Managing mobile devices is an increasingly daunting task for many organizations, as needs evolve from basic app and content management to protecting data and networks, setting granular policy configurations, meeting compliance standards, and managing user identity. As demands on IT teams increase, device management products like Cisco Meraki Systems Manager have evolved to include the capabilities needed to support the full cycle of device management.
The term Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) has been used to describe a new evolution of mobility management – those that provide policy and configuration management tools for applications and content. In today’s market, there are many EMM products, and organizations may find it difficult to compare functionality and features between competitive offerings.
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This is the fourth in a series of blog posts that focus on wireless security and technology at Cisco Meraki.
Wireless networks underpin most of our day-to-day activities, all while sharing the same relatively small frequency spectrum. As such, the protocols that dictate how these networks work are exceptionally polite by design, and for good reason. This is because wireless networks, like humans, are half-duplex, meaning only one station or person can talk at anyone time.
However, this politeness can also be used against such networks by potential “bad actors.” This post will detail how Cisco Meraki access points help our users’ networks from being excessively impacted by such malicious (intentional or otherwise) devices.
How can broadcasting be bad?
You may be asking “why would a network broadcast be a bad thing? On my wired network, protocols use broadcasts all the time,” and you would be correct that broadcasts are seldom a problem on the wired side of network (but not always). However, as we have previously discussed, wireless is a shared access medium, so if someone was continually talking (packet flood discussed below), we would have to wait for them to stop. More importantly, when an access point transmits to a client on a wireless network, it has to transmit at a speed that the client can understand. For a broadcast frame, this speed is actually the slowest supported data rate of the BSSID and is often a basic data rate.
This means that when transmitting broadcast (and management) traffic, the access point can only talk as fast as the slowest data rate at which the BSSID will accept a client association. If the default settings for minimum bit rate have not been changed, then an access point will send the broadcast frames out at up to 150 times slower than it could do (though this isn’t something Meraki recommends).
This can render the 802.11 network unusable, as the access points are always busy transmitting or waiting for the malicious broadcast traffic (if another AP or client is broadcasting). This behavior is often weaponized by bad actors into a DoS attack against wireless networks.
Meraki APs help minimize excessive broadcast traffic from entering the wireless medium from the wired network by enabling Proxy ARP. This means that an access point currently serving a wireless client responds to an ARP request from the wired portion of a network on behalf of the wireless client, which would have otherwise been sent as a broadcast.
Additionally, Air Marshal can alert Meraki network administrators to malicious broadcast traffic that has been seen by the access points in their network, as shown below:
Then, the administrator can investigate the local environment to ascertain and mitigate the source of the malicious broadcasts.
What is a packet flood?
In a similar manner to misusing broadcast traffic, a client or AP could send out large amounts of 802.11 management (beacon, association, and authentication) frames, knowing that an access point is bound by protocol to process and, where appropriate, respond to them. This is akin to an inquisitive toddler peppering their parent with questions, without waiting for a response, over and over again.
As any teacher or parent will know, working in this kind of environment requires either the patience of a saint or the unconditional love of a parent. Alas, for 802.11 networks, access points, whilst being very polite, lack both of these things! As such, when a client behaves in this manner, it is detrimental to the performance of the overall wireless network in much the same way as excessive broadcast traffic.
As with malicious broadcast traffic, Air Marshal will alert the administrator that the access points within their network are seeing this potentially nasty behavior and display the frame type, as shown below:
Then, the administrator can investigate the local environment to ascertain and mitigate the source of the malicious broadcasts.
Other things to consider…
Finally, one other type of network-level transmission that can cause issues in 802.11 networks is multicast traffic. Unlike wired networks, wireless networks typically send multicast traffic flows over the wireless medium as broadcast traffic. In order to alleviate this potential issue, Meraki access points enable IGMP by default. This has the effect of converting the multicast stream into (potentially multiple) unicast transmissions that are likely to be transmitted at much higher speeds.
This is essential in classroom environments, where students could be watching a multicast HD video stream as illustrated above.
