Posts Tagged ‘WiFi’

Partner Spotlight: Turnstyle

Meraki’s CMX presence API enables organizations to extend the functionality offered by Meraki location analytics. In this mini-series of blog posts, we explore the capabilities of some of our technology partners that integrate with the API. In our previous spotlight we covered Euclid Analytics and their capabilities with Meraki WLAN devices. In this blog post we take a look at Turnstyle.

Turnstyle_Logos_OfficiaL

Turnstyle’s WiFi marketing platform offers customer engagement, loyalty, and analytics capabilities that enable retailers to learn actionable insights about on-premise customers. This can be used to send real-time messages, coupons, and rewards directly to customers’ smartphones, without the need for a mobile app; thereby increasing customer engagement and loyalty.

Customer case study

A restaurant chain deployed Meraki with Turnstyle integration in 54 locations to learn about customer trends, to generate marketing lists, and to create a location-based marketing platform. This was then used to reward customers for their loyalty in an effort to increase visit frequency, and to re-engage with customers who had not visited for over a month.

 

turnstyle-collage

 

Over four months, the restaurant chain generated over 12,000 customer opt-ins for marketing communications via email, SMS, and Facebook. Over 30% of the client’s marketing communications were read by its customers, and ~18% of all coupons delivered through the Turnstyle platform were redeemed. The contextual messaging had a dramatic impact on customer loyalty and visit frequency, which increased by 70% and resulted in an ROI of over 15x.

The Turnstyle platform

Turnstyle’s platform consists of three components that integrate into a Meraki WLAN network:

Audience Insights uses Meraki wireless APs to passively monitor customer foot traffic and trends. This information can be used to make operational decisions on things such as staffing schedules, marketing strategies, and customer rewards.

Social WiFi gives business owners the ability to offer customers a gated WiFi network, eliminating the need for cumbersome passwords. Meraki offers extremely simple out of the box integration with Facebook WiFi, but for customers needing Facebook, Google, Twitter, and email simultaneously, Turnstyle Social WiFi offers a solution.

 

 

Engagement provides business owners with the ability to set up location-based messaging to interact with customers in hyper-contextual ways. Turnstyle makes it easy to reward customers for their loyalty by enabling coupons to be sent based on visit frequency, or to help businesses re-engage with customers who haven’t visited a venue within a defined time-period. With all Meraki WLAN devices connected to a single cloud infrastructure, this engagement can stretch globally wherever you have a Meraki device.

What’s next?

Meraki wireless customers can sign up for Turnstyle by visiting this page. No additional hardware is required, and you can be up and running in less than 10 minutes.  Cisco Meraki’s CMX location analytics is available today for all customers, with bespoke functionality enabled by the API and our technology partners.  Visit our documentation portal for further information on CMX analytics and our API.

 

Sentry WiFi Security

In June we announced Systems Manager Sentry, a set of features which provide simple, automatic security that is context aware. It can do this due to the integration between the Meraki networking products and Systems Manager.

Sentry Wi-Fi security is a feature enabled on Meraki MR wireless networks with Systems Manager. It takes the typically complex Wi-Fi access control method, EAP-TLS, and simplifies it to a couple of clicks.

sentry_wifi_sec_user

To understand the power of this feature let’s quickly review Extensible Authentication Protocol (EAP) – Transport Layer Security (TLS). EAP is an authentication framework that is used for providing access to a network. As the extensible part of the EAP acronym implies, the framework can support multiple authentication protocols, from basic passwords to more secure certificate based authentication. Think of it as a cook book for a cake. Depending on the ingredients in the recipe you end up with a different cake, but still a cake.

