goby mobile. And in any case, it’s still available online.

>> Read what we thought about the Goby presentation at PhoCusWright