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Indoor Wi-Fi Location and Beacons: Better Together Part 2

wifibeaconLocation-based services have been getting a lot of attention lately and people are increasingly curious about how Wi-Fi and beacons play together in the hot space that is indoor location technology. In my last blog I reviewed how beacons work and how to differentiate when to use Wi-Fi and beacons. There’ve been some great questions about beacon technology and how it complements Cisco’s location-based Connected Mobile Experiences (CMX) solution, so I want to follow up on these topics with everyone.

What types of beacons are there?

Generally, there are two different classes of beacons: transmit only and backhaul enabled.

Transmit only beacons are exactly as they sound -- they simply transmit information to anyone that is capable of hearing (bluetooth enabled smartphones). They do not receive or pass any data or information upstream.

Apple’s iBeacon is the best example of this type of BLE beacon. You can think of them like the navigational beacons used by airplanes when on approach to major airports. The beacon doesn’t even know the plane is there, but the plane is aware of the beacon and knows where the beacon is allowing it to take the correct action. Same is true for smartphones and transmit only beacons like iBeacon -- the intelligence is located in the mobile application which must recognize the beacon and take appropriate action.

Backhaul enabled beacons generally include a Wi-Fi chipset for either management or data capabilities. Some backhaul enabled beacons are USB enabled and take advantage of whatever connectivity exists within the PC they are connected. Read More »

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Analytics: A New Model for Creating Great, Personalized Customer Experiences

While certainly exciting, buying a new house, can also serve as a revealing exercise in understanding data science.

A couple of weeks ago I went to my bank to investigate my financial options for buying a new house. To my surprise, my account manager gave me a stack of paperwork to fill out—and I soon realized that my bank was already in possession of 90 percent of the information I was being asked to provide. So why was I having to take the time to fill in information the bank already had, or could easily acquire?  And more importantly, why couldn’t my account manager quickly access information about my client status and my personal preferences, and immediately provide a tailored offering, decreasing the chance that I would look elsewhere for this service?

Figure 1. Centralized, Decentralized, and Distributed Networks. A distributed, virtualized approach to database management enables quick combination and analysis of large volumes of data—where and when it is needed.

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Source: Paul Baran, Rand Corporation.

I wrote in one of my recent blogs about the issues and solutions related to quickly combining data that comes in large volumes by focusing on data virtualization and cloud. This can enable seamless customer interactions and decrease client churn, be it in financial services or in the telecom sector. But what is required at an organizational level so that people, process, data, and things come together to enable a superior customer experience and create entirely new revenue possibilities?

Read More »

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The Key to Success in Tracking Mobile Devices: Symbiosis, Not Espionage

As a shopper enters a store, the retailer uses Wi-Fi to track her movements, interests, and shopping habits, providing a treasure trove of insight valuable to merchandising and product development alike.

And as advances in Wi-Fi promise increasing location precision and beacons promise pinpoint location based services, the future appears to be smooth sailing, right?

Well, not exactly.

Tracking the position of mobile devices accurately and correlating to personal data has been one of the most sought after Big Data objectives. And not just for retailers — the potential wealth of business value from data has drawn piqued interest across nearly all industries.

Yet in the real world, issues arise from both technology challenges and privacy concerns alike.

Technology challenges include:

  • Typical Wi-Fi accuracies in the 7-to-10 meter range (though Angle of Arrival and improved location analytics promise dramatic improvements)
  • Infrequent mobile device probing to conserve battery power
  • Interference from metal shelves & fixtures, water in products (and people!)

Privacy qualms speak to the heart of transformation in the Internet of Everything (IoE) age. IoE, after all, is the explosion of network connections among people, process, data, and things — and promises to be one of the most impactful periods of change in our history. And the people element is in some ways the whole point — to make our lives better, healthier, more efficient, and so forth. But the people issues will be just as challenging as those that arise around technology. Read More »

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Apple iOS 8 and MAC Randomization: What It means for Cisco’s Connected Mobile Experiences (CMX) Solution

As you may have read, Apple’s iOS 8 will come with some changes to the way MAC addresses are exposed in Wi-Fi probe requests. Apple’s intent was to provide an additional layer of privacy for consumers and target those companies that offer analytics without providing any value to the end consumer. We’ve been getting some questions about what this means and how it impacts our Connected Mobile Experiences (CMX)  solution, so we wanted to clear this up for our customers.

What does this mean for you? 

First and foremost, Cisco has always been dedicated to privacy for our customers and their end-users. There are four aspects of privacy that are built into our CMX solution:

1. Anonymous Aggregate Information: All analytics are based on aggregate, anonymized location data.

2. Permission-based: Users have to opt-in to join a Wi-Fi network or download an app

3. MAC Address Hash: Users’ MAC addresses can be hashed before exposing to 3rd party apps

4. Opt Out: End-users are always presented with the option to opt out of location-based services

The true value of CMX analytics for organizations is in aggregate location data to be used for business analysis to improve the customer experience for end-users. Providing customers with high performing Wi-Fi not only keeps always-on mobile users happy and opens the doors to delighting customers with more personalized experiences, but also helps provide more granularity to those aggregate trends to feed back into the experience creation machine. Win-win.

What does this mean for our CMX value proposition? Read More »

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Launching Cisco Entrepreneurs in Residence in Europe

I recently wrote about how we are extending Cisco Entrepreneurs in Residence (EIR)  and our open innovation strategy beyond Silicon Valley through local incubation partners in Chicago, San Diego and Berkeley.  Our presence in these innovation hubs will enable us to discover, influence and learn from new ideas and talent at early-stage startups with potential to disrupt our industry.

Today, I am pleased to announce the launch of Cisco EIR Europe, extending our program to a non-U.S. innovation hub for the first time.  Cisco EIR will be located initially in Vienna, where we plan to launch a small cohort of early-stage European startups by January 2015 – to be supported & incubated by Cisco – drawn from across EMEAR.  As with Cisco EIR in Silicon Valley, we will look for game-changing entrepreneurs in IoE, security, Big Data/analytics, Smart Cities & other transformational opportunities that are in Cisco’s strategic line of sight.  Also as in our Silicon Valley program, the startups will be supported by Cisco engineering & product teams as well as our EMEAR partner ecosystem.  The Vienna-based program is intended to serve as the beachhead – our “Phase 1” – for a broader EU-wide footprint for Cisco EIR.

Key to our success is how we leverage the startup ecosystem that already exists in Europe.  To this end, starting in Vienna, we have partnered with Pioneers, a leading startup community organization in Europe.  More partnerships are in the works.

I know all of you will agree innovation knows no national boundaries.  Europe, with its deep entrepreneurial talent, large market and history of innovation, presents a unique opportunity for usEurope is also one of the key regions for our Smart Cities – as you saw from our recent announcement of a new Smart Cities initiative in Copenhagen, following similar projects in Barcelona, Amsterdam Chicago and Hamburg.

We are thrilled to forge relationships in the European startup community – and support entrepreneurs as partners in open innovation.

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