Aerohive Networks has integrated its Wi-Fi access points with Radius Networks' iBeacon-based technology to boost...
Many wireless vendors offer Wi-Fi-based locationing services, but those services rely on an end user joining the Wi-Fi network. Aerohive's cloud-managed Wi-Fi equipped with Radius' proximity beacons allows a network to offer location-based services to mobile device users who don't join the network. Also, beacon-based technology is more accurate than Wi-Fi-based locationing and tracking services, which allows network operators to be more precise with the location-based services they push to users. Consumer-facing businesses -- especially those in the retail market -- want to give users a more personalized experience that is easy to opt into.
"A lot of these retail environments can potentially deliver an onslaught of information [to the user], to the point where it can be a little overwhelming," said Bill Hoppin, vice president of business development for Aerohive. "This incremental opt-in method through iBeacon can enable retailers to tailor these experiences and create [a way] to engage customers that is relevant and appropriate, and not irritating."
Aerohive access points now support iBeacon technology
The partnership between Aerohive and Radius combines Aerohive's cloud-managed Wi-Fi infrastructure with Radius' RadBeacon proximity Bluetooth beacons -- which are powered by iBeacon and AltBeacon, a technology developed by Radius that allows Android clients to interact with Bluetooth beacons. Enterprises typically buy standalone Bluetooth beacons from Radius to build a proximity-based network, but now the technology can be embedded into Aerohive access points enabled with powered USB ports.
Aerohive's entire portfolio of access points, as well as its branch router -- the BR200 -- now supports Radius' RadBeacon. The Aerohive access points -- which can be bolstered with small, Radbeacon Bluetooth chips -- will act as Bluetooth sensors. IT organizations can manage these Bluetooth sensors through Aerohive's cloud-based Personal Engagement Platform, which analyzes network and application usage. And network administrators can manage the entire wireless LAN and all beacons through one console, via the cloud, Hoppin said.
"Having [AltBeacon and] iBeacon technology be part of the access point technology on the ceiling is helping to deliver on this promise of a personal engagement platform," he said. "The access point becomes more than just a means of connecting devices. It becomes a sensor or initiator of signals about their environment that can be used to tailor experiences."
The integrated products will appeal to healthcare and education organizations and especially useful retailers as a way to interact with consumers, said Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst at ZK Research, based in Westminster, Mass.
IBeacon technology relies on users opening a mobile application, typically an application offered by the enterprise that operates the network. As consumers enter and move around a store, their devices' proximity to an iBeacon will trigger information to be sent to them. "[Store] apps can be synced with iBeacon technology, and this method puts all the power into the app, which gives the user more of an opportunity to opt-in or opt-out," said Don Stroberg, chief operating officer for Radius Networks.
IBeacon technology could help retailers reach their customers
Even though Bluetooth technology offers a more precise user location -- within inches -- than Wi-Fi based location services, iBeacons haven't been widely adopted due to management difficulties the technology presents, said Andre Kindness, senior analyst for Forrester Research, based in Cambridge, Mass. In the past, businesses have had to manually adjust each sensor with a scanner to change its settings and policies.
"One of the things that Aerohive and Radius brings to the table is simplified cloud management, which solves a huge headache -- especially if you're a large retailer with many locations, you don't want to have to change [each sensor] manually," Kindness said.
Beacon technology is also immune to attempts to block location-based technology, such as Apple's recent decision to randomize MAC addresses in iOS 8. Wi-Fi driven location-based services attempt to triangulate a device's location, which relies on MAC addresses. Beacon technology relies only on proximity, so the technology can deliver the right information to its users.
"There are less people walking into stores now, and most come in having already researched certain products and are armed with information before entering. To stay alive, [retailers] need technology to get them closer to their customer and offer exactly what their customer wants," Kindness said.
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