Wi-Fi Lighthouse - an alternative to QR codes?

    It is indisputable (at least for habrachitateli) that in the vast majority of cases, digital technology is much more convenient than analog - they provide an order of magnitude more opportunities. Therefore, translating any technology into electronic form is useful and interesting a priori. But besides this, it is interesting to try to make digital technologies even more digital.
    This post proposes a new technology for quick access to information from mobile devices, developing the idea of ​​a well-known QR code using Wi-Fi, which is equally familiar to everyone.

    Why a QR code is good is not required to be described - this is an excellent invention, used by millions of people from around the world, and having hundreds, if not thousands of uses - from packaging of goods to gravestones in cemeteries. But at the same time, the QR code also has drawbacks. Namely, the codes themselves, that is, their images, are analog, which means that they must be digitized for use by photographing with a mobile device. And in many cases this does not cause any problems - to “remove” the code from the street advertising of a concert or packaging in a store in order to go to the website of a ticket seller or a manufacturer of goods is elementary. And in such cases, QR is indispensable.

    But, firstly, there are situations when additional information is needed, moreover, it is here and now, but to place a QR link on it is completely inappropriate.For example, in museums or theaters. In addition, in many places it is simply forbidden or not accepted to take pictures, especially with a flash, and it is most likely to be needed - after all, not all public places are brightly lit. And even if there are no prohibitions and contraindications to photography, not everyone wants to look like a tourist or a blogger photographing everything around.
    In addition, if the information from the QR code is necessary for a group of people (for example, access to the menu page in a cafe at the food court or to the train schedules at the station), then there will inevitably be a queue around the code for shooting, to avoid which you will have to hang huge space with codes. And even if you go for it (say, order a wall tile with a QR pattern), then perhaps the main problem becomes obvious - the QR code is static. Any change to the encoded information entails a reprint of the codes (and in the hypothetical case above, a repair with a tile re-arrangement). And if information changes every hour, then ... you know, the QR code requires replacement with another technology. (Although there is still an option to hang the walls with monitors or tablets, on which to display a dynamically changing code, but this solution can not be called neither cheap nor aesthetic.

    RadioBeacon - Green Lighthouse.

    At the same time, now, at least in large Russian cities, it is difficult to find a common room - a station, a shopping center, a bank, a cafe that is not equipped with at least one wireless Internet access point - Wi-Fi. Such points are far from always free, often they are intended only for official use, but for our purposes this does not matter, since the proposed technology does not use the existing Wi-Fi points for the intended purpose of access to the network (although this is not excluded) , and as Lighthouses. Green Lighthouses - according to the traditional color of the indicator of the established wireless connection.

    The essence of the proposal is simple :

    Service providers (owners of hotspots) -
    1. Using the simplest application, connect any Wi-Fi point by its MAC address with a link to an electronic portal containing information that is necessary for visitors to the place where this access point is installed (for example, “cafe menu”, “registration in the electronic entry queue”, “Information on goods”, etc.), or directly with a piece of text (by the way, the text can be of any volume, unlike a QR code).
    2. Notify visitors about it through a special symbol - a poster or a sticker.

    Consumers of services -
    1. Install on your Wi-Fi-enabled device a free client application that scans Wi-Fi access points, determines the point that has the strongest signal - that is, the closest one, and then requests (from the application’s server database, where everything is entered Wi-Fi registration by MAC address) The URL associated with this point, or the associated text, after which it opens this address in the browser, or displays the text in the editor.
    2. When you see the special symbol "RadioMayachka", launch the application and approach the beacon closer, or point your device at it (just reach out with your phone / tablet in the right direction), having received the necessary information. As a result, an illusion is created for the consumer that your gadget itself knows which page to open / what information to show when it is at a certain point in space.

    We emphasize once again that it is completely optional (although possible) that Internet access for displaying a page or transmitting associated text is carried out using this hotspot. In this case, the Wi-Fi access point is just a beacon that defines the context of information, and a real connection to it is not required at all. That is, an access point (the minimum price for which, by the way, now does not exceed $ 20) can be generally anywhere, except for an electric outlet and is not even configured! If the point works for its intended purpose - "distributes the Internet", then its use as a beacon does not cause any damage to the quality of communication, does not threaten security and does not bear other risks.

    But what if you use not Wi-Fi access point, but NFC for such purposes? - because then an Internet connection is not required. Yes, it is possible and so (and certainly so somewhere is already being done and will be done). But, firstly, acquiring an NFC terminal is more expensive than a Wi-Fi router (which, moreover, is already available in 99% of cases), and secondly, NFC in devices is still found almost two orders of magnitude less than Wi-Fi, and most importantly, to approach close to the terminal, wait, let only a minute, while others want to leave it, as will happen in the case of NFC, is much more unpleasant than not coming and not waiting in case of Wi-Fi beacons. This becomes especially obvious in the case of a train station or airport, where you have to go with luggage, or a group of excursions in a museum, where you have to wait a long time for your turn.

    RadioBecon is a practice.

    To test the viability of the idea, we created a free Android application available on GooglePlay - RadioBeacon , free of ads or other hidden sources of monetization , as well as its corresponding server part. The application is simultaneously both a client receiving a beacon signal and makes it easy to associate any Wi-Fi access point that is near you with an arbitrary web address.

    Password - protection from pest jokers who want to associate your serious business access point with a dating site

    If you happen to be in the city of Portland (Portland, USA, Oregon), then you can try this program in action, namely, take an excellent tour of the city, guided by the Radio Beacons.
    To do this, you only need a gadget with Android system, Internet access, as well as the RadioBeacon program . The program will be used to detect web pages related to the places you visit. Keep in mind that you will most likely have to look for the specific place the page is associated with before RadioBeacon can open it: for example, enter, or exit, or go around a building or point the phone in a certain direction, while pressing beacon button.

    On this tour, you will enjoy Portland and follow these steps:
    1. Start from here , get to the very “heart” of this place (hint: it is cold, like ice), and the Beacon will tell you the next step.
    2. This step will help you cross the river and indicate the further path.
    3. Walk and look for beacons. When you find them, they will lead you further.
    4. Enjoy this place, do not forget to find the lighthouse and go where it indicates - you have an unexpected meeting.
    5. Stand in front of her and look at her across the street - and the beacon will tell you about her.

    Have a nice trip!

    Those who read the text from the very beginning to this point are most likely wondering how the idea of ​​beacons relates to Intel's Blog, and to Intel itself. The answer is simple: the idea belongs to an employee of Intel in Russia, Stanislav Bratanov.

    According to Intel rules, employees are not prohibited at all (and even recommended) from their free time to come up with new concepts in the IT world and implement them in their own programs not related to Intel. The only requirements are that this does not interfere with the main work, does not conflict with Intel's interests and does not hide from management.
    In this case, all these requirements are unconditionally met. By the way, now you understand why RadioBecon is an absolutely non-profit product - Intel provides employees with decent competitive salaries, so the issue of earning is not worth it, nor is the serious development of the idea by the author, as it would contradict the first paragraph Intel requirements.

    So why was this post written, and what would you like to receive from the readers of the Habra?
    • Use this technology in general and RadioBeacon in particular in your company, invent various new applications for it.
    • Leave your opinion about the idea of ​​Radio Beacons in the comments to this post or contact Stanislav
    • If you want to port RadioBeacon to MacOS, Windows Phone or another platform, then the author is ready to provide an interface and logo free of charge, you only need to want to popularize the technology.

    Additional information on Beacons is available in English here .

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