Knobloch designed Ping for the final project of his Design Products Masters course at the Royal College of Art in London, earlier this year. Ping comprises a number of modules that can be left around an Airbnb home. Wooden casings were chosen to help the modules blend in with people's homes, while the size and red tops of the modules are aimed at helping them to stand out.
Guests can scan the modules using the NFC on their smartphone, or, alternatively, they can enter a URL into their smartphone's browser. Either way, a web page will be loaded providing information about the room in which the module is placed. Knobloch plans to add Bluetooth connectivity to the modules in future for phones that don't have NFC chips.
The first Ping module in a home is intended to be a "welcoming touchpoint." This sits next to the entrance door and incorporates a board on which the host can write Wi-Fi details, so that guests can get immediate access to the internet. The other modules are each meant for a single area or room in a home.
Using those subsequent modules, hosts might provide information about the location of a backdoor key in the kitchen or an explanation about how to use a temperamental shower in the bathroom. Details about the local area, such as attractions, restaurants and cafés, can be provided to help guests make the most of their stay, and the modules can also be used to trigger messaging or voice call communication with a host should the guest have any questions.
There's nothing new about having a welcome pack full of useful information at a hotel or guesthouse, of course, and, in one sense, the need for users to access that information with a smartphone may seem to over-complicate matters. On the other hand, the information can be provided using a variety of formats, like text, images, audio and video, making it possible for detail to be conveyed more clearly and making a stay feel more personal for guests.
At present, the Ping modules do not require active charging, as their NFC chips are charged passively when they are scanned by other NFC devices. The addition of Bluetooth beacons will require charging functionality to be added, but even then Knobloch expects it to be only every few months, or even years.
Knobloch tells New Atlas that Ping is currently in the process of being commercialized, and that beta packages will be handed out to test users later this year.
The video below provides an introduction to Ping.