Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) filed a patent application for a social networking system that would work via a direct link between devices participating in a wireless mesh network and would allow individuals as well as advertisers to communicate with those devices. The system's design would enable it to deliver location-based communications and advertising between devices.
Because the communications would be direct--with a device potentially linking via the mesh to one device or multiple other devices--an Internet link would be unnecessary.
Facebook's patent application describes the use of an "interest metric" that may be based in part on a network's topology--such as the number of hops separating two devices--or "neighbor characteristics" based upon "neighbor types," which could include businesses, individuals or advertisers.
In addition, subgroups of these neighbor types could be used to provide more specificity, as in the case of restaurants that offer Italian, French, Thai or some other type of cuisine. Neighbor characteristics may also indicate an individual neighbor's interests or social activities, such as interests in poker, science fiction or kung-fu movies, Facebook said.
Users could assign different interest metrics to unique neighbor characteristics. "Hence, the user may set the interest metrics to the highest value for the individuals interested in poker, the medium value for the stores advertising free pizza, and the smallest value for stores advertising discounts on winter clothes that are less than 20 percent off," the company said.
The firm contends its envisioned technology could aid businesses seeking potential customers who are in the vicinity. A pizzeria could advertise its 7:30 p.m. evening special only to customers close enough to take advantage of the deal. Or a department store might identify shoppers who are physically in the women's shoes section to let them know of a hot deal on summer sandals.
Facebook's application noted that the described systems, methods, and techniques described could be implemented "in digital electronic circuitry, computer hardware, firmware, software, or in combinations of these elements."
Location-based advertising is seen by some as the Holy Grail for marketing to owners of mobile devices. However, there have been more than a few false starts. Just this month, recycling bins outfitted with Wi-Fi in London's financial district had their smartphone-tracking capabilities shut down by the marketing firm that was behind them amid concerns the bins had likely breached both privacy law and a UK data protection act.
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