Could a hookup app help feds?

Approximate location technology could be worked into government software applications.

Innovation often comes from unexpected places.

Coke inventor John Pemberton was trying to develop a headache cure. The inventor of Teflon was trying to make a refrigerant.

So I’ve got high hopes for the “approximate location” technology introduced Wednesday by the folks behind the SinglesAroundMe GPS-dating app.

A SinglesAroundMe spokeswoman emailed me Wednesday afternoon suggesting I might want to write a story about the new technology and how it’s made the world of GPS dating -- i.e. meeting up with people based on the proximity of your smartphones rather than shared interests -- “no longer ‘spooky.’” Maybe for Valentine’s Day, she suggested.

The approximate location technology obscures users’ precise location by a mile or two so they can wait to reveal exactly where they are until they’ve decided the person on the other end of the app isn’t…well…spooky.

This didn’t seem to have much to do with my main beat of government technology, but with a pitch like that it was tough to stop reading.

Eventually, I started thinking about how interesting this technology really is. If it’s proven effective by the private sector, there could be all sorts of useful applications for federal agencies and state and local governments.

There are several mobile apps that allow citizens to report crimes, for instance. Those aps could be outfitted with an approximate location option so citizens could let police know the general location of a crime for statistical and data collection purposes but still obscure their precise location if they’re wary of offering up information that might identify themselves.

The SinglesAroundMe technology may never make its way into the public sector, of course, but it’s a reminder of the myriad sources of new technology that might one day benefit government.