August 16, 2013, 4:24 PM — 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.
"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.