Using bluetooth and Facebook technology researchers at Bath University have designed a way to build new friendship networks. By installing a Facebook app called Cityware users can track real world encounters via their bluetooth devices. It appears to be part of a wider project backed by Nokia, HP Labs and Vodaphone.
The system works with 4 parts, firstly a Facebook account then Cityware application followed by your bluetooth devices and then the Cityware nodes. These nodes have only currently been installed in Bath, University College London, the University of California in San Diego, with more nodes going online in Sweden, Hong Kong and Sydney.
These nodes (computers) scan for bluetooth enabled devices and send that data back to the Cityware servers to compare the unique bluetooth IDs against known Facebook accounts. The next time you access Facebook you will be shown other users that your device detected.
Cityware state that “The node sits in the environment and records everyone’s unique Bluetooth ID. Cityware itself doesn’t know your name, or who you are.”, Dr Kostakos, research associate at the University of Bath.
Dr Kostakos makes some other very interesting comments, “Networks are everywhere – social and digital. The really nice thing about Bluetooth is that when you are walking down the street, although you are not talking to anyone, your Bluetooth device can be talking to other devices.”
“Most people you bump into or see regularly have made information about themselves available publicly online. But the Internet is such a big place that it’s difficult to find contextual information about who someone is, where they are etc.”
The tool lets find out if any of the people you bump into is a Cityware user and has a Facebook profile, in which case you can choose to add that person to your friend list.
Thinking about this started to give me a headache, I mean having my Bluetooth device allow other people to find me just seemed so un-nerving. Similarly the thought that really, your locations could be recorded on a server somewhere was also a bit disconcerting. However, regardless of how we choose to meet a new friend or a familiar stranger is having your bluetooth device do the introdcution any more dangerous than exchanging details the old fasion way? Probably not and it could be argued that it was in some ways safer. It will be very interesting to watch this technology develop over time but at the moment my Bluetooth is still OFF.
The original article can be found on the BBC WEB site here