A near-me area network (NAN) is a logical communication network that focuses on communication among wireless devices in close proximity.
Unlike local area networks (LANs), in which the devices are in the same network segment and share the same broadcast domain, the devices in a NAN can belong to different proprietary network infrastructures (for example, different mobile carriers). So, even though two devices are geographically close, the communication path between them might, in fact, traverse a long distance, going from a LAN, through the Internet, and to another LAN. NAN applications focus on two-way communications among people within a certain proximity to each other, but don't generally concern themselves with those people’s exact locations.
The Internet employs many different types of communication networks. A local area network (LAN) covers a small geographic area, such as a school or company; a metropolitan area network (MAN) usually spans a larger area, such as a city or state, whereas a wide area network (WAN) provides communication in a broad geographic area covering national and international locations. Personal area networks (PANs) are wireless LANs with a very short range (up to a few meters), enabling computer devices (such as PDAs and printers) to communicate with other nearby devices and computers. Due to the increasing popularity of location-enabled (or GPS-enabled) mobile devices (e.g., iPhone and Android phones), a new type of communication network is emerging — the near-me area network (NAN).
Examples of applications
Some services are meaningful only to a group of people in close proximity, which has generated the need for NANs. The following scenarios show some example NAN applications:
- Ben is going to the ABC supermarket to buy three bottles of red wine. The supermarket offers a 30 percent discount on the purchase of six bottles, so he sends a message to other customers to see if they would like to buy the other three bottles of wine.
- Susan bought a movie ticket 15 minutes ago, but she now feels dizzy and can’t watch the film. She sends out messages to people around the cinema to see if anyone will purchase her ticket at 50 percent off.
- In a theme park, guests would like to know each ride’s queue status to reduce their waiting time. So, they take a photo of the queue they’re in and share it with other guests through a NAN application.
- Ann works at Causeway Bay and would like to find someone to have lunch with. She checks her friend list to see who is closest to her at this moment and invites that friend to join her.
- Carol just lost her son in the street, so she sends out his picture, which is stored in her mobile device, to passers-by to see if they can find him.