WO2012159039A1 - Methods and systems for establishing a social network based on proximity of devices - Google Patents

Methods and systems for establishing a social network based on proximity of devices Download PDF

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Publication number
WO2012159039A1
WO2012159039A1 PCT/US2012/038596 US2012038596W WO2012159039A1 WO 2012159039 A1 WO2012159039 A1 WO 2012159039A1 US 2012038596 W US2012038596 W US 2012038596W WO 2012159039 A1 WO2012159039 A1 WO 2012159039A1
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device
user profile
devices
user
network
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PCT/US2012/038596
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French (fr)
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Jarl Jensen
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Jarl Jensen
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    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04LTRANSMISSION OF DIGITAL INFORMATION, e.g. TELEGRAPHIC COMMUNICATION
    • H04L51/00Arrangements for user-to-user messaging in packet-switching networks, e.g. e-mail or instant messages
    • H04L51/20Messaging using geographical location information
    • GPHYSICS
    • G06COMPUTING; CALCULATING; COUNTING
    • G06QDATA PROCESSING SYSTEMS OR METHODS, SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR ADMINISTRATIVE, COMMERCIAL, FINANCIAL, MANAGERIAL, SUPERVISORY OR FORECASTING PURPOSES; SYSTEMS OR METHODS SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR ADMINISTRATIVE, COMMERCIAL, FINANCIAL, MANAGERIAL, SUPERVISORY OR FORECASTING PURPOSES, NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • G06Q50/00Systems or methods specially adapted for specific business sectors, e.g. utilities or tourism
    • G06Q50/01Social networking
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04LTRANSMISSION OF DIGITAL INFORMATION, e.g. TELEGRAPHIC COMMUNICATION
    • H04L51/00Arrangements for user-to-user messaging in packet-switching networks, e.g. e-mail or instant messages
    • H04L51/32Messaging within social networks
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04WWIRELESS COMMUNICATIONS NETWORKS
    • H04W4/00Services specially adapted for wireless communication networks; Facilities therefor
    • H04W4/20Services signaling; Auxiliary data signalling, i.e. transmitting data via a non-traffic channel
    • H04W4/21Services signaling; Auxiliary data signalling, i.e. transmitting data via a non-traffic channel for social networking applications
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04LTRANSMISSION OF DIGITAL INFORMATION, e.g. TELEGRAPHIC COMMUNICATION
    • H04L51/00Arrangements for user-to-user messaging in packet-switching networks, e.g. e-mail or instant messages
    • H04L51/38Arrangements for user-to-user messaging in packet-switching networks, e.g. e-mail or instant messages in combination with wireless systems
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04LTRANSMISSION OF DIGITAL INFORMATION, e.g. TELEGRAPHIC COMMUNICATION
    • H04L67/00Network-specific arrangements or communication protocols supporting networked applications
    • H04L67/30Network-specific arrangements or communication protocols supporting networked applications involving profiles
    • H04L67/306User profiles
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04WWIRELESS COMMUNICATIONS NETWORKS
    • H04W4/00Services specially adapted for wireless communication networks; Facilities therefor
    • H04W4/02Services making use of location information
    • H04W4/023Services making use of location information using mutual or relative location information between multiple location based services [LBS] targets or of distance thresholds

Abstract

Methods and systems for creating a social network at the link layer of the communication facilities of two or more devices, without requiring any initial contact by the users of each device are provided. A wireless access point can detect devices by MAC address and determine if two devices are in proximity. Alternatively, a device can determine that it is in proximity to another device independently of a wireless access point. If the two devices are in proximity with each other, the MAC address of the second device is sent to the first device and stored. The user can view a log of the stored MAC addresses of devices within its proximity, access the network, and obtain from a database the user profile associated with each stored MAC address.

Description

METHODS AND SYSTEMS FOR ESTABLISHING A SOCIAL NETWORK BASED ON PROXIMITY OF DEVICES

The present application claims priority to the U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 61/487,635 filed with United States Patent and Trademark Office on May 18, 2011, which is incorporated herewith by reference.

FIELD

The present invention relates to the creation or establishment of a social network between two or more wireless devices, such as mobile phones, that are in proximity to each other by identifying one another through the link layer of their communication facilities and thereafter enabling limited communication.

