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Radar, which stands for RAdio Detection And Ranging, started with experiments by the German physicist Heinrich Hertz in the late 19th century. The experiments showed radio waves were reflected by metallic objects. The discovery led to widely used detection systems which use radio waves to determine the range, angle, and velocity of objects. Radar can detect aircraft, ships, spacecraft, guided missiles, motor vehicles, weather formations, and terrain.

Wifigen, a technology startup company, has developed a technique to use WiFi as a detection system in small retail establishments such as coffee shops, cafes, or small hotels. The Wifigen technology does two things. First, if a new customer walks into Jane’s Cafe and looks at their smartphone WiFi setting, they see Jane’s Cafe. When they click on it, a welcome page appears and allows the customer to enter his or her email address in return for the free WiFi. If the customer had been in Jane’s Cafe before, the page says Welcome back! Having the email address enables Jane to use Wifigen tools to better understand how many people are using the free WiFi. She can also send marketing emails thanking customers for their business, making special offers, and telling them about another Cafe which Jane owns across town.

The newest feature of Wifigen is the ability to see how many customers in the Cafe are not using the free WiFi. The Wifigen “radar” sees the devices in a purse or pocket. It does not know who the smartphone owners are, but it knows they walked in. The technology is called foot count. This is great for Jane. If she learns there are a significant number of people who come into the Cafe but do not use WiFi, she can address the opportunity. For example, she could put an invitation on a poster on the wall or on the menu saying something like, “Welcome to Jane’s Cafe. Please feel free to take advantage of our free WiFi. Go to your settings and click on Jane’s Cafe.”

A test of the new technology is underway at Cocoon Coffee House in Hawley, Pennsylvania. Wifigen is currently raising investment funds to expand its operations to more locations. Wifigen is using the SEC-approved Wefunder.com crowdfunding platform. Learn more at wefunder.com/wifigen.

Cocoon Coffee House, Hawley, Pennsylvania.