Similar to the “evil twin” attack discussed in the previous blog post, there is nothing that can be done to mitigate these risks while still complying with the 802.11 network standard. However, the power of the Meraki dashboard and access points provide instant visibility into threats in an organization.
For more information on Air Marshal and spoofs please see the following additional references:
In a rural public school district in Honesdale, Pennsylvania, Scott Miller, Director of Technology, had a vision: to set up a 1:1 iPad initiative for his students, flip his district’s classrooms, and ensure that every child had the same access to technology no matter their economic background. With a 1:1 initiative, the Wayne Highlands School District IT team knew they could improve student engagement, understanding, and enthusiasm with personalized learning, peer interactions, and new communication methods. But with more than 20,000 students supported by a 10-year-old network, how could Scott make that vision a reality?
With chalkboards and hand-written essays, cramping hands and tired eyes were all too common in schools of yesteryear. But classrooms today are tasked with providing a different learning experience — one that incorporates technology in all aspects to enable more impactful lessons, easier peer review, and new ways of understanding traditional topics. Hector Reyna, CTO at Socorro Independent School District knew this was a priority, but when his district started to explore implementing a 21st-century learning model, complete with digital literacy, collaboration, and problem solving tools, they discovered that their access points and underlying network were not going to make the cut. How was Hector going to provide the foundation for the education his students needed to thrive in today’s digital world?
From four schools in 2013 to 13 by the end of 2018, Ascend Public Charter Schools has rapidly expanded over the last five years to accommodate more teachers, more students, and more opportunities for learning. But the growing pains from exponential expansion quickly became a reality — each school had its own network, with different vendors, separate controllers, and slow VPN connections. The mythical wireless coverage was practically useless, making it hopeless for teachers to conduct digital lessons and preventing students from participating in digital curriculum. Managing Director of Technology, Emeka Ibekweh, knew he needed to consolidate all of the schools’ networks into one and provide adequate coverage, but with what budget?
IT leaders at K-12 schools across the United States face a similar challenge: to provide the best learning experiences for students, even with aging infrastructure and limited technology budget. Although this challenge is unlikely to fade in the short-term, IT leaders can address it today. All three of these schools were able to make their networking dreams become a reality with E-rate funding. With funds received through the E-rate program, Wayne Highlands deployed a reliable network to support a 1:1 device program, Socorro implemented district-wide wireless to provide equal access for all of his students; and Ascend rolled out a full network refresh to simplify network management.
As we mentioned earlier this week in our latest launch blog post, we’re thrilled to announce some new features that are coming soon toall Cisco Meraki wireless customers: Wireless Health and RF Profiles (including customizable Rx-SOP settings, which help mitigate co-channel interference in high-density environments).
These features are critical for today’s wireless deployments. We increasingly depend on wireless for our network connection, so it’s imperative that administrators have insights into end users’ experience. It’s also paramount that wireless settings be quickly tailored to different coverage scenarios and that these settings can be pushed across a number of APs.
Wireless Health helps IT teams verify that client devices can access the network as expected and that they have a fast, reliable experience. It does this by looking at all the steps necessary to provide a seamless experience — from associating to an AP, to network authentication, to obtaining an IP address, to hostname resolution via DNS — and displays metrics and anomaly data about each. This allows network administrators to rapidly identify where in this chain of events something is going wrong and to more quickly remedy the issue.
Wireless Health illuminates problematic steps in a client’s path to network connectivity.
There are many, many root causes of problematic connectivity. Among other things, authentication failures can happen when client credentials aren’t accepted by a RADIUS server, when the wrong pre-shared key is used for a given wireless network, or when a misconfiguration or an overloaded server prevents requests from getting through. DHCP failures can occur when a client device doesn’t receive an IP address — either because the DHCP server fails to respond or because there are no more available addresses to hand out. DNS failures can happen if a DNS server doesn’t respond to a client request for hostname resolution. And finally, success is measured not only by whether a client can successfully connect to a network, but also by whether that client can then pass traffic — so Wireless Health also details traffic failure rates.