BACKGROUND

In recent years, social networks on the Internet have become a very popular way for people to reconnect to or maintain relationships with people they know, or connect to communities of which they are already a member. Typically, people use online social networking sites to maintain interpersonal relationships by communicating with other people through the online social network site or sharing information about themselves that is visible to their own online social network.

In addition to personal relationships, online social networks have recently been used to build or develop a person's business network. Using online social networking to develop a business network is advantageous for a number of reasons. For instance, an individual can not only maintain his or her business contacts, but can typically initiate communication without regard to the accuracy of an email address, phone number, or other contact information that can change over time.

However, building an online social network, whether for personal or business purposes, can be difficult if a person wants to expand the breadth of his or her network to include individuals with whom he or she has had no prior contact or knowledge, but share complementary and advantageous business or personal interests. Indeed, a person is often in the proximity of numerous individuals in the course of a day and may even have brief interactions with some of these people. A person may thus identify several individuals he or she would like to exchange contact information with. Conventional exchanges of information, such as through business cards or exchanging phone numbers or using pen and paper, can be inadequate. Business cards often have no pictures and carry minimal information. Similarly, in social situations, business cards or pen or paper, are often not available or not appropriate for perpetuating a personal contact.

In the business networking context, this basic exchange of information can be even more difficult. For instance, at a large convention setting, there may be thousands of attendees. An individual may come into contact with tens to hundreds of people and have as many business cards or other physical pieces of information as a result. Since there are no pictures or minimal personalized information is contained in these cards or information, the burden is placed upon the individual to retain the business card, or remember details about the person associated with the business card or information beyond just contact information and a company name. As a result, individuals can remain largely anonymous or unmemorable and they may never be contacted.

Many individuals now use mobile devices, such as smart phones and the like, to conduct online social networking activities. This eliminates the need for the exchange of business cards or the use of pen and paper and most devices can now connect to the Internet via a wireless network. Thus, individuals that meet and want to generate future contacts or establish a relationship through their respective social networks can exchange and store information in their device in real time. However, the addition of new individuals to a person's online social network, whether for personal or business purposes, relies on one individual actually initiating a communication or contact with another. In other words, unless one person initiates contact, another person may never be included within that person's social network. In a convention setting where there is a limited amount of time for business networking, this may result in many lost potential business or personal networking opportunities. Moreover, this also places the burden on the individual to subjectively identify other individuals as advantageous for inclusion in his or her social network.

In addition, current methods of using a social network for business or personal purposes require the individual's personal identifying information. Specifically, in order for a person to contact another individual not in his or her social network, the person must know or be able to acquire the other individual name and/or personal contact information, such as an email address or phone number. Moreover, an individual may also have limited control over the release of information stored in a social network profile, such as other business contacts, customers, past employment, etc. In a business networking context, an individual may not want to let a competitor see his or her clients, but may want a potential customer or client to be able to see this information. More importantly, however, a person in a business networking context typically wants to invite more contact with other individuals to expand potential business opportunities, but may not want to release his or her name and personal information as a default to the general public.

Accordingly, there is a need for a means of establishing a social network between individuals without requiring initial contact by at least one individual. There is also a need for enabling communications through a social network without requiring or providing any identification or direct contact information.

SUMMARY

The present invention enables the establishment of a social network without requiring any initial contact from a user. Specifically, the social network can be established through only the detection of two or more devices in proximity to each other at the link layer of the communication facilities of the two or more devices. The present invention also can enable communications between two or more devices without requiring identifying and contact information of the person associated with each device.

The present invention enables the establishment of a social network based on associations developed using the link layer of the communication facilities of two or more devices. More particularly, two devices (usually but not necessarily mobile phones) that are in proximity to one another can establish limited communication using wireless means, without requiring input from the users. In particular, the link layer of wireless communication interfaces allows devices to identify one another by media access control (MAC) address. In accordance with embodiments of the invention, a device can maintain a log of other devices that have been in proximity to the device maintaining the log.

A user profile consisting of the MAC address associated with a device can be stored in a database, along with additional information regarding the device associated with the MAC address and the user of that device. In addition, only particular items of information contained in the database will be visible to a user of a device seeking communication with the user of another device represented in the database that has been in proximity to the first user, such as a nickname and an image of a user. Meanwhile, other items of information can remain hidden, at least until the user with who contact is desired allows a release of the additional information.

