Many smartphone users who rely on GPS to get from point A to point B will soon be able to do the same thing in large indoor areas, using Wi-Fi networks and new software developed by Cisco and Qualcomm. But Cisco’s new Wi-Fi location platform is about much more than helping consumers find their way around shopping malls. It’s about helping companies monetize their networks.
“IT folks now have a seat at the table .. they are a business center,” says Prashanth Shenoy, senior marketing manager of Cisco’s wireless networking group. “They are not a cost center anymore. They can impact the top line.”
Cisco hopes to show corporate clients that their Wi-Fi networks can be much more than a convenience provided for customers. Using the company’s Wi-Fi location data analytics platform, airports, museums, malls and other large venues can track visitor movements and purchases in order to deploy staff efficiently and enable tenants to offer coupons to people passing by their stores.
Cisco provides its customers with open APIs and with a software development kit that it says can significantly reduce the time it takes an enterprise to develop an app for its customers. Atlanta’s Fernbank Museum, one of Cisco’s first clients for the Wi-Fi location platform, needed just two weeks to create an app that visitors can download to direct them to exhibits and resources in the museum (like the T-Rex pictured here.) If visitors choose to download the app, they get turn-by-turn directions as well as information about the exhibits.
The software communicates directly with software embedded in Qualcomm’s Snapdragon S4 chipset. The companies say that every new device powered by the Snapdragpon S4 will be able to recognize localized services when in range of Cisco’s Wi-Fi network, and that the Qualcomm chipsets can deliver data in real-time from a distance of 5 to 7 meters.
“One of the other things we are enabling is service discovery,” says Shekhar Somanath, director of product management at Qualcomm Atheros. “The way it operates is on all Android devices [powered by Snapdragon S4] there is a notification system when the handset comes in the vicinity of the venue — you don’t have to be aware of downloading. If a venue has six or seven services they can provide you with the list.”
Somanath adds that no special API is required for service discovery, making it more accessible to businesses that want to use it. That means big companies are not the only ones who can use location services to monetize Wi-Fi networks; smaller ones can also use the service to make offers to visitors in real-time.
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