Facebook eyes making local connections with mesh networks

A patent application describes a system that would allow for hyper-local advertising and networking

Sample screens for selecting preferences on a proximity wireless mesh network, as shown in a Facebook patent application.

Sample screens for selecting preferences on a proximity wireless mesh network, as shown in a Facebook patent application.

Facebook has designed a system that would allow individuals and advertisers to make direct connections to those physically nearby that share similar interests or are open to receiving certain advertisements.

The company's work was outlined in a U.S. patent filing for a "wireless social networking" system that was published this week and represents a further step towards advertising and communication that is locally targeted.

Under the envisaged system, a wireless device would establish a connection with other wireless devices nearby. The communication wouldn't run via the Internet but would be based on a direct link between the devices. Each device might be linked to one or many other devices, depending on the density of people in a certain area, and each would be open to sending, receiving and relaying messages as part of the mesh network.

Because the network is based on direct connections, the approximate location of users can be determined. For example, if a device has a 100 meter range then all other devices it is in direct contact with could be determined to be within 100 meters. If those devices acted as relays, then a second level of devices could be determined to be within 200 meters and so on. The number of relays, or "hops," lies at the heart of the envisaged system.

The system outlined in the patent application envisages users setting preferences for receiving or communicating with others based on interest and proximity. Facebook calls the combination of these two factors an "interest metric."

"In general, the wireless device may enable messaging communications with wireless neighbors that have higher interest metrics and avoid enabling messaging communications with wireless neighbors with lower interest metrics," the application said.

Users would categorize themselves as individuals, businesses and advertisers with further sub categorize for finer distinctions.

Facebook undervalued in last-click attribution model
Why Facebook likes are worth $174 to your brand
Facebook fights user fatigue while Twitter keeps growing: Report

"In one example, the neighbor type 'restaurant' may be sub-divided into multiple sub-groups, such as 'Italian,' 'Thai,' 'French,' and others. In another example, the neighbor characteristics depend on the content advertised by the neighbor, such as the specific value of store discounts. In addition, the neighbor characteristics may indicate a neighbor's interests or social activities, such as interests in poker, science fiction, or kung-fu movies," the application said.

"The user may assign different interest metrics to different 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. As a result, the wireless device may prevent messaging communications with the stores advertising discounts on winter clothes, because these stores' have interest metrics that are too low for the user."

Businesses are continually trying to refine their advertising so it only reaches consumers that might become customers. That's especially true of local businesses, which often have limited advertising budgets.

That's where the mesh networking trumps an Internet connection, according to the patent application.

"Finally, enabling communications based at least in part on network proximity may also assist businesses in identifying potential customers. In one example, the owner of a pizzeria may only want to advertise a '7:30 special' to the customers who are close-by to the pizzeria to avoid advertising to customers who are too far away to take advantage of the '7:30 special.' In another example, a department store with a large number of diverse products may tailor its promotional advertisements to the customers shopping within specific store sections. Hence, customers shopping in a 'Women's Shoes' section may receive advertisements that are different from advertisements received by customers shopping in a 'Men's Suits' section."

The system wouldn't be totally focused on advertising -- and that might be key if users were ever to sign on should such a system launch. The interest list would also enable users to find others nearby that shared similar interests and hobbies or act as a filter for discovering existing friends that are in the area.

Details are included in U.S. patent application 20130208714 that was published on Thursday. It was filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on March 14 this year.

Patent applications provide insight into the types of projects that companies are working on. They are typically filed early on in the development process and the appearance of a patent application doesn't necessarily mean a future commercial product.

Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Internet-based applications and servicessocial networkinginternetFacebook

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Martyn Williams

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?