In one exemplary scenario, the system can be used as part of a conference or convention. Convention participants typically preregister with the event organizer and download an application associated with the conference to their device. As part of the registration process, the participants can provide name and image information that will be made available to other convention participants, provided that the participants whose information will be shared or made available to one another came into proximity to one another. Proximity can be determined from the MAC addresses of devices that have been logged by at least one device and/or by a wireless access point or other network node. A convention participant who meets another participant but who does not collect an email address or other contact information can later initiate the application and review a log of convention participants that the participant seeking follow up or contact was in proximity to, and can access the name and image information of those other participants. The user can then choose to communicate with a selected participant, for example by sending a message via the application. In accordance with embodiments of the present invention, the application can send the message directly to the application on the recipient's device. Alternatively, the application can send the message as an email or text message. In any event, the address used for the follow-up communication can be hidden from the user initiating the follow-up contact.

Embodiments of the present invention can also be used to establish virtual chat rooms, for example at coffee shops or other retail establishments. In particular, upon entering an establishment supporting the system, an option can be offered to a customer to check in, in order to enable various location based features. Such features can include enabling the establishment to access profile information regarding the user, for instance to initiate an order and to pay for that order automatically. In addition, the customer can access information, such as the nickname and image information of other customers. These features can all be initiated by recognition of the MAC address of the customer's device.

Another embodiment establishes a social network between two devices by storing the MAC address and the time stamp of wireless access points that come into the proximity of both devices. In this scenario, a device can store the MAC address of a wireless access point and the time stamp of when the device was in proximity of the wireless access point. This information is uploaded to the database storing the user profile consisting of the MAC address and other additional information associated with the device and/or user. The device can then maintain a log of other devices in proximity of the same wireless access point within a predetermined time period from the time stamp. Embodiments of the present invention allow users to build relationships with people that they have actually met, but from whom they may not have collected contact information. The determination that different users have met is made by accessing link layer information, to verify that the devices were in proximity to one another. In accordance with further embodiments, the proximity determination can be made in association with communication nodes other than the user devices, to verify actual location and proximity at which a presumed meeting between users occurred. In addition, contact or identification features can be withheld unless proximity is maintained for some minimum period of time. Privacy is maintained, by allowing users receiving follow on communications to choose whether to release information that can be used by the other party directly for additional communications.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Fig. 1 is a block diagram depicting a typical environment for establishing a social network based on two devices that are in proximity to each other according to the present description;

Fig. 2 is a block diagram depicting components of a device in accordance with embodiments of the present invention;

Fig. 3 is a flowchart depicting aspects of the method for establishing a social network based on the proximity two devices and sending a communication from the initiating user to the selected other user;

Fig. 4 is a flowchart depicting the method for establishing a social network based on the proximity of two devices and conducting a sales transaction;

Fig. 5 is a flowchart depicting another embodiment of the method for establishing a social network where one of the devices is designated as the proximity marker to detect two other devices within proximity to each other;

Fig. 6 is a flowchart depicting another embodiment of the method where users in a venue would access a venue-provided message board or chat room;

Fig. 7 is a flowchart depicting another embodiment of the method where one of the devices is the wireless access point; and

Fig. 8 is a flowchart depicting another embodiment of the method where a social network is established by devices in proximity of the same wireless access point at the same time.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION As required, detailed embodiments of the present invention are disclosed herein; however, it is to be understood that the disclosed embodiments are merely exemplary of the invention, which may be embodied in various forms. Therefore, specific structural and functional details herein are not to be interpreted as limiting, but merely as a basis for the claim and as a representative basis for teaching one skilled in the art to variously employ the present invention in virtually any appropriately detailed structure.

Referring now to Fig. 1, a typical environment 100 is depicted where multiple devices 104 may be in proximity to each other, such as in a conference, convention, or out in public commercial venues, such as a store or cafe. One or more users 102 may each have a device 104. The device 104 may be a mobile phone or smart phone, but as can be appreciated by one of skill in the art, the device 104 can also include other devices, such as tablet PCs, Wi-Fi tags, RFID tags, desktop computers, or laptop computers. A wireless access point 108 will provide connectivity to a network 112. As one of skill in the art can also appreciate, a wireless access point 108 can be a typical wireless router or base station that emits signals using radio frequencies to provide connectivity to a network 112. As can be appreciated by one of skill in the art, the wireless access point 108 also will receive signals from each device 104 within a predetermined proximity. In addition, the wireless access point 108 provided could also be a more sophisticated triangulation system that has storage capabilities and/or middleware that can provide advanced location tracking. Specifically, the wireless access point 108 can detect and receive the location of the device 104 and can also detect and receive any unique identifier, including but not limited to a network identifier, such as a media access control (MAC) address (not shown) of each wireless device 104. The MAC address is a unique hardware address typically assigned to a network interface card or similar hardware that connects the device to a network. One skilled in the art will also appreciate that near field communication (NFC) technology may be utilized, such that a separate wireless access point 108 may not be necessary, as the devices 104 of the one or more users 102 may be NFC compatible, and capable of communicating with one another directly. Moreover, one skilled in the art will appreciate that a device 104 within proximity another device 104 can also be determined through any communications technology that allows communications between devices 104 including but not limited to, infrared, wire line, direct wires, or exchange and/or transmittal of data stored in a magnetic stripe card with a magnetic card reader.