EAP with Transport Layer Security (TLS) is considered one of the most secure network authentication mechanisms (the tastiest cake recipe). This is because it uses certificates to authenticate and secure the network connection using asymmetric cryptography. The problem with certificates, as an ingredient of this authentication mechanism, is that they are complex to setup and deploy.

complex_certificate

There are two main reasons certificates can be complex to setup and deploy. The first is the infrastructure that is needed, something called a certificate authority. This issues the certificates and allows devices to check if a service is genuine. The second reason is that every client needs its own unique certificate. With a handful of clients this isn’t too much work, but with hundreds of thousands of clients this could be a daunting prospect. The tastiest cake results from a bake time of weeks or months, and looks less attractive as a result.

Sentry Wi-Fi security provides EAP-TLS for a Meraki MR wireless network while eliminating all the complexity. It can do this because of the certificate infrastructure that already exists for every Systems Manager customer. This eliminates the need for the configuration of a certificate authority and distribution of certificates to clients. A gourmet cake from an
instant-bake ready-mix pack.

cake
Make deploying EAP-TLS a piece of cake with Systems Manager Sentry. To find out more listen to Paul Wolfe (Product Specialist for Systems Manager) and George Bentinck (Solutions Architect) discuss Sentry Wi-Fi security in the following podcast. Alternatively attend one of our upcoming Systems Manager webinars, or if you already have Meraki MR access points, try Sentry out today by signing up for Systems Manager.

Partner Focus: Euclid Analytics

Over the past 20 years, the online world has fine-tuned its capabilities to accurately target customers and streamline the purchasing and fulfillment process. Every customer touch point is measurable and based upon data science and fact-based decision making.

In stark contrast, the offline world of physical stores has been stuck in analog. As a result, teams within these businesses are often behind digital retailers in analyzing operational metrics,  relying on various traditional approaches including manual counting, gut intuition, and simplistic people counting devices.

Digital tools for brick-and-mortar

Thankfully, much has changed over the past few years. In the United States today, 64 percent of the population owns a smartphone. In Europe and Asia, smartphone penetration hovers at 80 percent (Pew Research, 2014). The explosion of mobile devices and the pervasiveness of WiFi has created new ways of unlocking the mysteries of the physical world.

Just over two years ago Meraki released CMX location analytics to all Meraki WLAN capable devices. The first in the industry to offer advanced location services at no additional cost or complexity, Meraki location analytics is now in use by tens of thousands of customers globally.

location_analytics_meraki_euclid_post

Location analytics with Euclid & Meraki

Wi-Fi location analytics from Euclid can leverage the existing Meraki infrastructure to extend the out-of-the-box features and includes additional advanced capabilities. Since 2010, Euclid Analytics has provided insights for the physical world in the same way that web analytics does for e-commerce. Euclid’s network captures billions of measurements per day, analyzing hundreds of millions of potential shopping sessions per year, across tens of thousands of physical locations.

euclid_screenshot

Since Euclid integrates seamlessly with existing Meraki infrastructure through the CMX location analytics API, an IT organization can activate Euclid analytics across thousands of Meraki locations with minimal effort.

Meraki and Euclid detect mobile devices and collect anonymous device information which is then aggregated and analyzed in the cloud. By understanding consumer traffic and behaviors within physical locations, businesses can optimize marketing, in-store operations, strategic decision-making, and staffing activities. No matter the vertical, this new data source can help answer performance and operational related questions.

  • Specialty Retail: Is your marketing spend making a difference by driving traffic into the store, and can you prove it? Last month, how many new customers did you gain, and how many are coming back again?
  • Quick service restaurants: Is your staffing aligned with peak traffic times? Are new menu items driving restaurant traffic and sales?
  • Airports: How long did it take for passengers to clear security or taxi lines in the various airport zones? Is security staffing aligned accordingly?
  • Hotels: Where should the hotel focus its marketing efforts to drive traffic into the restaurants – on-property or off-property? How many guests pass through specific hotel zones? Are there specific areas of the hotel that require additional staffing needs?
  • Shopping Malls: During what times of the day is the mall busiest? Which zones were the busiest (or slowest) for the day?  Which stores are located in the busiest zones and should their rents be priced accordingly?
  • Auto Dealerships: What impact does an ad campaign or an auto show have on dealership traffic? When shopping for a new car, are customers cross-shopping at affiliate dealers within the area?

