Behind the Curtain: A conversation with Wifarer
Location-based stuff has long been one of our favorite types of applications and features for Android. Having a GPS and Wi-Fi device in your pocket has presented us with a number of great services and apps for Android, each of which has its own selling points. One particular app that landed on our radar, Wifarer, seemed pretty darn cool to us so we reached out to the company. We had the opportunity to chat with Philip Stanger, co-founder and CEO of Wifarer, and learned what it is that they do, and what makes their app so cool.
Thanks for taking time to chat with us today. Please, tell us a bit about yourself and Wifarer
My name is Philip Stanger and I am the co-founder and CEO of Wifarer. I manage the company’s strategic direction and work closely with our team of developers to further enhance and improve our high accuracy IPS technology. I have been an entrepreneur for more than 20 years in the technology industry and have served as a consulting systems architect for large organizations such as CIBC and the Ontario Provincial Government. I am also passionate about music and have composed award-winning scores for clients such as Paramount Entertainment, CBS and BBC. I earned my master’s from Yale University and bachelor’s from Johns Hopkins University.
Wifarer’s indoor navigation technology pinpoints a user’s smartphone within a few feet and offers real-time indoor “GPS” positioning, navigation, and location-aware content to users in large venues like shopping centers, museums, hospitals, stadia, and airports.
Sounds interesting to be sure, but how does it work? Do we need to download the app from Google Play?
Wifarer’s proprietary and award-winning technology uses the venue’s existing WiFi to pinpoint the indoor location of a smartphone to within a few feet. We use a beacon on a map to identify the user’s location in real-time. As the user moves, the beacon moves too, so users always know exactly where they are. Since we know the smartphone’s indoor location, we can deliver content about nearby locations – like a coupon in front of a store at a shopping center, or video in front of an exhibit at a museum, etc.
Wifarer is a free application that can be downloaded directly from Google Play. When launched, Wifarer automatically loads the maps and content of the venue the user is currently in (assuming it is Wifarer-enabled). Users can also browse the maps and content of any of Wifarer‘s partner venues from anywhere. So, for example, visitors can plan their visit to a museum before they leave home, and can revisit interesting multimedia after they leave the museum. Or they can check out coupons at a shopping center before they actually arrive, etc.
What sort of venues are using the service today? Any places you can specifically point to?
We are currently deploying our solution in a number of verticals including large shopping malls, sports stadia, airports, museums, hospitals and universities. Really, any large venue where patrons would normally rely on a map and whose visit would be improved by location-based information can find purpose in Wifarer’s technology. One specific venue that we are thrilled to announce is our deployment in the Royal BC Museum in Victoria, BC, Canada. We will be launching new venues every month for the foreseeable future, so stay tuned for a venue near you.
We noticed coupons and other items offered – care to elaborate on that experience?
Wifarer provides venue controlled location-based content. This means that when a user navigates to their destination, location-aware content icons for promotions, coupons or other information will pop up along the path. Tapping the icon opens the content. So for example, at a shopping center, customers access coupons; at a museum, they access multimedia about exhibits, etc.
Wifarer’s online CMS makes it easy for venues to edit content and maps. Since changes appear instantly on the app, it is always up-to-date and accurate.
Tell us a little more about how a museum might integrate Wifarer
As mentioned, we have recently launched in the Royal BC Museum in Victoria, BC, Canada. This prestigious natural history museum boasts a variety of exhibits and art spectacles including the visiting Dinosaurs: Ancient Fossils, New Discoveries. In addition to providing real-time wayfinding throughout the venue, Wifarer also provides location-based content for each of the exhibits, which is controlled and curated by the museum. With Wifarer as their free “audio guide on steroids” visitors can tour the museum based on their own passions, and dive as deeply as they want into a particular artifact or exhibit.
One great aspect of Wifarer is that it allows all members of a group or family to experience the museum on their own terms and in their own time, rather than having to follow a pre-set tour.
Would a user be receiving offers and coupons in the notification bar? Do they only appear within the app?
The coupons, information and offers appear within the app.
Privacy and anonymity is a huge concern with Android users. Is there any data collected by Wifarer or its partners?
Wifarer collects anonymous data on smartphone movements in order to provide analytics on visitor traffic to our venue clients. All data is anonymous and aggregated. The purpose of the analytics is to enable the venue to better understand group behavioral patterns and how their venue is used. For example, while museums know how many people purchase tickets and enter the museum, they don’t know what visitors do once they are in the museum. Wifarer‘s aggregated anonymous data gives them insight into where visitors go and how long they stay, so they better understand which exhibits are popular, and which are rarely viewed, so they can optimize floorplans, signage, games and tours to ensure that overlooked exhibitions get the attention they deserve.
We do not provide data to any third parties. Our relationship to our users is of the highest value to us, so our privacy policies are very strict; they are discussed in detail on our website.
Thanks again for everything, Philip!