In the exemplary embodiment, each user 102 will also have preregistered with an event organizer or other venue by downloading a networking application 232 and creating and providing a user profile stored in a database 116 accessible through a server on the network 112 consisting of the MAC address associated with a device 104. The database 116 will typically be maintained in a different location than the devices 104 and the user profiles stored in the database 116 are accessible through accessing the network 112. In addition to containing the MAC address associated with a device 104, the user profile can also contain personal and business information. Personal information can include name, address, relationship status, photos, and other such identifying information. Business information can include current and past employment, occupation, current and past customers/clients, education and professional credentials and the like. Additionally, the user profile can also store personal and business contacts. In accordance with further embodiments of the present invention, all of the information contained in any user profile will not be visible to any other user 102. Rather, only selected items included in a user profile stored in the database 116 will be visible to other users 102. Preferably these visible items of a user profile would be a nickname and an image of the user 102. These visible items of a user profile would identify the user 102 associated with a device 104 that came into proximity with another device 104, but maintain the privacy of the user 102 until contact was initiated between the two users 102 of the two devices 104, or until one user 102 released additional items of his or her user profile.

Fig. 2 is a block diagram depicting components of the device 104 in accordance with embodiments of the present invention. As can be appreciated by one of skill in the art after consideration of the present disclosure, various functions of the device 104 in accordance with embodiments of the present invention can be integrated with or distributed among wireless devices with added, omitted, or different features according to the design considerations of particular implementations. Therefore, the device 104 as disclosed herein is not limited to the illustrated embodiment.

The device 104 can include a processor 204. The processor 204 may comprise a general purpose programmable processor or controller for executing application programming or instructions. As a further example, the processor 204 may comprise a specially configured application specific integrated circuit (ASIC). The processor 204 generally functions to run programming code or instructions implementing various functions of the device with which it is incorporated.

The device 104 may also include memory 208 for use in connection with the execution of programming by the processor 204, and for the temporary or long term storage of program instructions and/or data. As examples, the memory 208 may comprise RAM, SDRAM, or other solid state memory. Alternatively or in addition, data storage 212 may be provided. In accordance with embodiments of the present disclosure, data storage 212 can contain program code or instructions implementing several of the networking applications 232 or functions executed or performed by the device 104, and data that is used and/or generated in connection with the execution of applications and/or the performance of functions. Like the memory 208, the data storage 212 may comprise a solid state memory device. Alternatively or in addition, the data storage 212 may comprise a hard disk drive or other random access memory.

The device 104 may also include a network interface, such as network interface card or other network/communication interface 216 that stores the MAC address of the device 104. The device 104 and network/communications interface 216 may, for example but without limitation, include a Wi-Fi and/or Bluetooth communication interface. As a further example, the device 104 and network/communication interface 216 may also include a near field communication (NFC) tag and/or transceiver that is enables the device 104 to be compatible with NFC. The network/communication interface 216 can operate to support communications with other devices 104, directly and/or over a network 218. In accordance with embodiments of the present invention, the network 218 will typically comprise a wireless network that is established using any of various wireless communication link protocols, such as, but not limited to, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, infrared (IRaD), and near field communication (NFC). However, the network 218 is not necessarily limited to any particular type, and may also comprise the Internet, a private intranet, a local area network, the public switched telephony network, or other wired network, and can include any number of devices 104 and/or wireless access points 108 (See Fig. 1). The network 218 can link the device 104 between other devices 104 and the wireless access point 108. The device 104 may additionally include a user input 224 and a user output 228. Examples of a user input 224 include a keypad, a keyboard, microphone or other speech or voice input, a mouse or other position encoding device, a programmable input key, or other user input. An example of a user output 228 include a display device, a speaker, signal lamp, or other output device.