Want to know more?

If you would like to know more about location analytics with Meraki & Euclid, then you can listen to the podcast below. Sunil Daluvoy (Head of Business Development at Euclid) joins George Bentinck (Solutions Architect at Meraki), to discuss location analytics, what benefit it offers, and the Meraki relationship with Euclid.

 

Existing Meraki customers wanting to try Euclid for free today can get started using Euclid’s Express service, or for further information on the advanced capabilities of the Euclid platform, they can contact Andrew Borella at Euclid Analytics.

 

A different perspective

In March we saw a tweet that caught our attention from the team at Inveneo. Inveneo is a non-profit social enterprise that delivers sustainable computing and broadband to those who need it most in the developing world. They believe that improved access to technology can transform lives and opportunities, even in some of the poorest and most technology-challenged communities.

inveneo_meraki_ap

The tweet had a picture of a Cisco Meraki MR62 outdoor access point (AP) that was being used as part of the Ebola Response Connectivity Initiative (ERCI) project.With the Inveneo office just a 10 minute drive from the Meraki office in San Francisco, we went over to find out more about how they are using Meraki technology.

The ERCI project uses a combination of technologies to offer connectivity to relief agencies fighting Ebola in local communities. Rugged Meraki APs are used at the edge of the deployment to provide end device connectivity, with backhaul provided by long range wireless backhaul to cellular towers. Although not yet live at the time of our visit, it was fascinating to hear what features were most important to them, in comparison to our typical expectations of customers needs. A typical enterprise may be interested in performance and security as primary features, but when your APs have to be powered by the sun using solar panels, energy consumption is of highest importance.

Although not the instigator of the meeting, the conversation switched to Meraki Systems Manager, Meraki’s MDM platform. Inveneo exclusively uses Android tablets due to the ability to find low cost, locally sourced, or locally manufactured devices where Apple products are not available. Again it was interesting to hear the differences in the importance of pieces of functionality when compared to the typical uses we see for Systems Manager.

The use of MDM is focused on enabling and supporting the user of the device rather than securing and restricting. One of the important features provided by Systems Manager for Inveneo is a report on the battery level of the device. With disaster relief workers and community health workers often in locations with poor to no infrastructure, knowing if a user was able to charge the device is important in understanding if they are able to use it.

battery_level

Another useful reporting feature is to find out what apps users download. This led to the team finding out that one of the most heavily used types of apps was for a flashlight. Now knowing this, they can pre-load a flashlight app, and other apps they know are likely to be useful, to save on scarce local bandwidth.

We hope to catchup with the Inveneo team in the future to find out how the ERCI project progresses, and we would love to hear from anyone else who has innovative community uses for Meraki technology. Tweet us @meraki.

 

The benefits of integrated access point beacon technology

Cisco Meraki customers can easily future proof their networks for the needs of their business with the new Meraki MR32 and MR72 802.11ac access points (AP) that include built-in Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacon technology. These APs can be integrated seamlessly into any standard WLAN deployment, while giving customers a BLE beacon-enabled network, ready for the future. We see this being especially important in retail where iBeacons and other customer Bluetooth engagement technologies are rapidly growing in adoption.

What are BLE Beacons?

BLE is a recent enhancement to the Bluetooth standard which allows for the wireless protocol to be applied to new use cases which were previously not feasible. This is primarily due to the energy saving techniques implemented in BLE which reduce power consumption when compared to previous Bluetooth standards.

With the ability to efficiently utilize limited power sources, BLE is now used in a number of devices which need to communicate small amounts of data over wireless. It is now possible to have devices with battery life measured in months and years rather than days or weeks, while also making them smaller.

This has led to the development of beacon technology and its application in a number of situations. Beacons are very simple BLE messages which are transmitted or heard by BLE compatible devices. This device could be a computer, a phone, a wireless AP, or a tag, to name just a few possible devices.

