Ruckus Wireless' new cloud-based Smart Wi-Fi Access Management Service will allow consumer-facing businesses to turn their public wireless networks into recurring revenue streams.
Free guest Wi-Fi has become table stakes for many consumer operations -- such as stadiums and convention centers, retail stores and restaurants. However, location-based Wi-Fi services and analytics are adding a new dimension to wireless LAN deployments. As businesses learn more about their customers through their internet usage and location, they can use that information to create a more tailored experience that can generate revenue.
Ruckus' Smart Wi-Fi Access Management Service (SAMS) will allow businesses to push tailored content -- including daily deals or coupons -- to Wi-Fi users. SAMS can also give IT teams a cloud-based management option for controlling the length and number of sessions and restricting bandwidth consumption.
Cloud-based Wi-Fi management is a common offering from many wireless LAN vendors, but helping businesses monetize their public wireless networks is unique today, said Andre Kindness, senior analyst with Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc. "Services like this are really going to help businesses compete on a different level," he said. "Certain verticals -- like hospitality -- are especially hungry for what Wi-Fi can bring to them, like giving hotel [guests] the ability to order food poolside from their mobile device and being able to know exactly where that person is located."
Simplifying public wireless management
With Ruckus' cloud-based SAMS, IT teams with limited wireless expertise can easily design, customize and remotely manage their wireless hotspots across multiple sites, said Sunnyvale, Calif. based Ruckus. The cloud-based service portal will allow businesses to configure access settings and time limits, customize the registration page and user "journey," and upload any ads or messages they'd like to be displayed, from any location, said Salah Nassar, director of marketing for Ruckus.
Ruckus SAMS will work on the company's Smart Wi-Fi infrastructure, its ZoneFlex access points and with Ruckus' Smart Positioning Technology (SPoT) location services. Ruckus will charge an annual subscription per access point for SAMS.
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Ruckus' first version of its SAMS isn't fully automated yet, and individuals using this service will still have to know a few things about networking -- like what information needs to be entered into the management console. But this is where service providers and value-added resellers can come in, said Craig Mathias, principal at the Ashland, Mass.-based advisory firm Farpoint Group. Smaller businesses -- like a local retailer with a single location -- have the option of deploying SAMS as a managed service.
All wireless LAN administration and service management -- such as branding -- can be done directly from the SAMS cloud-based portal. Businesses -- especially those with limited on-site technical expertise -- can turn to a service provider for help with the access point installation process, or even offload the daily upkeep elements, including website design or what messages get pushed to customers, Nassar said.
ETribeca, LLC, a New York-based systems integrator and Ruckus partner will be rolling out SAMS for some of its business customers when the service becomes generally available in May. "About 18 months ago, we would have seen this [service] as competition, but now I think it's going to make our lives easier for certain customers," said Gary Berzack, chief technology officer and chief operating officer for eTribeca. "We will be able to do the site survey and installation [of the access points] and then hand them the keys," he said.
Businesses profiting from their public wireless networks
Large venues like stadiums, all the way down to small, single-location coffee shops are looking to provide hotspot services, Ruckus' Nassar said. "These businesses are advertising Wi-Fi as a value, and some are using Wi-Fi to collect data about their end customers. We are adding more services on top of our own Wi-Fi infrastructure by providing an easier platform for end users to offer easy-to-manage cloud-based hotspots."
SAMS is providing an easy way for consumer-facing, technically unsophisticated businesses to easily monetize the wireless investment they've already made with Ruckus, Farpoint's Mathias said.
The new Wi-Fi management service will help businesses boost profits using granular data analytics.
Businesses will also be able to sell advertising space on their Wi-Fi, Nassar said. "These services have been historically very expensive and [are] used by only large enterprises, you don't typically see your local mom-and-pop shop provide this kind of service, but [Ruckus] SAMS is lowering that barrier to entry by taking all the technology required to run a hotspot service and offering it as a cloud-based solution," he said.
But while there is demand for being able to monetize the Wi-Fi, larger businesses will most likely show early interest, eTribeca's Berzack said. "The Best Buys and Ikeas might initially see the most benefit from this [service]," he said.