In the exemplary embodiment of Fig. 2, various applications can be stored in the data storage 212 and/or the memory 208 of the device 104. These applications can include a networking application 232 as described herein. The networking applications 232 and any other applications of the device 104 can be executed by the processor 204 and can operate in association with a graphical user interface (GUI) 236 and the user input 224 provided by the device 104 to enable or facilitate user initiation and operation of any of the networking applications 232.

With reference now to Fig. 3, aspects of the method for establishing a social network between two devices 104 in proximity with each other in accordance with embodiments of the present invention are illustrated. As a preliminary step, the two devices 104 will have already installed the networking application 232 by registering and creating a user profile (step 304). For example, a user 102 attending a convention may download a networking application 232 in connection with the convention. As part of the download and installation process, the user 102 may register his or her device 104 with the MAC address and also populate information in a user profile. The user profile can contain the MAC address, contact information such as email address, phone number, or residency, a nickname, and an image. As one skilled in the art can appreciate, the wireless access point 108 will execute instructions to facilitate network connectivity and detect and receive the MAC address of a wireless device that comes within the predetermined proximity of the wireless access point 108. In addition, the wireless access point 108 can run a software program to execute an algorithm for determining when two devices 104 are in proximity of each based on predetermined distance and duration parameters (step 308). If the wireless access point 108 determines that two devices 104 are in proximity to each other, the wireless access point 108 will send the corresponding MAC addresses of the two devices 104 to query the database 116 (step 312). The database 116 will then send the limited user profile, i.e. nickname and image, to the device 104 and the associated MAC address to the corresponding devices 104 (step 316). Accordingly, the device 104 can store the limited user profile of the devices 104 in its proximity. Step 316 will happen repeatedly when the device 104 of a user 102 comes into proximity with other devices 104. Accordingly, the device 104 can store a log of limited user profiles of all devices 104 that have been in its proximity. Alternatively, the log can be maintained by the network 112 and the database 116 to determine a proximity event between two devices 104. The log can then be checked against requests for communications from various devices 104.

Alternatively, one skilled in the art can appreciate that where two devices 104 are NFC compatible, a wireless access point 108 is not necessary for two or more devices 104 to recognize that they are in proximity to one another. In practice, in a NFC enabled system, a device 104 can be within very close proximity, four to five centimeters, and detect another device 104. If a device 104 that is NFC compatible detects another NFC compatible device 104 within a very close proximity, the devices 104 can use NFC to automatically transmit their MAC address, presumably stored on a NFC tag or chip. After receiving and storing the MAC address of the other device 104, the NFC compatible device 104 can send the MAC address of the other device 104 to the database 116 through the device's 104 network/communication interface 216 over a network 218, such as through Wi-Fi, and the device 104 will receive the corresponding limited user profile of the other device 104 within its close proximity from the database 116 as described in step 316. Accordingly, a NFC compatible device 104 can determine whether another device 104 is within proximity without a wireless access point 108.

When the user 102 chooses, he or she can initiate the networking application 232 on the device 104 to view the log of other devices 104 that were in proximity to his or her device 104 (step 320). The log of the other devices 104 in proximity to his or her device 104 (step 320) may be viewed a variety of ways, such as devices 104 by proximity in chronological order, by location, or a particular event. After reviewing the log of limited user profiles, the user 102 can then use the device 104 to select another user 102 associated with a device 104 that was in proximity (step 328) and then choose to send a message via the networking application 232 and the database 116 (step 332). The database 116 will again search for the selected user 102 by the MAC address of the selected user's device 104. The user profile associated with the selected user's device 104 will contain contact information, such as an email address or phone number, that the selected user 102 will have provided earlier through registration and/or creation of the user profile. However, this contact information will not be visible to the user 102. The database 116 will instead relay the message to the selected user's device 104 using the contact information provided and the contact information of the selected user 102 remains private. Alternatively, rather than sending a message, the user 102 can also select another user 102 on the log and release additional information in his or her user profile for the selected user 102 to be able to view.

Moreover, as one skilled in the art can appreciate, the log of all limited user profiles of all the devices 104 registered by multiple users 102 at an event could be sent by the database 116 upon initiation of the networking application 232 by the current user 102. The user 102 could also choose to view this log of limited user profiles and select another user 102 associated with a registered device 104 and choose to send a message via the networking application 232 and the database 116 (step 332).

