How Fon is building a social layer on top of Wi-Fi, starting with music

Fon may be known as a community Wi-Fi provider, opening up millions of home routers worldwide to its members. But the company is evolving into a much different animal, using Wi-Fi not just for internet access’s sake but as a powerful presence and social media tool, according to Fon COO Alex Puregger.

On stage at Gigaom’s Structure Connect conference in San Francisco, Puregger showed off Fon’s new Gramofon router, a Wi-Fi access point that pulls double duty as a cloud music player. The device, which started shipping this week, connects to your stereo to pass your Spotify music stream over to your home speakers. Using Facebook authentication, your friends can not only log into your Wi-Fi network but also log into your stereo, playing their own Spotify streams.

Music is just the start, Puregger said. By tying the social graphs of Fon users to their presence – i.e. when they’re logged into a specific hotspot – Fon can build all sorts of contextualized services, Puregger said. As Fon moves out of the home and into small businesses, it could offer hyperlocal advertising and couponing services as well as mobile payments.

The example of music is a powerful one that Puregger kept coming back to. Imagine that all of the customers at a coffee shop or a bar logging into the Wi-Fi network, sharing their music preferences as well. The business could customize its music to the collective tastes of its patrons at any given movement.

Photo by Jakub Mosur

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