Be honest, I have not used any location-based Check-in service, either Foursquare or its Chinese likers for over 2 months. I don’t know why I should do the check-in, for social networking with strangers around you? No… sending a message to someone who used to be at the same location days ago does not seem an interesting idea; good discount offer? Maybe yes, but unfortunately we do not have many (especially in Chinese market), yet. I am a big fan of location-based service, but for that sort of simple check-in model, sorry I don’t feel it’s durable.

The Chinese check-in services, in general I would say it’s boring. But there are two exceptions so far, one is Jiepang’s NFC trial; another is the Weilingdi, Sina’s check-in service.

1. Integration with Sina weibo

You can sign in Weilingdi with your Sina’s weibo account. When you do the check-in, you can see a list of people you follow or your followers currently around you; and your check-in action could be published on weibo so your followers will see your whereabout. Considering the advantage of Sina’s Weibo’s >10millions users, once Sina decided to heavily promote it, we might see a dramatic growth.

2. Celebrity strategy

in a press release event organized by Sina’s weilingdi, the speaker emphasized that encouraging the celebrities to check in is an important approach for Sina to educate the market and attract more users. You can not only follow where your stars have been to and the celebrities can also give their fans some tasks asking them to do the check-in at certain places.

3. Wifi hotspots

Sina has been talking to several Wifi hotspots service providers to enable the laptop/tablet users to check in via Wifi. When you sit in a cafe and want to surf the internet, you can just open the browser and login with your weibo account in order to get the internet access. As the physical locations of the wifi hot-spots are known, even without GPS you can still be able to link with other weibo users by the locations; and of course, the good offers around your location could be pushed directly to your wifi-enbabled devices too.

4. iCode solution

How to avoid the fake-check-in or spam check-in (users check in a place but they are not physically there) and for the merchants how to easily manage the check-in customers are two most concerned issues for check-in business. Weilingdi is trying to solve them by introducing an aggressive approach: iCode + iCode scanner (picture left). iCode is basically a colorful two dimension code and every Weilingdi user could have an unique one. When you check in at certain place, in order to claim the special offer, you need present the iCode which is generated after you do the check-in to the cashier. The cashier will scan it with a special iCode scanner. As user’s weibo or weilingdi profile can be acquired via the information encoded in iCode, the merchant can manage them on a backend system provided by Sina. It’s said that Sina has started deploying the scanners to thousands of merchants.

iCode, Wifi Hotspots, Celebrities and Weibo, obviously Sina wants to build a super check-in service. Sina has the resource to get the ideas executed, but it’s still too early to say it’s going to be a winning strategy or not as the check-in market is not mature at all. I asked a founder of a Chinese leading check-in service for his opinion, he said that he actually is not worried that much about Sina’s celebrities, Wifi hotspot and iCode solution at this stage.

“Now it’s all about user acquisition, and integration with Sina’s Weibo is of course a key” he said, “with Sina Weibo’s open API, we can also offer the same functions such as listing your weibo friends around your location. But I do hope that Sina can carry on its open strategy as it promised and do not hide anything which is only available for its own Weilingdi.”

Dr. Gang Lu - Founder of TechNode. He's a Blogger, a Geek, a PhD and a Speaker, with passion in Tech, Internet and R'N'R.

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