This message has three basic components:

  • Universally Unique Identifier (UUID)
  • Major
  • Minor

These components of the beacon can be configured with information the operator wants to communicate to other BLE-compatible devices. Typically this is in a non-human friendly form but it can be interpreted by a listening device. For example, in a retail environment it could be interpreted as:

  • Retail Brand (UUID)
  • Shop Location (Major)
  • Product Category (Minor)

When a BLE-compatible device hears one of these messages, a user-installed app which is beacon aware can interpret the information in the UUID, Major, and Minor identifiers. This could be used to trigger functionality in that app, for example it could display information relevant to a particular product in that shop, a discount to be redeemed at purchase, or a customer service interaction.

Is it worth using BLE Beacons?

BLE beacons are a simple way to provide mobile apps with location awareness that is specific to your organization. The low energy features of BLE beacons allow mobile devices to use this functionality with minimal impact on battery life. The benefit of this is that apps can enable bluetooth on devices with little negative side effects and a positive experience to end users.

The downside for organizations wishing to implement BLE beacon devices is the scale at which they could be deployed creates a significant administrative burden. With a thousand, or ten thousand of these devices, even a year long battery life would lead to a large number being replaced every week.

It also means that when it comes to configuration, it can require extensive pre-staging and visits to site. Should this need to be updated in the future to meet new business needs, the costs of doing this may outweigh the benefits of making the change.

Meraki has solved the physical and configuration challenges of implementing beacon technology by integrating it into the new MR32 and MR72 APs. These APs have fully integrated BLE radio chipsets that works in parallel to the three WLAN radios that are inside.

BLE and beacon compatible Meraki MR32 and MR72 APs

Hear from Adam Weiss, one of the Meraki engineers responsible for the development of the BLE functionality in the APs, on the possible uses cases of this technology and the importance of an integrated solution.

By integrating the BLE technology into the PoE compatible MR32 and MR72 APs, the problems associated with maintaining a widely distributed inventory of battery powered beacons is completely eliminated.

The unique cloud-managed architecture of the Meraki MR32 and MR72 means that they can be remotely deployed and configured for zero-touch deployments. The APs can broadcast BLE Beacons with a configured UUID, Major, and Minor that is only set once for a whole network of APs. If these identifiers need to be updated, it can be done quickly and remotely through the Meraki dashboard for all APs, all sites, or even different countries.

The rapid software development cycle of the Meraki cloud management solution means that as and when new BLE Beacon features are needed, these can be delivered seamlessly at no cost to existing deployments. This ensures your investment in APs can provide the greatest value for the longest period of time.

Simple Standalone Site Surveys

 

In last month’s blog we covered some of the upcoming access point features, one of which was a dedicated site survey mode on Meraki access points (APs).  We covered an introduction to wireless site survey early last year with “From Site Survey to Flawless Wireless Connectivity”, but in this post we will further examine site surveying and how to use this new feature in more detail. 

Designing a Wireless Network 

The end goal of any site survey is to ensure the most optimal configuration of the wireless network for the given requirements. These requirements can differ from physical location to physical location and can even vary within different areas of a location. Often the requirements have to be balanced against each other to reach the most optimal outcome. The requirements can include:

  • Specific support for high density or real-time applications like voice
  • Location services and positioning
  • Outdoor coverage
  • Minimization of interference with other networks or RF signals
  • Budget

Designers of wireless networks have a number of tools in their armory to meet these requirements. Some of the areas a designer can control are:

  • The location of the APs
  • The number of APs
  • The transmit power of the APs
  • The channel the APs use

Site Survey – a Designer’s Best Friend 

Due to the nature of radio waves, it can often be hard to visualise how aspects of your design will work when viewed as a collection of numbers and PDF specifications. The physical environment also has a major impact on how you design the deployment and how the APs will work. Enter the site survey and fantastic site survey tools such as Ekahau’s Site Survey and Fluke Networks AirMagnet.

