Google Seeks Patent for Targeting Ads on Wi-Fi Hotspots

Google engineers have applied for a patent on a way to target ads based on the location of the wireless access point to which a user connects, among other factors.

The patent application, filed by Google employees Wesley Chan, Shioupyn Shen and Georges Harik in September 2004, was published last week by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. It describes a method by which an end user accessing the Internet via a wireless access point (WAP) would be served advertisements based on factors such as the geographic location of the WAP, a behavioral profile of users of the WAP, the vertical market served by the WAP’s owner, or other predetermined criteria.

Location-based search, especially for mobile users, has broad implications for content providers and advertisers. Geographically targeting users at such a precise level could benefit local advertisers especially, or those that have products that might be available locally. Marketers could also use profiles of the neighborhood as a basis for targeting ads.

Google has been working on a plan to build ad-supported Wi-Fi hotspots in major cities, beginning with its hometown of Mountain View, Calif. It is also bidding on a contract to do the same in San Francisco.

One benefit put forth in the application is to give wireless Internet providers an ad-supported business model to offer free or discounted Wi-Fi access to users. This would help overcome the “the gap between what Wi-Fi operators charge and what casual mobile users are typically willing to pay,” according to the document.

The patent application suggests that while executives or road warriors might be willing to pay a relatively high price to access Wi-Fi, but the casual mobile user would typically only need such service occasionally. “Thus, what is desired is a method or system that helps overcome one or more of the above-described limitations,” the application says.

The document describes applications of the patent where ads would be shown in a toolbar, on a Web page, or during page transitions. It also specifies that ads would continue to be served regardless of whether a Web page, or other document being viewed is updated.

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