Once a client has successfully connected, Wireless Health displays detailed metrics about network latency, identifying which types of traffic are showing performance problems at various thresholds of performance (measured in milliseconds).
Quickly identify which types of network traffic are experiencing the worst latency problems.
Network administrators can drill down and get granular metrics on latency across their network at the AP level and at the device type level, helping them quickly identify the worst-performing APs and clients.
Latency at the AP level.
Latency by client device type.
These metrics and anomalies are synthesized into a holistic, network-level view that allows administrators to quickly identify networks with problems that require attention.
Wireless Health provides network-level statistics on latency and connectivity.
Each wireless network is a snowflake: it faces its own unique coverage challenges, configuration, and design — no two are exactly alike. It’s common for IT administrators to deploy several APs configured for a specific RF scenario (for example, a large, crowded auditorium) in one location, while needing to configure networked APs elsewhere for a different RF profile (like a small lobby or guest area). The radio settings for these two groups of APs can look quite different even though all of the access points are on the same network.
Enter RF Profiles. This feature allows network administrators to easily customize RF characteristics by deployment and manage diverse MR installations through the configuration of templated radio settings. These settings (which comprise a profile) can then be applied, en masse, to groups of APs. RF Profiles will include predefined templates for typical auditoriums, open offices, and outdoor coverage scenarios to help IT quickly configure wireless settings for maximum performance.
RF Profiles allows radio settings to be easily deployed to all the APs applied a given profile.
The radio settings that can be configured within a given RF Profile include:
Dual band and single band support for both 5 GHz and 2.4 GHz radios
Minimum mandatory data rates
Minimum and maximum transmit (TX) power levels
Receive sensitivity via Rx-SOP/CCA (801.11ac Wave 2 only)
RF Profiles includes a new setting that can be configured: Rx-SOP (Receive Start of Packet). Rx-SOP helps mitigate co-channel interference (when two or more radios use the same channel) in extremely dense environments by allowing an AP to disregard transmissions that do not meet a specified signal strength threshold.
In high density environments with many client devices trying to connect to a wireless network, IT admins typically deploy more APs to increase overall capacity. But adding more APs introduces interference, since the odds that two APs within earshot of each other use the same channel increases. By ignoring signals that don’t meet a certain threshold strength, Rx-SOP allows an AP to ignore clients on neighboring access points who are using the same channel — mitigating their ability to interfere.
RF Profiles (including RX-SOP) will be rolled out as a free and seamless update for all Meraki wireless customers sometime near the end of February of this year. Wireless Health will also be rolled out as a free update for all wireless customers, and a generally available beta will make its debut next month.
As always, we’re keen to hear your thoughts and feedback, so please drop us a line on social media or leave a comment in our Meraki Community. You can also check out our wireless webinars or visit us at meraki.cisco.com for more information.
As we mentioned earlier this week in our latest launch blog post, we are thrilled to announce a slew of new wireless access points (APs) and antennas that will be orderable and will begin shipping February 13th, 2018. Let’s dig a little deeper into the details and use cases of each.
Indoor access points with external antennas
In the wireless world, one-sized coverage does not fit all indoor scenarios. Although our access points easily satisfy the coverage needs of many — if not most — indoor wireless deployments, they come with built-in omni-directional antennas that can’t always satisfy the requirements of specific situations: high-density auditoriums or stadiums, focused coverage down long hallways, or warehouses with high, 25-foot-and-beyond ceilings, for example. For these situations, indoor APs with specialized antennas are required.
With this in mind, we’re thrilled to announce the addition of two new, indoor access points that support external antennas to the Meraki MR portfolio: the MR53E and MR42E.
The MR53E (left) and the MR42E (right) wireless access points.
Both are 802.11ac Wave 2 access points leveraging the traditional Meraki quad-radio architecture: a 2.4 GHz radio, a 5 GHz radio, a dedicated dual-band radio for security scanning and automatic RF optimization, and a dedicated Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) radio. The MR53E delivers a 4×4:4-stream MU-MIMO architecture and support for multigigabit — with dual-aggregate radio speeds up to 2.5 Gbps. The MR42E has a 3×3:3-stream architecture with a dual-aggregate radio speeds up to 1.9 Gbps.
