Checking in is a hassle.
As a fun experiment, I spent a few evenings with a friend Ian and created stumble!to, a service that ties online presence to real-world objects. Users create an account, link their Foursquare (or other location-based social networking) profile, then enter the MAC Address of their phone, laptop, or other wifi device. A small script runs on the wireless router at a business with wifi watching for who's connected, and as soon as you walk in the door and associate with the network, you're instantly checked in.
The service has been running at Metrix Create Space in Seattle for over 9 months and works great.
Recently, another friend Casey started playing around with Nike+iPod shoe sensors. Sold as low-cost wireless pedometers, the sensors transmit a unique identifier making it possible to use them for identification. I integrated his work into stumble!to, so checking into Foursquare at Metrix is now as easy as tapping your feet.
ReadWriteWeb published a great summary of the project, including interesting suggestions of commercial possibilities:
For the end user, the experience could be simple: it would only be a matter of registering an account with Stumble.to and associating their preferred services with their keychain sensor. Afterwards, they could continue to enjoy the features of location-based apps, like the discounts, mobile coupons, tips, reviews and other rewards, without having to actually having to perform a manual check-in on their phone.
Another interesting side note: Stumble.to has a "check out" feature too, meaning it can calculate the time you spend at a venue. Although no location-based service tracks this metric today, it could be implemented in future iterations to discourage the so-called drive-by check-ins (those where the user checks in as they pass a venue, often while driving, in order to get the points or rewards in a given location-based game like Foursquare). A service could perhaps dole out morepoints or better rewards to those who actually stayed put for awhile instead of those who were just cruising by.
The goal of stumble!to was to create a generic platform that anyone could use to enhance their home, office, or business. If you're interested, check out the API documentation as well as Casey's Nike+ how-to guide.