Foursquare just announced that they are going to try to cut cheaters off at the knees by confirming their check-ins with their GPS coordinates and/or WiFi hotspot location. It’s a logical step and one that Gowalla took (a bit to the extreme) from the start. But it’s not the endgame. That will belong to physical confirmation of check-ins.
So what do we mean by that? Think of it this way: in certain coffee shops, you can’t access the WiFi until you buy something and the daily WiFi password is printed out on the bottom. While we’re not necessarily suggesting that businesses require customers to make a purchase before they can check into their establishment, variations on that would be a tremendous business model for social location services such as Foursquare and Gowalla, especially if we’re talking about special badges, offers, coupons, mayorships, stickers or whatever.
No, what were more thinking of is how popular US coffee shop chain, The Coffee Bean gives visitors access to their WiFi – they post a code up on a TV, so in order to get it, you need to be physically in the cafe (or have a coffee shop spy network). So for example, if you want to check into a wedding in the park, Foursquare could provide a unique ID, say “ChadsWedding” that could then be displayed at the wedding. Alternatively, the event organizer could provide a camera-phone scannable barcode (such as Stickybits uses for somewhat similar purposes). Users that want to verify that they are actually there would then get a prompt asking for the secret code. Enter the secret code or scan the barcode and then get a “super-verified check-in” or something, perhaps even making that check-in worth double or triple points.
Done correctly (i.e. in a way that is fun, not annoying, to users) this could be a powerful tool for marketers that are organizing campaigns. For example, an agency could set a secret code for each stop along a road-show and fans (ahem…is Facebook listening?) could then earn super-points at each stop. Services such as Gowalla’s Trips feature are already halfway there, but this deep integration with the physical world is what’s really going to end all cheating (well, maybe not…people always find ways to cheat at games). If/when this does happen, it will be a win-win situation for everyone involved.
[photo credit: Columbia Records]