The basic paradigm of simple wireless client access is fast becoming a minor part in a Wi-Fi story that gets ever bigger. With mobile device counts still expanding at unparalleled rates, business opportunities built on the premise of “everyone’s got a mobile device, how do we make money off of that?” will continue to drive new services and stretch the definition of the modern WLAN well into the future. For now, we’ve seen two new examples hit in the last month, with Aruba and Aerohive both making announcements.
Monitize Retail Wi-Fi With Aerohive (and Cloud4Wi)
As with competing engagement platforms used in retail spaces, the goal here is to leverage the captive audience of shoppers that connect to store Wi-Fi. For those shoppers who chose to play the game, their shopping habits are the fuel for “an enhanced experience” in the form proximity-based coupons (I’m standing near the shoes, the Wi-Fi/becon system knows this, and up pops a coupon for shoes). The merchant gains ever more customer data under the heading of analytics, increased customer loyalty (hopefully), and if executed right the shopper feels like it’s worth opting in to the ecosystem.
One big win for Aerohive’s retail customers is that the new offering is free, to a certain scale. For no additional costs, you get payment gateway integration and up to 6 couponing campaigns before you jump to a tier that costs $$. Available now.
Aruba Networks Mobile Engagement- Flexibility For Any Venue
Coming in early 2015. Aruba’s own Mobile Engagement platform promises great flexibility for any and all WLAN environments. Back in 2013, Aruba Networks bought indoor location newbie Meridian Networks, and the pending Mobile Engagement platform is an evolution of the Meridian paradigm. Leveraging Aruba’s large WLAN customer base and strong market position along with new tech like Aruba’s own Bluetooth beacons, we’re seeing powerful location-based/enhanced magic that can provide a range of services via push notifications to client devices in sports venues, hospitals, airports, universities, and of course retail settings.
Having done early eval on Meridian, I know that Aruba is well positioned to do big things based on the platform. I was greatly impressed, to say the least.
Engagement: A Big Story That Will Get Much Bigger
Given that we’re really just getting started with what beacons, location services, and related analytics can do, I think we’re in for a pretty interesting ride here. I personally look forward to the day when we’re past the buzzword phase of these systems (Monitize! Incentivize!) and move beyond simply making money off of the mobile masses and figure out how turn the technology loose for public safety, emergency response, and similar more altruistic applications (while balancing it all against the Big Brother effect that comes with this sort of technology).
We certainly haven’t heard the last announcement for Mobile Engagement, by any stretch. You can bet your beacon on that.