Motorola, Cisco enhance guest Wi-Fi with new location-based analytics

Wi-Fi location-based services can help businesses get more out of guest Wi-Fi with a connected customer experience.

Enterprises are using wireless LAN infrastructure to deliver an improved customer experience with guest Wi-Fi services. Certain industries -- like retail and hospitality -- are constantly looking for ways to bring their customers a more targeted, customizable experience while on location.

With new real-time Wi-Fi location-based services, organizations can open up new business opportunities by connecting customers with mobile devices to relevant information and resources based on their surroundings.

Location-based Wi-Fi: Enhancing customer experience on guest Wi-Fi

Cisco Systems Inc. recently introduced an advanced Wi-Fi location data analytics platform, part of its Unified Access offering aimed at providing a more intelligent network for industries, such as retail, travel, hospitality, health care and education, said Sujai Hajela, vice president and general manager of Cisco's Wireless Networking Group.

Cisco's new contextual data analytics technology included in its Mobility Services Engine stems from its recent acquisition of Irish startup ThinkSmart Technologies, a Wi-Fi location data analytics software provider. The ThinkSmart technology -- coupled with partnerships with AT&T for connectivity and Qualcomm on indoor location technology -- is helping enterprises find new business opportunities while providing guest Wi-Fi with a more personalized experience through context-aware infrastructure, Hajela said.

Cisco isn't the only vendor in the wireless networking space making location-based services available to customers. Schaumburg, Ill.-based Motorola Solutions Inc. has also announced its new WiNG 5 Secure Access cloud-based platform for secure guest Wi-Fi for retailers and enterprises, said Sameer Kanagala, Motorola's market development and solutions, Wireless LAN Division.

Motorola's Secure Access can connect guests' smartphones with flexible authentication methods, including Facebook, Google and LinkedIn, while providing encryption to ensure shoppers' connections and transactions are secure.

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Similar to Cisco's technology, the Motorola offering will also provide analytics to their customers for insight into online activity and shopper browsing behaviors, Kanagala said.

The Fernbank Museum of Natural History in Atlanta is using Cisco's Wi-Fi location-based services platform alongside its newly installed AT&T Wi-Fi network. When guests enter the museum, the contextual data analytics technology prompts them to join the museum's AT&T-based guest Wi-Fi network. The network then deploys a free, opt-in Fernbank Museum application for smartphones and tablets -- the Fernbank Meridian app -- said Jennifer Grant Warner, chief programming officer for Fernbank Museum.

The app delivers a "pocket guide" to the museum, Warner said. Guests can find their way around the museum's exhibits, as well as locate amenities like the gift shop, café or restrooms.

"We are really excited about how the app will engage guests and bring alive our exhibitions in new ways," she said. As a guest moves through the museum, the Wi-Fi location-based services can auto load audio, video, touch-screen activities, animation, question-and-answer challenges and sketchbook logs.

Guests aren't the only ones benefiting from a context-aware guest Wi-Fi network. Thanks to the analytics capabilities provided by Cisco, the museum will know how many guests are using the app, and which exhibits they are visiting and staying at the longest, Warner said.

"We have a lot more insight into how people are using the museum, what is attracting them to different areas, and if they are making use of the retail units -- like the gift shop," she said. "From a business standpoint, these are important data points that we haven’t had in the past that will really help with exhibit planning in the future."

Guest Wi-Fi networks giving back to businesses

Location data analytics are changing the way businesses are thinking about wireless networks -- especially guest Wi-Fi, said Peter Jarich, vice president of consumer and infrastructure services for Washington, D.C.-based Current Analysis.

"As networking technology evolves, IT should be thinking past just, 'How do we move people onto a hotspot?'" he said. "The value that vendors have begun bringing to organizations is how to monetize those hotspots."

"Organizations need to provide users with more than just Internet access," Jarich said. "Businesses will be able to benefit from wireless technology that can tell them more about their user base and deliver more experiences."

And Wi-Fi location-based services need to extend past the hospitality industry, Jarich said.

"Many organizations are looking into deploying Wi-Fi -- the question now is what else can you do with it?"

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Gina Narcisi, News Writer and follow @GeeNarcisi on Twitter.

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