We all need to admit it, looking for free WiFi coverage in a city as big as Tokyo can be very difficult. This is why NTT, one of Japan’s top mobile carriers, and navigation service provider Navitime Japan have put out an augmented reality (AR) app that makes free WiFi in Japan easier to find. The app is called “Navitime for Japan Travel” and is now available as a free app for iOS and Android devices. The app points its users to nearby free WiFi hotspots using an offline database that accesses location data. It also displays locations of other facilities which may have wireless connectivity such as restaurants and cafes.
Augmented reality refers to technologies where a live view of one’s environment – usually through a smartphone’s camera – is overlayed with graphics, text, and other useful information. In navigation apps, AR typically overlays mapping information over live images on your screen. Within Navitime Japan’s app, the camera is used to provide a live image of the environment, and information will be overlaid with the distance to a destination – ostensibly a place where free WiFi is available. AR is certainly helpful for tourists in a city like Tokyo where there can be dozens of shops and none of the signs available are in English. When close enough to the destination, the Navitime for Japan Travel app – using an arrow and distance in meters – can help tourists look for the right building or business where there’s free WiFi.
Looking forward to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, this app would certainly be a great help for tourists who from time and again would need internet connectivity. In reality, there are tens of thousands of free WiFi spots in Japan’s urban areas, but it is totally another matter trying to find them. The app is currently able to show a majority of these WiFi spots, a boon for travelers who need to be connected. The app lists thousands of Hikari Station LANs, WiFi spots run by NTT East which require registration. The app also lists some 10,000 Freespot free Wi-Fi services provided by Buffalo, and 1,000 Starbucks coffee shops with free WiFi.