The MR53E is ideal for high-density deployments that require the utmost levels of performance or that are mission critical in nature. Think: critical care hospitals, stadiums, lecture halls, auditoriums. The MR53E will deliver the highest quality indoor RF coverage because its extra radio chain offers better signal strength, resulting in higher throughput and message integrity. The MR53E also offers extra flexibility and future-proofing with multigigabit support for the highest throughput over existing cabling — which saves money and time in the long run.
The MR42E is ideal for more average-density, general-purpose wireless installations that require focused coverage (e.g. down long hallways) or the flexibility of external antennas, which allow an AP to be repurposed for different wireless scenarios since you can purchase the right antennas for the new coverage map you are deploying.
To support these APs, we’ve designed six new antenna families, most of which have smart technology allowing the MR53Es and MR42Es to automatically detect and classify the antennas — eliminating the need for manual configuration and guaranteeing the automatic selection of compliant transmit (Tx) power. Depending on the family, there may be options to buy packs of one, five, or six antennas — or else to purchase antennas with either five or six connectors.
New Meraki antennas for the MR53E and MR42E access points.
The new antenna options include:
Straight and bendable dipole antennas for omnidirectional coverage
Panel omnidirectional antennas for low-ceiling installations where aesthetics matter
Panel downtilt omnidirectional for higher (25 feet or above) ceilings and medium-density deployments
Wide patch antennas for wide angles of coverage in medium-density scenarios
Narrow patch antennas for very high-density environments like stadiums and auditoriums or for deployments requiring narrowly-focused coverage (i.e., down hallways).
Basic indoor wireless and rapid outdoor deployments
Some installations require wireless coverage for a small number of devices, where there are no plans to leverage location-aware services that require mobile app integrations and Bluetooth. For these customers, we’re excited to announce two new access points, the MR70 and MR20.
The MR70 (left) and the MR20 (right) wireless access points.
These APs are designed for lower density deployments, and have neither the dedicated third scanning/security radio nor the dedicated Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) radio found in our other APs. This means that security and RF scanning are opportunistic — i.e., when the AP is not communicating with clients, and there is no support for BLE-based app integration. However, both the MR70 and the MR20 support Meraki’s built-in wireless Location Analytics.
The MR70 sports a 2×2:2-stream MU-MIMO architecture designed for those looking to rapidly deploy ruggedized wireless outdoors. Thanks to its integrated omnidirectional antennas (it does not support external antennas), the MR70 can be deployed quickly in the field. The MR70 supports Meraki’s self-healing, automatic mesh capability and is IP67-rated for dust, moisture, shock, and vibration.
The MR20 is an indoor model designed for basic, very low-density wireless coverage. It also sports a 2×2:2-stream MU-MIMO architecture, and, like the MR70, supports only opportunistic security and RF scanning. It’s ideal for SOHO and ultra-small business networks which service around twenty or fewer clients and that want the visibility and control of the Meraki dashboard, but are interested primarily in basic wireless coverage.
These new APs and antennas round out our robust portfolio of wireless access points, and enable IT administrators to make smart hardware decisions that fit the needs of specific deployments — whether entry-level or extremely challenging. Please check out our wireless webinars or visit us at meraki.cisco.com for more information. As always, we’re keen to hear your thoughts and feedback, so please drop us a line on social media or leave a comment in our Meraki Community.
Wireless is now the de facto method of joining networks, and as the number of mobile devices requiring access has skyrocketed, IT admins must make smart choices about coverage and capacity. Essentially, they must have the options available to select the right hardware for a given scenario — a one-size-fits-all omnidirectional coverage solution for indoor deployments is no longer tenable. The coverage needs of a high-density indoor stadium deployment servicing ten thousand guests differ drastically from those of a basic wireless network for a small business employing fifteen people.
