Interface Security Systems Holdings, Inc. (or “Interface”), a leading North American provider of Internet Protocol (“IP”) Bundled Managed physical security and secured managed network services with 750+ employees, monitors in excess of one million devices across North America—and responds to more than 3 million events every year.
Interface boasts over a quarter of the top 15 largest retailers in North America as their existing customers. “We added wireless LAN to the service portfolio around 2005,” said Jeff Frye, Senior VP Products and Service Development at Interface. “We realized wireless was only going to become more widespread as the number of wireless devices multiplied, particularly those critical to business operations in retail such as iPads and wireless inventory scanners.”
Since wireless mobile devices became common, retailers have been looking to take advantage of the operational and commercial opportunities they offer.
Interface first engaged with one of the largest retail store chains in the US, with several thousand locations, at the National Retail Federation (NRF) tradeshow in New York in 2012. “They wanted a vendor that could take end-to-end control over their entire network,” said Frye. The retail chain aspired to have dual WAN connections at each store for redundancy, as well as the installation of wireless LAN at each store since there was none previously.
Interface put together a tailor-made managed service package for the chain store including wireless LAN, WAN, 4G failover, interactive video surveillance, and IP-based security. “As a next step, the retail group challenged Interface and their incumbent service provider to deploy a proof of concept (POC) of our respective service proposals across 100 of their stores,” explained Frye. Minimal store disruption, site performance and completion within 90 days were the key performance indicators the two service providers would be judged against.
“For the wireless LAN part of our service we chose Cisco Meraki cloud-managed wireless access points (APs),” said Frye. “The Cisco Meraki APs are enterprise-grade and are truly plug-and-play, which offered us a huge edge over the incumbent supplier.”
Cisco Meraki devices require zero on-site configuration by eliminating the need for an on-site controller. Devices can be configured remotely using a centralized web-based dashboard, and then they simply need to be plugged into a WAN connection on-site. “We were able to deploy hundreds of Cisco Meraki APs across all 100 POC stores nationally in just 2 weeks,” said Frye. Disruption at each store was incredibly minimal due to the combination of plug-and-play Meraki APs and the way in which Interface designed the deployment of the other facets of the service package. “We were able to get POC stores live with an average downtime of only 8 minutes.”
We bill the customer one flat-rate per store which is a big advantage for them. Meraki’s straightforward hardware plus license model—which essentially means two SKUs to order—made our lives a lot easier.Jeff Frye, Senior VP Products and Service Development
Once Meraki was installed at the POC sites, Interface was able to demonstrate additional benefits. “Meraki APs are fully PCI compliant so they provide built-in rogue SSID and device detection and containment,” explained Frye. “Moreover, the Meraki dashboard provides one-click automated reports on PCI compliance that we can deliver as well as a high degree of accountability.” The POC stores were able to start making SIP calls using the Meraki wireless to reduce dependence on cellular minutes.
Interface won the POC against the incumbent service provider. “We won the proof of concept with a superior design with Cisco Meraki APs that delivered minimal store disruption, a high performance service, and rapid deployment,” said Frye.
Interface went on to refresh all stores nationally in less than a year, peaking at 50 stores per day going live.
The retail giant was able to eliminate a significant amount of their administrative costs by rationalizing all of their service requirements under one provider. “We bill the customer one flat-rate per store which is a big advantage for them. Meraki’s straightforward hardware plus license model—which essentially means two SKUs to order—made our lives a lot easier,” explained Frye. Each Meraki device is purchased in conjunction with an enterprise license that includes all features from day one, as well as new features added quarterly free of charge through seamless over-the-web firmware updates, and is not dependent on the number of users on the network.
Interface is able to seamlessly manage the 17,000+ Cisco Meraki APs deployed across all stores from a single pane of glass—the Cisco Meraki dashboard. Interface can continue to provide superior service by monitoring, troubleshooting and editing settings of Cisco Meraki APs, clients and applications at any store, from anywhere in the world.
“We’re now excited to start work on providing actionable business insight by using some of the tools that are already built into the Cisco Meraki APs today,” said Frye. Connected Mobile Experiences (CMX) displays real-time location statistics to improve customer engagement and loyalty across sites, and is built-in to Cisco Meraki APs with no additional cost or complexity. “The newest generation of Cisco Meraki APs come with built-in Bluetooth beacons which is a very exciting space and something we’re eager to explore, particularly with our expertise in retail.”