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Locationing for Fun and Profit – Part 1: Wi-Fi Analytics

By Chris Grundemann, Blog Contributor
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We all know that Wi-Fi is a fantastic way to connect employees and customers to the network without tying them down to a specific location. What you may not know is how to capture location data and put it to use for your business. This is typically called locationing.

More than just a hot trend, locationing is a powerful way to leverage your existing Wi-Fi infrastructure to capture context, spot trends, and generate value for your customers and your company.

Aruba provides several tools to help you take advantage of location data. One of these tools is the Aruba Analytics and Location Engine (ALE). Before we dig into what ALE is and how it works, let’s first explore why you may want to employ locationing in your Wi-Fi networks.

Locationing Use Cases

Location data can be used in many different environments. These include retail, hospitality, airports, malls, stadiums, venues, and even inside your enterprise campus. Regardless of the environment, data from the W-Fi network can be used to provide additional context.

Retail is perhaps the most well-known use case. Here we can glean valuable information about capture rates, dwell times, and repeat versus new visitors. How many people walk by the store, and what percentage come in? How long do they stay? How does this change over time? By answering these questions and more, retailers can quantify the impact of signage, promotions, and even weather on their business.

For malls, we can use Wi-Fi analytics to find the most common paths through the building – and perhaps charge retailers more for storefronts in those paths. More foot traffic for those retails can easily justify the increase in rent for the location.

Beyond retail, locationing allows conference centers to easily provide data on how many folks attended each session. This is especially valuable in a multi-track conference. Rather than using cumbersome scanning devices or best estimates with old-fashioned hand clickers, everyone can be counted quickly and accurately with no extra effort required.

Hospitality is another interesting use case. How great would it be to react to long lines at the front desk with additional staff in real time? Or perhaps you can quickly advertise a promotion when a restaurant, or lobby bar is being underutilized. Keeping customers happy in hospitality is crucial to ensuring repeat business.

Similarly, in an airport, we can use location data to streamline the path from entry to gate by adjusting staffing levels at check-in, security, etc. Airports are already a huge source of frustration for their customers. Every little thing that can be done to reduce wait times offers you the chance to keep them from having a negative outcome for their travels.

Within the enterprise, we can evaluate traffic patterns for workspace optimization. Are specific conference rooms over, or under-utilized? Do you really need to shell out for more space, or can you tweak the existing floorplan? Are conference resources located close to the teams that use them? Or do you find that users move to certain locations regularly? All of these are questions that can be answered with access to location data.

Other interesting uses are smart energy management, SDN enablement, and one of my favorites – location aware security policies!

Aruba Analytics and Location Engine (ALE)

ALE helps you take advantage of the data already in your Aruba Wi-Fi network by decoding that information, aggregating the context, and making it all available via API. Types of information provided include presence, location, proximity, geofence events, application traffic, destination URL, and user and device info. Don’t worry, all personally identifiable information (PII) is anonymized.

While there is a slick dashboard that lets you see this data in real-time, the real value of ALE is in the API feeds. This is because the information ALE provides is most valuable when combined with other data sources to provide deep insights. Business intelligence is all about trends and correlation. ALE takes raw data from AirWave, Mobility Controllers and Instant APs. It then provides the decoded and aggregated context to external services (over a secure WebSocket) for correlation with other sources and integration to databases, etc.

ALE works for sites as small as a couple APs, all the way up to 2,000 APs and 32,000 devices with a single instance. So, what are you waiting for? Get started locationing today!

Follow Chris Grundemann on Twitter @ChrisGrundemann.

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