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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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Get Your WLAN Ready for Google Android L and Apple iOS 8

July 24, 2014 at 5:00 am PST

This fall your wireless networks will experience many devices upgrading to the new Android 5.0(L-release) and Apple iOS 8 releases (cue: IT managers groan). There have now been many blogs attempting to capture the enhancements expected with these releases. Today I am going to focus on describing how Android L and iOS 8 may affect customers deploying Cisco enterprise grade Wi-Fi networks based upon our research and testing of the Apple seed. Our verdict: Carry on with business as usual.

Here are four features we predict will have the most impact your networks:

1. Chromecast and Google Cast Enhancements (Android L)

Rishi Chandra, the Director of Chromecast Product Management announced that, starting with the Android L release, users have the ability to cast to your neighboring devices such as a TV without having to connect to your Wi-Fi network. In the demo, a phone used the cellular connection to connect to chromecast through the cloud. A variety of techniques are used to authenticate the users in the same room OR use a pin-code as an alternative. Users can Google Cast an ecosystem of applications or even their own applications over any Android or iOS device as well as Cloud based apps on Chrome.

Predicted Impact: Given that this feature works transparently to the Wi-Fi, it is expected that there is no impact on the WLAN in your classrooms or dorm rooms or auditoriums where this will most likely be used.

2. Peer-to-peer AirPlay discovery and playback (iOS 8)

Starting with the iOS 7.1 release, AirPlay devices will discover an AppleTV via the bluetooth network. Users could also secure their AppleTV via a 4 digit pin-code. With the iOS 8 release, Airplay devices can also mirror their content via Airdrop. This feature offers an alternative method for customers to discover and mirroring of Bonjour traffic without accessing the corporate Wi-Fi network.

Predicted Impact: Again this feature operates transparent to the Wi-Fi and therefore customers using this feature should not see any impact on the WLAN. Cisco wireless customers also have the ability to use the Service Discovery Gateway on Cisco IOS based switches, routers or wireless LAN controllers or the Bonjour Services Directory on AireOS controllers. Read More »

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Indoor WiFi Location and Beacons: Better Together

wifibeaconIn just two years, indoor location technology has taken off and attracted a lot of buzz across industries, from retailers to healthcare. But it’s no longer a conversation about just Wi-Fi – the introduction of beacon devices, including iBeacon, has added a new dimension to location technology for IT and their line of business counterparts to grapple with on how to leverage it to better reach their customer base.

Some customers have been asking about beacon technology and how it fits in with Wi-Fi, so let’s start from the beginning:

How do beacons work?

Beacons are sensors that send out Bluetooth low energy (BLE) tracking tags.  These sensors can be placed around a venue, such as a store, and a mobile device can pick up the BLE signal and determine that it is in close proximity. When a mobile app is built off of this technology, it can be used in interesting ways to interact with the end user, such as notifying a customer of a promotion for an item they are close to.

I’m having trouble differentiating Wi-Fi and beacons. What do I need to know? Read More »

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Minding your WebEx Ps and Qs: Tips for How to Get the Most Out of Web Meetings

How many meetings have you spent being distracted by characters such as the heavy breather, the distracted driver or the hold music culprit? Web meetings can be a really productive way to stay in touch and work together with your colleagues and clients but there are many considerations to keep in mind to make sure you’re not a meeting offender. We pulled together a short video with some pointers to remind us all of the standard WebEx etiquette.

5 WebEx Etiquette Tips

1.      Look your best: WebEx is the ideal place to hone what we like to call your “business mullet”: business up top, party below the camera. If you keep things professional (read: no bathrobes or Hawaiian shirts), you can feel free to wear your sweats and slippers when not in view. Just remember to turn your camera off before you stand up or else be ready for the onslaught of office hazing. (see this in the video at :32)

2.      Know when to share video: Many computers and mobile devices now offer built-in cameras, which are a great way to connect with the people you meet with… but not every situation is the same. Use common sense – keep your camera off while you’re driving or in a chaotic environment such as the airport that will be distracting for others involved. Put it on when you want to have a more natural conversation or show product details and examples.  (see this tip in the video at :54)

3.      Keep your microphone muted: You can’t always control when your doorbell will ring, when the car behind you honks or when your neighbor’s dog will go after the mailman. When in doubt, keep your line muted (either on your phone or by manually muting yourself on WebEx). If you’re the meeting host, you also have the power to mute people manually so you don’t waste precious time asking the heavy breather to tone it down. Read More »

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Check your Spectrum!

October 3, 2011 at 10:28 am PST

Lately I had been spending a lot of time in the office rather than on the road.  Which isn’t all bad, as it gives me some semblance of a routine rather than living out of a suitcase.   It has also has given me some spare time to come up with another blog topic, which actually stems from some of the work I have been doing for customers lately.

Typically when a site survey is being done, we will do spectrum analysis work as well, part of my job entails creating and reviewing documents from this work, prior to delivering them to customers, which means I have been watching a lot of  spectrum analysis lately.   Most of the customers I have worked with recently have been with CleanAir APs, so they will be able to monitor their environment in real time, once the WLAN is up and running.  However it’s always a good idea to perform some spectral analysis while you are walking around doing a site survey.  And really why not?  If you are there and you have a few minutes, fire up the old spectrum card and get a capture of whats going on with your RF.   This helps make sure there aren’t any major layer 1 surprises when you go to install the new WLAN.  It doesn’t mean things won’t change, and they often will, due to the dynamic nature of RF.  It’s an ever changing environment, so what wasn’t there on Monday, might show up on Tuesday and be gone again by Wednesday.

Before jumping into particular types of interferes let’s talk about some of the data that Cisco Spectrum Expert can show you.  Two of the things I like to look at when looking at the RF in Cisco Spectrum Expert, are Real Time FFT and Duty Cycle plots, as pictured below.

The Real Time FFT is showing you is the RF energy in real time measured in dBm, so how loud or quiet the device is.  The next is the FFT Duty Cycle, which simply put it’s how utilized the RF is. Let’s say you have a device that is being captured as having a 1% duty cycle.  This means it’s using a very small amount of the available ‘air time’ to transmit its data.  Conversly if there is a device that is showing a 100% duty cycle it is using up all the ‘air time’ and not allowing other devices to use the RF medium to transmit.

Two other views I find helpful are the Spectrogram views.  These display the same info as the plots above, but are plotted out over time.  I use them in a few of the examples below.

Read More »

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