And no matter which scenario a wireless network falls into, having more visibility and insight into issues relating to client association, latency, and capacity are always welcome.
With this in mind, we are thrilled to announce a new tool in the Meraki dashboard, Wireless Health, as well as a slew of new wireless APs, antennas and accessories that will round out our product portfolio and deliver more flexibility for our customers to select the type of coverage they need for a given deployment.
We will be deep-diving into these new products and features in follow-up blog posts over the coming days.
Wireless Health helps IT teams verify that wireless users are able to access the network as expected and that they have a fast, reliable wireless experience. By simplifying root cause analysis for all connected wireless clients in a single dashboard, IT teams can proactively manage and answer complex questions without having to manually dig through the entire network stack. Wireless Health will be available for all Meraki MR models soon.
Indoor access points with external antennas
Smart wireless also means having the right hardware for the job. In order to provide more options for customers who have specific indoor coverage needs beyond omnidirectional, we’re adding two new, 802.11ac Wave 2 indoor access points that support external antennas to the Meraki MR portfolio: the MR53E and MR42E.
The MR53E (left) and the MR42E (right) wireless access points.
To support these APs, we’ve designed six new antenna families, most of which support smart technology allowing the MR53Es and MR42Es to automatically detect and classify the antennas.
We also will be rolling out a new dashboard feature in the coming weeks that enables IT admins to create custom RF profiles (or use pre-built templates) to fine-tune coverage in challenging or high-density scenarios, and for advanced customers to customize RX-SOP (a technology that helps mitigate co-channel interference) settings across multiple APs.
Basic coverage for rapid deployments
Some installations require basic wireless coverage for a small number of devices, and have no plans to leverage location-aware services that require mobile app integrations and Bluetooth. For these customers, we’re excited to announce two new access points, the MR70 and MR20.
The MR70 (left) and the MR20 (right) wireless access points.
Both of these APs are designed for basic, very low-density deployments, and have neither the dedicated third scanning/security radio nor the dedicated Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) radio found in our other APs. They both support Meraki’s integrated wireless Location Analytics, however.
The MR70 is designed for those looking to rapidly deploy basic, ruggedized, IP67-rated wireless outdoors. The MR20 is an indoor model, also designed for very low-density wireless coverage.
We believe these new features and access points will allow IT administrators to deploy smarter wireless solutions for their given environments. All of these new APs and antennas will be orderable and shippable beginning February 13th, 2018. RF Profiles capability will be available by end of February. Wireless Health should be available starting in the second calendar quarter.
For more information, please check out our wireless webinars, or visit us at meraki.cisco.com. We’re always keen to hear your thoughts and feedback, so please either drop us a line on social media or leave a comment in our Meraki Community.
When you think of a Meraki deployment, what comes to mind? Perhaps you think of Wi-Fi in coffee shops, mobile device management in classrooms, or the network of a hotel. Recently, I spoke with the IT team at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), and it opened my eyes to all of the possibilities for Meraki to connect the unconnected in unique industries and situations.
DEP manages 175 state parks across 16 million acres, and is responsible for protecting the air, water, and land in the state. They are in charge of land and recreation, all state parks and trails, regulatory programs for air and water quality, and ecosystem restoration. In order for park rangers to collect payment information and work effectively, the parks need a secure network connection.
When it was time for a switch refresh, the DEP team wanted a solution that was easy to deploy and manage, while providing improved network visibility. After completing a bake-off between their legacy solution, a competitive solution, and Meraki, the team decided to move forward with deploying Cisco Meraki switches, access points, and security appliances at DEP parks and offices across the state.
The wireless network allows park rangers to securely access DEP resources and data, improve efficiency for day-to-day administrative tasks, and connect credit card machines to process park fees, hiking permits, and souvenirs. The switches and security appliances support the DEP network, connecting remote sites and offices back to the main network at their headquarters in Tallahassee. On Honeymoon Island, the DEP deployed several APs at the park entrance, which connect their toll booths back to the main ranger station.