Now referring to Fig. 4, another aspect of the present invention is illustrated where the user 102 can conduct a sales transaction. As described before, the user 102 will have preregistered with a particular venue or location, such as a coffee shop or shopping mall, by downloading a venue's networking application 232 and creating and providing a user profile for storage in a database 116 (as shown in step 304 of Fig. 3). When the user 102 arrives at a particular venue, the user can initiate the networking application 232 associated with the venue and enable certain features or transactions of that particular venue (step 404). The venue will already have a wireless access point 108 that detects devices 104 and retrieves the associated MAC address (step 408). The venue will have its own device 104, for example, a wired or wireless computer or terminal, which may be operated by an employee, that will receive the MAC address and query the database 116 with the associated MAC address to keep a log of the MAC addresses of each device 104 that arrives at the venue and is in proximity with the venue's device 104 (step 412). In operation, an employee can then use the device 104 of the venue to review the user profiles of all of the devices 104 in proximity, i.e. the customers (step 416). Depending on the amount of information in a customer's user profile, the employee can view the limited profile of a nickname and image to identify the user, i.e. customer (step 420).

During the registration process, the user could have provided his or her credit or payment information and a passcode as part of the user profile for storing in the database 116. In this example, the venue's employee can complete a sale by selecting the user profile of the current user 102 ready to complete a sales transaction (step 424). Once selected, the networking application 232 on the venue's device 104 will generate a communication to the database 116 for the credit or payment information stored in the user profile. The database 116 will send to the venue's device 104 a prompt for the passcode (step 428). In alternative embodiments, the database 116 can send to the user's device 104 a prompt for a passcode. The user 102 will then enter the passcode on either the venue's device 104 or the user's device 104 and the credit or payment information will be released to the venue's device 104 for completion of the transaction (step 432).

Alternatively, the device 104 of the venue may be NFC compatible, whereby the venue's employee can automatically generate a communication to the database 116 for the credit or payment information stored in the current user's 102 user profile by utilizing NFC technology to detect the current user 102 that is within close proximity, i.e. the current customer completing the sales transaction. The detection by the device 104 of the venue may be initiated by tapping the audio port, for example, of the device 104 of the venue. In this example, the NFC tag of the current user's 102 device 104 will contain credit card information, or a MAC address, which will be sent automatically though NFC to the device 104 of the venue. The device 104 of the venue can then receive the credit card information from the NFC tag and complete the transaction. Or, if the MAC address is automatically transmitted from the NFC tag of the current user's 101 device 104, the device 104 of the venue can transmit the MAC address through the network/communication interface 216 over a network 218, such as Wi-Fi, and receive the current user's 102 user profile from the database 116. Again, in this environment, the wireless access point 108 is not required for the venue to obtain the current user's 102 unique identifier, such as a MAC address, or complete a sales transaction.

In another further alternative, the device 104 of the venue may be have a magnetic card reader attached to the device 104, such as through a direct connection into the audio port of the device 104 or similar input port, and having the current user 102 physically swipe a credit card or other magnetic stripe card through the magnetic card reader. The current user's 102 credit card information can be transmitted directed to the device 104 of the venue.

As one skilled in the art can appreciate, a user 102 can enter in additional information in his or her user profile during the registration process that is customized to a particular venue. For example, at step 420 the employee can then use the venue's device 104 to select the user profile of the current user 102 and also view an order for a product or menu item stored in a user profile and execute the order. In this embodiment, this can be an intermediate step before payment of the order through entry of the passcode (step 428).

Referring to Fig. 5, in another embodiment, the user 102 could have provided other information in his or her user profile during the registration process after downloading the networking application 232, such as buying preferences or other marketing type information. When the user 102 arrives at a particular venue, the user can initiate the networking application 232 associated with the venue and enable certain features or transactions of that particular venue (step 504). The venue's wireless access point 108 will detect devices 104 and query the database 116 to retrieve the associated MAC addresses and/or limited user profile (step 508). The venue device 104 will then receive the MAC address and also keep a log of the MAC addresses of each device 104 that arrives at the venue and is in proximity with the venue's device 104 (step 512). In operation, an employee can then use the device 104 of the venue to retrieve the user profiles of all of the devices 104 in proximity, i.e. the customers (step 516). Depending on the amount of information in a customer's user profile, the employee can view the limited profile of a nickname and image to identify the user (step 524), but could also view buying preferences and other marketing indicia stored in the user profile. Targeted advertising or content, such as coupons, could be sent directly to the devices 104 of the selected user profiles based on these additional items of user profile information (step 528).

