Can quality Wi-Fi thwart showrooming ?

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During a recent home improvement project, it felt like I was residing at the local Lowes and Home Depot stores. What I have noticed is that both stores have invested heavily in Wi-Fi for both the shopper as well as operations.

While exploring the finer points of drywall and tile, my eye was drawn to the wireless cameras and in-store PoS devices. Also of note, were new Wi-Fi enabled kiosks that you can use to find the location of almost anything, even a 15" Jerky Gun (no really – link).

The stores also made logging in to the Wi-Fi guest network simple. Both stores asked me to click on an Acceptable Usage Agreement and I was connected. Creating barriers to access turns users off, so I've noticed a shift where retailers are allowing a social login such as Facebook or GooglePlus.

Either method verifies that I am a human being, and stops a device from automatically gaining access. It may not prevent a user from abusing the network, but in most cases it's about convenience and legal compliance.

The interesting thing is that the kiosks, PoS devices, wireless cameras and guest access all looked to share common infrastructure. Its clear that these stores have made these investments to make showroom visits work for them, not against.

I have to hope that these stores are providing this connectivity in a secure, cost efficient fashion – for PCI reasons you don't want the in-store guest Wi-Fi being used to hack the payment system. So can you provide quality Wi-Fi and make it secure? Segmentation goes beyond VLANS. There is a point where we want each transaction to have its own VPN connection, but in reality we have to accept that infrastructure will be shared. In providing the guest access over the same Wi-Fi infrastructure I hope they are segmenting the users not only from the common enterprise elements but from one another.

Sharing can be bad for business, done poorly.