Making sure that your network is future-proof is the dream of many network administrators that rarely ever blossoms into fruition. But when DeCurtis Corporation teamed up with Cisco, that dream was realized.
DeCurtis has been in operation for 20 years and started as a custom software company that has since made a name for itself in the cruise and hospitality market. DeCurtis President Derek Fournier said, “the focus on guest experience has fed not only our creative side, but our technological side too.”
With that in mind, DeCurtis used the Cisco Aironet Development Platform (ADP) as the foundation to prototype a concept that resulted in a unique Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) reader module that is being deployed in large cruise ships in conjunction with Cisco Aironet 3800 Access Points. The DeCurtis BLE Reader Module transforms the access point into an enhanced and very powerful location and proximity processing endpoint, a challenge enabled by and powered through the ADP.
This was accomplished by DeCurtis leveraging tools and resources from Cisco’s DevNet and Solution Partner Program. A major benefit with the Cisco solution is significantly reducing implementation costs by not having to run separate power or network cabling to the module, instead allowing for traffic to pass through the access point.
In this case, DeCurtis created a BLE module based on the ADP framework that turned BLE functionality on its ear. It’s not just push-notifications based on proximity. DeCurtis didn’t want to do something as simple as this; it wanted every endpoint (smart device, wearable or otherwise) to become a beacon so that clients can use the data in highly intelligent ways. The DeCurtis team developed a set of proprietary algorithms that create and listen for “interesting events” that can manage people in different spaces, further improving their reads.
This reader allows for a completely immersive experience, what Fournier calls “transformational experience technology”, that not only benefits the guests but the employees as well.
Fournier and his group leveraged ADP as a major part of the transformational experience technology by making sure that when a customer boards a ship, he or she is treated like a VIP. For example, a welcoming message could be sent to that person’s mobile device addressing that person by name and letting them know about activities that are targeted to their likings. It’s like bringing the mom-and-pop-store experience-where everyone knows a customer’s name and what they like-to a large company.
“Technology properly used with elegant design informed by true physical space data allows us to do this,” Fournier explained. “It creates the mystique that the customer is known.”
Fournier said that the reason why he and his company chose Cisco is because “Cisco is the place with whom you want to work”.
When they conceived of the idea of transformational experience technology, they looked at the other players in the wireless space, but found that they weren’t able to do the job infrastructure-wise. Since so many of their clients already have Cisco products, Fournier said that deciding on Cisco-especially after they got a preview of the ADP platform-was an easy decision.
DeCurtis is using the ADP BLE modules with the Aironet 3800 Access Points as the backbone for a full suite of enhanced experiences that are set to power several new cruise line initiatives, including Norwegian Cruise Lines, next year. Preliminary elements are set to be introduced as early as the end of this year via the “Cruise Freedom” initiative recently announced. Leveraging more than 1200 access points and ADP BLE Modules fueling the DeCurtis Platform, the primary areas of functionality are slated for fall of 2019 but the plan is for a phased implementation beginning later this year.
Fournier explains that the uses of the access point and module’s full capabilities will be set completely into motion sometime next year. He anticipates that one of its benefits will greatly affect the way that cruise-goers board their ships.
“Getting from your car to the cruise ship is a nontrivial experience, and it sometimes can be dissatisfying for all involved. What we’re doing here is trying to make that experience better,” he said. “The expectation is that we will evolve the cruise guest experience in a more personalized and seamless way through every phase of their vacation with Norwegian – from planning to cruising,” said Fournier.
The ADP platform extends the access point’s capabilities to now use BLE to immediately know when the customer has arrived at the port. Preparing the port staff for the incoming flow of guests with identification information and allowing them to intelligently service the needs of those guests promptly, taking full advantage of any required checkpoints, leads to a frictionless embarkation process.
People like targeted information that provides useful data, so DeCurtis is able to not only provide that but also let them know that something specific to their tastes is occurring as well while they wait. This is the level of personal concierge service DeCurtis provides.
Fournier said that going from concept to reality was remarkably quick. Leveraging years of previous experience and R&D in BLE projects made that possible. The greatest challenges were writing the BLE v5x drivers from scratch and overcoming the technical hurdles of integrating the module with the Cisco access point. Because this was the first Cisco-certified module, much of the development was also new for Cisco.
However, Cisco dedicated their top engineers toward the project and were able to answer questions or provide whatever information was required. “The Cisco team was there for us whenever we needed them,” Fournier said. “Whether it was the prototype or certification process, they were with us every step of the way and it was a relatively painless process.”
Fournier said that while his company uses the ADP BLE Modules for the hospitality market, he can see it being applied to education, healthcare, finance and other verticals. One application that Fournier envisions is making the Game Day presentation at sporting events better. Now, fans can be greeted by name at arenas and ballparks. Instead of missing some of the game time action by running to the souvenir stand, fans can shop from their seats and items waiting for them in a locker when they leave an event.
The ADP BLE Modules open up hospitals to track assets like IV Pumps and wheelchairs in real time using less expensive BLE tags with significantly longer battery life than current solutions.
“Schools are top of mind for me,” he said. “Knowing where people are during an emergency is obviously very important. You can do this in a school when an emergency occurs. You can make sure that everyone is present and accounted for. We can make sure that the kids are in their correct school room or are with an adult.”