These applications and others like them, allow you to visualize your WLAN deployment before, during, and after its deployment. Invisible radio waves become easy to understand with colorful heatmaps. Site surveys can be divided into three types that are typically carried out in order; predictive, pre, and post site surveys.
 

ryan_site_survey

 

Predictive surveys use floor plans, estimates of building materials, and advanced algorithms to predict how the wireless network will look. This is based on the number of APs, their location, and their configuration. 

Pre-site surveys allow the wireless designer to accurately record the reality of the physical environment where the WLAN will be deployed. This can then be used to prove, or disprove the validity of the design that is often created by a predictive site survey. The pre-site survey is typically carried out by placing an access point of the model you wish to use, with the configuration you think is appropriate, in different locations in the building. At each location the wireless is surveyed by taking readings using the site survey software. This then uses the information to update its model of the design.


tripod

Finally a post-site survey repeats the measurements taken by the pre-site survey but this time with all the APs for the final deployment in place. This survey is used to prove the design is correct or help identify adjustments that need to be made. 

Although it is not essential to carry out all types of site surveys, it is generally recommended that at a minimum, a pre-site survey is carried out for any location with more than a handful of APs. 

Listen to Ryan, a support engineer in the Meraki San Francisco office talk about the importance of surveying for your WLAN. 

 

ap.meraki.com

To perform a site survey with an AP, desired settings are typically configured before, then moving it between the locations that are being surveyed. The AP is often attached to a tripod or other type of stand to simulate the physical position it would have when deployed e.g. wall mounted or ceiling mounted. To make the movement of the AP easier, it is not normally attached to AC power and is instead powered by a portable battery pack. 

Before the introduction of the dedicated site survey mode on the Meraki APs, it was necessary to include an additional equipment beyond just power. The reason for this was that the self healing auto mesh functionality built into every Meraki AP would try and repair the AP’s connection to the LAN. It does this by scanning for other mesh APs to communicate with when it can’t see a gateway. When this happened, it meant that site survey tools were not able get a reading. 

The new site survey mode allows network admins to turn an AP into a dedicated device for site surveys. When enabled the AP will broadcast an open SSID named “site_survey-” followed by its MAC address. The AP can then have the channels and transmit power set for both 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz radios. 

To access the site survey mode, wirelessly connect to the desired AP and enter ap.meraki.com into your web browser. Alternatively you can access the same page by entering the LAN IP address of the AP into your web browser.

local_status_page

This local management page on the AP is used for basic setup, troubleshooting, or for when a specific manual configuration is required. Choose the ‘Configure’ tab and enter the credentials requested by the login box. Once logged in, you can access the settings for the site survey mode.

local_site_survey_mode

Summary 

Completing a site survey is often an essential step on the path to an efficient, high performance WLAN. Ensuring your deployment is right from the start can save many hours of troubleshooting and associated costs later on. The new Meraki site survey mode will help make this process simpler and easier for anyone going through this activity.

 

New access point features coming to all Meraki customers

Not content with just announcing two new 802.11ac access points (APs) in time for the holidays, the team here at Meraki have developed new software features, soon to be available on all APs. These are:

  • Flexible Bitrate selection
  • Site Survey Mode

 

Flexible Bitrate Selection

We’re adding the ability to configure the supported association bitrates. When an AP is advertising its services to clients it will let them know the lowest possible speed (association rate) it will accept a connection at. This is important as a client would like the highest possible association rate, but this is dependant on how well it can hear the signal. As clients move further away from APs they will often get a lower strength signal and so a lower association rate.

Because of the shared nature of wireless transmissions, clients with low association rates can slow the whole network down. This is particularly important in high density environments such as public areas, lecture halls or conferences. By allowing the network administrator to choose the lowest association rate an AP will allow, the administrator can prevent clients slowing the network down. Setting a higher association rate can force clients to move to an AP which has a better signal and thus can support the higher mandated association rate.