Now referring to Fig. 6, another embodiment could establish social networks between users 102 in a venue. When the user 102 initiates the networking application 232 on the device 104 (step 604), the wireless access point 108 can detect two devices 104 in proximity to each other (step 608), with the venue itself acting as the predetermined proximity parameters. Then, the wireless access point 108 will detect, retrieve, and send the MAC addresses of each device 104 to the other devices 104 within the venue (step 608). Each user 102 in the venue can then view the log of the limited user profiles of the other devices 104 within the venue (step 612) and then retrieve the user profiles of all of the devices 104 within the venue (steps 616 and 620). The venue can provide a message board option that allows all of the devices 104 within the venue to send communications (step 624). Each user 102 within the venue can then generate communications to a community chat or message board.

Fig. 7 is another embodiment of the present invention that can be utilized in a venue or location that has no wireless access points 108, such as a person's house or at a concert venue, or where user device 104 detects each other directly. In this embodiment, a user 102 can initiate an application on the wireless device 104 (step 704) and designate the user's own wireless device 104 as a wireless access point 108 (step 708). The designated wireless access point 108 will detect and receive the MAC address of a device 104 that comes within proximity of the wireless access point 108. In addition, the designated wireless access point 108 can detect two devices 104 are in proximity to each other (step

712), and the wireless access point 108 will send the corresponding MAC addresses of the two devices 104 to query the database 116 (step 716). The database 116 will then send the limited user profile, i.e. nickname and image, to the device 104 and the associated MAC address to the corresponding devices 104 (step 720). Accordingly, the device 104 will store the MAC address and the limited user profile of the devices 104 in its proximity. Step 720 will happen repeatedly when the device 104 of a user 102 comes into proximity with other devices 104. Accordingly, the device 104 can store a log of MAC addresses and limited user profiles of all devices 104 that have been in its proximity. When the user 102 chooses, he or she can initiate the networking application 232 on the device 104 to view the log of other devices 104 that were in proximity to his or her device 104 (step 724). After reviewing the log of limited user profiles, the user 102, can then use the device 104 to select another user 102 associated with a device 104 that was in proximity (step 728) and then choose to send a message via the networking application 232 and the database 116 as described in Fig. 3 from steps 328 and 332. The database 1 16 will again search for the selected user 102 by the MAC address of the selected user's device 104 and transmit the message. Alternatively, rather than sending a message, the user 102 can also select another user 102 on the log and release additional information in his or her user profile for the selected user 102 to be able to view.

Referring to Fig. 8, another embodiment of the present invention that can be utilized in venues where the wireless access point 108 is not associated with an application on a user's device 104 or preconfigured to send MAC addresses to a database 116 on the network 112. In this embodiment, a wireless access point 108 will send its MAC address to a device 104 when the device is in the proximity of the wireless access point 108 (step 804). The device 104 can then send the MAC address and the time the MAC address was retrieved to the user profile associated with the device 104 to the database 116 on the network 112 (step 808). The database 116 can then run a query based on the MAC address of the particular wireless access point 108 and the time stamp and determine other devices 104 that were in the same proximity to the wireless access point 108 within a predetermined period of time (step 812). The database 116 can send the MAC address of these devices 104 and limited user profiles to the device 104 (step 820). The device can then initiate the networking application 232 and can review the log of other devices 104 that were in proximity to a particular wireless access point 108 within a predetermined period of time (step 820). After reviewing the log of limited user profiles, the user 102, can then use the device 104 to select another user 102 associated with a device 104 that was in proximity (step 824) and then choose to send a message via the networking application 232 and the database 116 as described in Fig. 3 from steps 328 and 332. Again, as described in Fig. 3, the database 116 will again search for the selected user 102 by the MAC address of the selected user's device 104. The user profile associated with the selected user's device 104 will contain contact information, such as an email address or phone number, that the selected user 102 will have provided earlier through registration and/or creation of the user profile. However, this contact information will not be visible to the user 102. The database 116 will instead relay the message to the selected user's device 104 using the contact information provided and the contact information of the selected user 102 remains private. Alternatively, rather than sending a message, the user 102 can also select another user 102 on the log and release additional information in his or her user profile for the selected user 102 to be able to view.

