THE SHARD, LONDON: Enterprise wireless LAN vendor Aruba is turning to beacon technology in an effort to persuade its many thousands of big-name business customers to provide interactive and personalised mobile services and benefit from what it claims is a potential “multi-million dollar industry”.
Unveiling its Mobile Engagement kit to journalists at the top of London’s Shard – the highest building in western Europe and itself a customer of Aruba – the company talked of a huge untapped market waiting for Aruba and its customers.
Having established itself as a major player in providing wireless LAN access within stadia, hotels, airports, hospitals and retail outlets, Aruba’s chief marketing officer Greg Murphy claims the company’s customers are now wanting to create “tighter and more intimate relationships with their users”.
“There’s very little personalisation in physical bricks and mortar but we can change that,” he said. “We can take this to a much more intimate and useful area for the customer.”
The Mobile Engagement kit works with Aruba’s installed Wi-Fi access points and is powered by its low-energy Bluetooth beacons. Customers opt-in to receive notifications once they are within 1-2 metres of a beacon, with content delivered via apps or mobile browser (provided by secure Aruba technology).
Murphy demoed the technology using a beacon installed on a wall (pictured left) in the Shard, giving the example of a businessman arriving in a hotel reception and facing a long queue at check-in. When in range of the beacon, the businessman can check-in to his hotel room via the hotel app, and can also use the app to open his hotel room door (as long as a beacon is also in range of the door).
Another example of how Aruba’s technology is improving the customer experience was showcased via its work at the Levi’s Stadium, home to the San Francisco 49ers American Football team. Murphy described the 68,500 seater stadium as “by far the most technologically-advanced stadium in the world”. Aruba worked with switching vendor Brocade to deliver exclusive content, venue information and services to fans.
Some 18,000 spectators used Wi-Fi technology during the first game it was offered, transferring 3.3 terabytes of data. Location-based services were powered by 1,200 Aruba beacons and included the provision of directions from the car park to a fan’s seat (once the user has been advised of available car parking spaces), as well as the ability to order food via a mobile device with the food then sent to the fan’s nearest food outlet when ready. “We can even offer the ability for stadium visitors to find their nearest toilet with the shortest queue,” quipped Murphy.
“This is about giving companies the ability to increase sales, offer better customer care, and provide incentives to users,” the executive added.
Murphy declined to disclose exact pricing for the beacons, stating that they would be priced “very aggressively” compared to rival offerings. “It’ll be a fraction of the price of one of our wireless access points,” he said.
And he was keen to play down any security and privacy concerns. “The beacon itself is not gathering information. And everything is opt-in – triple opt-in, in fact” (the user has to download an app, and then go through at least two further approval processes).
As well as the Levi’s stadium and the Shard, Murphy also gave examples of the technology being used at the American Museum of Natural History, Nebraska Furniture Mart stores as well as the University of Cambridge.
He told Mobile World Live that of all the vertical enterprise sectors Aruba works with, retailers are showing the most interest in the new technology. Murphy’s next task is to convince Aruba’s tens of thousands of business customers across all verticals that there is serious revenue to be made from personalised marketing and services.