Why location-based services are set to transform business

Imagine being prompted to join a high-speed Wi-Fi network at a hospital. You install and open a healthcare app on your smartphone. The app automatically completes your check-in and confirms your appointment. Based on your mobile device’s location, your mobile app opens a map of the facility, providing directions to your doctor’s consultation room.

After the doctor’s examination, the app guides you to the pharmacy. Beacons placed at the pharmacy detect your entry and trigger a mobile app that notifies the hospital of your arrival. You then receive your queue number and estimated waiting time via the app. Waiting time is short since the operations department monitors Wi-Fi analytics to ensure adequate staff working on prescriptions during peak hours in the pharmacy.

This example illustrates the changing customer experience in businesses not only in healthcare but also across industries. A shopper may use traditional mapping info to find the nearest store that sells a specific product and beacon sensors installed at the store’s aisles help to locate the product by transmitting data to the shopper’s compatible mobile device.

Indeed, both Wi-Fi technology and beacons that transmit data to enabled devices using Bluetooth low energy (BLE) technology are enriching indoor location technology.

Wi-Fi, BLE, beacons

Now, 802.11ac Wi-Fi access points (APs) that build in BLE beacon technology can be integrated seamlessly into any standard WLAN deployment for a future-ready BLE beacon-enabled network.

While Wi-Fi provides the wireless connectivity, analytics and holistic information, beacons provide the granular, micro-location mapping.

When businesses connect consumers or guests to a Wi-Fi network, they can gather aggregate macro-location data such as the number of visitors entering a venue or who connected to the network and their average dwell time.

On the other hand, beacon technology, along with apps that provide the two-way communication, engage customers or visitors based on a more precise micro-location within the venue; or provide an indoor navigation experience with more accurate pinpointing of a device’s location.

For example, integrated BLE technology and iBeacon, Apple’s technology standard, allow both BLE-enabled iOS and Android mobile apps to listen for signals from beacons, which trigger delivery of contextual content to users based on their micro-location.

Strategically, technologies like WiFi integrated BLE and iBeacon lay the foundation for a new approach to location-based services (LBS) that facilitate active customer engagement and business process improvement.

Personal attention

Beacons enhance location capabilities and enable businesses to more actively engage on-site visitors and customers

Visitors’ devices hear the periodic advertisements broadcast by the beacons over BLE and initiate opt-in location services, such as a push notification on a smartphone or indoor navigation assistance.

Applications such as iBeacon and other location services are supported on 802.11 APs such as Cisco’s Meraki MR32 and MR72 and Cisco Hyperlocation Module for Cisco Aironet 3700 or 3600 Series, which integrate a Bluetooth radio.

They allow organizations to:

  • Acquire new contacts and retain existing ones by engaging visitors who enter a venue, via their mobile devices
  • Increase sales by providing visitors with content and promotional offers that match their preferences and location
  • Improve visitor experiences by simplifying mobile guest connectivity

Cisco’s Connected Mobile Experience (CMX) solution uses the wireless infrastructure to let businesses detect, connect and engage customers, and plan personalized, third-party advertising and up-sell campaigns. Data gathered by APs can be used to assess the effect of campaigns on visitor traffic; dwell time; and repeat visits over a specific period.

Better business processes

Understanding of mobile traffic and device location patterns also allow businesses to improve operational efficiency.

For instance, a retailer could enhance product placements, improve floor layouts, and boost staff effectiveness by using location analytics to better estimate customer movement patterns in a store.

Airports needing to differentiate arriving from departing passengers can be deduced by understanding the order of movement between the air-side and land-side areas of the terminal. Common paths that travelers take in airport terminals or transportation hubs can be monitored to predict movement behavior during journey delays and cancellations. These capabilities streamline efficiency and avoid congestion.

In large venues, opt-in way-finding applications provide interactive maps that help customers and visitors find what they need more quickly.

Emerging in-venue, location-based sharing capabilities allow visitors or audiences at a museum, concert hall or sports venue, for example, to view and share an exhibit, performance or event on social media. In turn, businesses can measure their reactions and behavior in real time.

LBS influence

IDC has identified the expansion of LBS in the retail industry as a major industry disruption that will emerge in 2015. By 2016, the top 150 retailers globally will improve ROI on hyper-personal loyalty based on unified customer engagement, according to Leslie Hand, vice president of IDC Retail Insights.

“With location-based services and analytics, businesses are looking beyond pure connectivity to how the wireless infrastructure enables them to do things differently, get insights and gain efficiencies that were not possible before,” says Mark Krischer, senior consultant of Enterprise Networks for Asia Pacific and Japan at Cisco.

“What is interesting is the technology mix today,” says ABI Research senior analyst Patrick Connolly. “We are seeing growth across all major technologies, including BLE, Wi-Fi, and audio, with 2015 being an important year for handset-based location, sensor fusion, magnetic field, and LED.”

“Business that don’t start to embrace and use this type of technology to engage with their customers differently and with greater intimacy will be disintermediated,” adds Dave West, CTO of Asia Pacific and Japan at Cisco. “Where we are going with location-based services will transform not only businesses’ opportunity to engage differently with the customer but also the customers’ ability to engage and influence the business.”

This is a QuestexAsia feature commissioned by Cisco.