The foregoing description of the present disclosure has been presented for illustration and description purposes. However, the description is not intended to limit the invention to only the form disclosed herein. Consequently, variations and modifications commensurate with the above teachings and skill and knowledge of the relevant art are within the scope of the present invention. The embodiments described herein above are further intended to explain best modes of practicing the invention and to enable others skilled in the art to utilize the invention in such a manner, or include other embodiments with various modifications as required by the particular application(s) or use(s) of the present invention. Thus, it is intended that the claims be construed to include alternative embodiments to the extent permitted by the prior art.

Claims

What is claimed is:
1. A method of establishing a social network between at least two devices, comprising:
providing a networking application to a first and a second device that can access a network;
detecting proximity between the first device and the second device by one of exchanging unique identifiers between the first device and the second device and receiving unique identifiers of the first device and the second device at a wireless access point;
processing the unique identifiers received from the first and second devices;
sending the unique identifiers received from the first and second devices to a database located on a network and determining the devices are in the database;
sending a user profile associated with the unique identifier corresponding to the second device to the first device;
selecting the user profile on the first device; and
sending a communication to at least one of the second device and an address identified in the user profile.
2. The method of Claim 1, wherein the user profile contains a nickname and image.
3. The method of Claim 1, wherein the first device selects the user profile; and
releases additional information contained in the user profile of the first device to the user profile.
5. The method of Claim 1, wherein the unique identifiers comprise the media access control (MAC) addresses associated with the first and second device.
6. The method of Claim 1, wherein the wireless access point sends to the database new information associated with the unique identifier of the second device; and wherein the first device accesses the network and queries the database with the user profile associated with the unique identifier corresponding to the second device for the new information associated with the user profile.
7. The method of Claim 6, wherein the new information comprises a financial transaction associated with the location of the first device.
8. The method of Claim 6, wherein the user profile associated with the unique identifier of the second device contains a passcode.
9. The method of Claim 8, wherein the networking application prompts the first or second device to provide the passcode of the second device.
10. The method of Claim 1, wherein the first or second devices can access the networking application and send a communication to the network viewable to the first and second devices.
11. The method of Claim 1, wherein the user profile retrieved contains information associated with the location and user of the second device.
12. A system for creating a social network between two devices, comprising: a first device;
a second device;
the first and second device having a networking application that can access a network;
detecting proximity between the first and second devices by one of exchanging unique identifiers between the first device and the second device and receiving unique identifiers of the first device and the second device at a wireless access point;
a network with a database that stores user profiles associated the unique identifiers of the first and second device;
processing the unique identifiers received from the first and second devices;
sending the unique identifiers received to the database located on the network and determining the devices are in the database;
sending a user profile associated with the unique identifier corresponding to the second device to the first device;
the first device selects the user profile; and
sends a communication to the user profile.
13. The system of Claim 12, wherein the user profile contains a nickname and image.
14. The system of Claim 12, wherein the first or second device selects the stored user profile; and
sends communication to the stored user profile.
15. The system of Claim 12, wherein the first device selects the user profile; and
releases additional information contained in the user profile of the first device to the user profile.
16. The system of Claim 12, wherein the unique identifiers comprise the media access control (MAC) addresses associated with the first and second device.
17. The method of Claim 1, wherein the wireless access point is a third device.
18. A method of establishing a social network between two devices, comprising:
providing an application to a first and a second device that can access a network; detecting proximity between the first and second device;
the first device sending an identifier of at least one of a wireless access point and the second device to a database located on the network;
the database determining that the devices are in the database and were in proximity to one another within a predetermined time;
sending a user profile associated with the unique identifier corresponding to the second device to the first device;
the first device selects the user profile; and
sends a communication to the user profile.
19. The method of Claim 18, wherein the user profile retrieved contains a nickname and image associated with the second device.
20. The method of Claim 18, wherein the application on the first device selects the user profile; and
releases additional information contained in the user profile of the first device to the user profile.
21. The method of Claim 18, wherein the unique identifiers comprise the media access control (MAC) addresses associated with the first and second devices.
PCT/US2012/038596 2011-05-18 2012-05-18 Methods and systems for establishing a social network based on proximity of devices WO2012159039A1 (en)

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