There are now hundreds of Meraki products connecting parks across the state of Florida. To learn how the IT team at the Florida DEP is managing this massive, distributed network, watch our webinar recording.A Meraki Product Specialist joined Arthur Wilson, Network Engineer at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, for a live demo of the Florida DEP Meraki dashboard. You can read the full Florida DEP case study here.
We’re back at it again for Cisco Live! EMEAR next week — for the first time ever, Cisco’s largest event in Europe will take place at the Fira Gran Via in Barcelona, Spain from January 29 to February 2, 2018. Our teams have been working hard since the last Cisco Live! in Cancun and are excited to show you our latest announcements.
You can’t miss Meraki’s booth right at the entrance to the World of Solutions. We’ll be fully stocked with 9 one-to-one demos; live cameras to showcase in-booth; technical sessions; an Innovation Showcase by our SVP, Todd Nightingale; dedicated demo and workshops in the DevNet Zone; as well as a packed schedule of customer meetings and fully sold-out customer party.
It’s not too late to sign up for some of our technical sessions at the event. Take a look at the Session Catalog today to register!
The DevNet Zone at Cisco Live! Barcelona is an area for engineers and developers to come together and innovate using Cisco technologies and platforms. In addition to our demo pod, where you can meet our team and get a personalized demo, we have a variety of workshops below that are still open for registration. Sign up today!
Tuesday, January 30 9:00 – 9:45 AM & 5:00 – 5:45 PM: Automation with Meraki Provisioning API (Courtney Batiste, Solutions Architect)
5:00 – 5:45 PM: Everything about Bluetooth Apps and Asset Tracking (Colin Lowenberg, Solutions Architect)
Wednesday, January 31 9:00 – 9:45 AM: Analytics with Meraki CMX Location API (Cory Guynn, Solutions Architect)
Thursday, February 1 9:00 – 9:45 AM: Analytics with Meraki CMX Location API (Cory Guynn, Solutions Architect)
Sometimes troubleshooting can be like solving crime, whether it’s tracking down and kicking off rogue APs or identifying the bandwidth hog that’s slowing down the whole network. Whatever it takes to restore order, IT will figure it out. And one thing is certain: the tech team is always watching.
This held true for Brett Guidry, the Technical Services Manager at Waitr, when he was called in to solve the mystery behind not one, but two robberies. Waitr is a platform that enables customers to order from local restaurants through a mobile device or online. Waitr connects drivers, restaurants, and users with delivery and carry-out items. Now operating in 150 cities across the United States, with over 3,400 devices for drivers, restaurants, and employees already on the network, Waitr continues to grow, adding 5-10 new restaurants a week.
With the first robbery incident, Guidry didn’t even have a chance to get out of bed. It was 7 a.m. when the phone rang. A Waitr restaurant in New Orleans had been broken into, and nearly $20,000 worth of property was taken, including Waitr devices. Luckily, the devices had Cisco Meraki Systems Manager installed, so Guidry immediately opened the dashboard to track down the devices. Since their connections had switched to LTE, the GPS was still pinging and Guidry could see all from the Meraki dashboard: where the devices were, when they stopped moving, and even the nearest address. He sent the location and the coordinates to the police, bricked the devices so they couldn’t be resold, and waited…
The second incident wasn’t all that different. At 11 p.m., an employee’s car was broken into in Jackson, Mississippi. Two laptops, an iPad, and camera were stolen from the vehicle. Again, because they were Waitr property, Guidry was called to the (remote) scene. Watching everything from the comfort of his own bed, Guidry was able to locate the devices and their GPS coordinates, and he watched them fly down the interstate highway like a high-speed chase. When the pin stopped, Guidry identified the location within a 15-meter radius and directed the police to the location. They stormed the building, which happened to be a bar, and Guidry waited patiently for justice to be served…
What happened in the end? Were the criminals apprehended? Find out our live webinar featuring Brett Guidry himself. Watch the recording here.
For many retailers, providing free guest Wi-Fi is no longer a perk; it’s a basic cost of doing business. Customers expect to be able to log on to free in-store Wi-Fi to surf on their smartphones and make video calls to their friends while they’re shopping. By now, most retailers have acquiesced to customer demand and installed high-speed wireless networks in their stores.