Site Survey Mode

Planning, designing, and deploying wireless networks often requires important but time consuming wireless site surveys. To help reduce the amount of time and complexity involved in completing a wireless site survey using Meraki APs, we are introducing a new site survey mode. This will help ensure that it is easier to complete high quality surveys and consequentially install a high performance network.

survey_mode

The new site survey mode is accessed from the local management page on the AP and allows for important parameters to be configured, such as the radio channels and transmit power. Once this survey mode is enabled, the AP will no longer need a connection to the Meraki cloud and will not try to mesh with other Meraki APs. Once you have completed your survey, you can easily revert the AP to its normal mode of operation.

When and how it will come to your network

Both features are currently in beta and will become available to customers over the coming weeks. As with all software updates to Meraki products, this is a staggered roll out and will be automatically delivered to you at the time and day you select. Make sure to check your ‘Firmware Upgrades’ settings in your Meraki dashboard to choose when you would like your upgrade to happen.

Sandy: Edison Township Schools kept the packets flowing

After Hurricane Sandy passed through the township of Edison, NJ, many people were left without power as electric companies scrambled to restore service disrupted by falling trees and high winds. With snow threatening in the hurricane’s wake, Edison Township Public Schools assisted by turning John P. Stevens High School into a community warming center where residents could warm up, recharge their devices, and use the libraries and internet.

Bill McSorley, Chief Technology Officer of Edison Public Schools, had installed Meraki MR24 access points in several of his schools over the summer, including John P. Stevens. Unsurprisingly, internet access proved to be very popular at the center, with residents communicating with family and friends and reading the news.

With rolling blackouts and roads that were often blocked with debris, Bill couldn’t count on being able to go into his office to maintain his network. “Meraki’s cloud architecture was very helpful since it was so difficult to get into the office,” Bill said. “I would log in wherever I could find internet access — whether it was at home, a coffee shop with power, or somewhere else — and change configurations in response to usage patterns.”  With nearly 1000 people transferring hundreds of gigabytes, Bill worked to enhance residents’ internet experience – whether it was changing bandwidth limits or enabling services like Facebook that are normally blocked at schools.

We’d like to extend our thanks to Bill, who worked tirelessly to provide some comfort to everyone in his hometown that was affected by Sandy.

Supporting 1:1 at Avenues: The World School

When Avenues: The World School opened its doors in September 2012, the prestigious New York City private school was met with heightened media attention. The school’s unique vision to be one international school, operated in the cloud, with 20 or more campuses worldwide garnered over 5,000 applications for less than 1,000 available spots.

Dirk DeLo, CTO at Avenues, joined us on December 6, 2012 to share how the 1:1 private school uses Meraki cloud networking to support online classrooms equipped with Airplay, AirPrint, digital textbooks, and video for over 2,000 devices.

Meraki’s free MDM easily pushes textbooks and educational apps onto each student’s iPad and Macbook Air. Course management is conducted through apps like iTunes U and Evernote. And to increase participation for Avenues’ Spanish and Mandarin language immersion, teachers instruct with heavy video and wireless projection. To enable all this online technology, Dirk turned to Meraki for reliable WiFi and centralized management. He deployed hardware in mere minutes, and with just a few clicks in the dashboard, set up separate networks for students/staff and guests.

Check out the Avenues webinar ­­– learn how Dirk’s effortless management of Avenues’ network removes the need for a full-time Network Administrator and frees up time for technology innovation and integration.

You can also watch a quick video of technology in the classroom at Avenues here.

Interested in Location Services? Join us Friday for a live demo.

Many of you have expressed interest in our new Location Services, which allow enterprise customers to determine the location of WiFi clients without additional hardware.  We’re therefore holding a quick, informal webinar on Friday, during which we’ll talk a bit about how this feature works under the covers, do a live demo, and hold Q&A.  The webinar runs just 15 minutes, so it’s a great quick way to learn about this new feature.  You can register (for free, of course) here.

We hope you will join us!