Although most retailers provide free Wi-Fi to their guests, many stores may not be leveraging this infrastructure to its fullest potential. Retailers should be taking advantage of the wireless infrastructure they’ve already invested in to learn more about their customers, modernize their stores, and provide first-class customer experiences.
1. Learn more about customers through location analytics
Today, nearly all shoppers are carrying smartphones while they roam around stores. In fact, a 2017 Deliotte report noted that 93% of U.S. smartphone owners use their phone while out shopping. This technology gives customers an unprecedented ability to look up anything and communicate with anyone. It can also help retailers with advanced wireless setups track how customers navigate within a store, and use this knowledge to merchandise as needed.
When a phone’s Wi-Fi radio is turned on, it sends out probes to wireless access points. This occurs whether the phone is actually connected to a Wi-Fi network or not, since smartphones are constantly hunting for new Wi-Fi networks to populate the list of available networks nearby. Using these probes as data points, wireless systems can triangulate shoppers’ locations within a few meters. Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons — popularized as iBeacons by Apple — can take this even further and track shoppers to within inches of their locations. For instance, a home improvement retailer could know whether a customer is looking at sinks or at toilets based on their location.
Advanced systems, like Cisco Meraki Location Analytics, can present this precise location data in a number of ways benefitting retailers. For example, retailers can use location heat maps to see where their customers are walking within the store and appropriately arrange displays or staff certain areas based on actual customer engagement. Learn more about the possibilities of Location Analytics by reading this blog post.
2. Support more modern infrastructure
An upgraded wireless experience can serve as the catalyst for greater infrastructure updates that reduce cost and improve the customer experience. Two areas of technology that have seen rapid evolution in the last decade, and that matter a great deal in the retail space, are security cameras and mPOS (mobile point-of-sale). Incidentally, both IP cameras and mPOS rely on robust wireless deployments in the store.
Security cameras have gone from recording limited, grainy footage onto analog video management systems to recording high-definition video that can be streamed online from anywhere. As a result of these rapid technological advancements, retailers are increasingly adopting the newest camera models, which come fully equipped with wireless connectivity, to monitor in-store activity. These cameras, often deployed in places where Ethernet cords can’t easily reach, require a wireless network connection to send captured video to the server.
Similarly, most mPOS devices today don’t use Ethernet for connectivity, necessitating the use of a fast wireless network to process and complete transactions quickly. mPOS has burgeoned recently in large part thanks to the explosion of smartphones: companies like Square have modernized — and for some retailers, eradicated the need for — traditional cash registers.
Retailers with up-to-date, fully secure wireless networks are ready to support these technologies to the fullest extent.
3. Enable exceptional omnichannel experiences
As Amazon has shaken up the retail world over the last decade, omnichannel shopping experiences — experiences that are consistent whether a shopper is buying in-store or online — have become part of the retail zeitgeist. Delivering a comprehensive omnichannel experience requires retailers to collect and combine information about customers’ in-store and online shopping habits.
Retailers with robust wireless deployments are in a prime position to build a sophisticated system that helps them learn more about their customers’ shopping activities. Once a shopper logs on to a store’s Wi-Fi network, a whole host of possibilities opens up, especially if they’re already known (a repeat visitor) or their identity becomes known thanks to a splash page integration, like Facebook Login. From that point onward, customer activities that integrate with the network can be tracked and their experiences personalized.
For example, when a shopper who buys a pair of heels on a retailer’s website then wanders into that store’s dress aisle, she can be presented with an ad on her smartphone for a dress that matches the shoes. Additionally, based on the network bandwidth consumed by different mPOS terminals, stores can determine which checkout counters are the least or most popular and make staffing adjustments accordingly. Solutions that bring APIs into the mix can take this one step further by integrating activity on the network with retail loyalty programs or CRM systems. The possibilities are endless for IT administrators looking to build custom solutions that help retailers ensure consistent shopping experiences across channels.