Aruba couples Wi-Fi and beacon technology to boost mobile location services

Stadiums, retailers, hotels and hospitals can now deliver onsite location services that interact with customers based on their position and personal profiles using the Aruba Mobile Engagement offering

Aruba couples Wi-Fi and beacon technology to boost mobile location services

Aruba Networks announced the global launch of Aruba Mobile Engagement this week (4 November 2014) - an interactive and personalised mobile solution based on Wi-Fi and location services powered by Aruba Beacons.

Aruba Mobile Engagement enables organisations to deliver customised push notifications and precise onsite navigation to users’ mobile devices based on their opted-in, personal profile settings and position inside a venue.

The new platform enables venues’ marketing and IT departments to partner more effectively resulting in increased customer loyalty, satisfaction and revenue.

Using Aruba Mobile Engagement’s push notifications, customers can securely opt-in to receive notifications they care about using Aruba Meridian-powered apps or a mobile browser via Aruba ClearPass Guest Advertising.

Participating customers’ in-venue positions are then determined using mobile apps that recognise Aruba Beacons’ Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology and the Wi-Fi infrastructure to securely engage mobile devices inside venues.

To eliminate privacy concerns, Aruba Mobile Engagement does not capture or retain customer information and requires multiple layers of acknowledgement from the mobile user before activation.

In addition, Aruba Mobile Engagement allows mobile-device users to position themselves by searching for Aruba Beacons versus competing approaches that use hardware in a venue to search for the user.

Notifications will only “wake up” a mobile app after customers have completed a three-stage opt-in process, are next to a point of interest they care about, and input information to create their profile in the mobile app.

If the customer no longer wishes to receive notifications they can simply opt out ending all communications between the customers’ mobile devices and the venue.

Anna Domingo, marketing director at the View from the Shard in London where the Aruba Mobile Engagement was launched on Tuesday, said: “As a relatively young venue a key focus for us is to create experiences that the customer will enjoy and want to repeat. Our visitors come from all walks of life, but what unites them is their use of mobile devices inside the building. The implication of mobile engagement is to use that mobile activity as a gateway to offer all kinds of new experiences, and eventually to communicate with them on a 1:1 basis.” 

Incentivising customers and increasing loyalty with personalised offers
In developed countries, more than 90% of consumers’ time is spent indoors, and 70% of those consumers carry Wi-Fi enabled smart phones into venues. This large addressable market, compounded with growing numbers of companies planning to implement location-based mobile marketing, presents a unique opportunity for venues to take advantage of Aruba Mobile Engagement.

Stadiums, retailers and hotels rely heavily on loyalty to encourage customers to stay on premises longer and ultimately influence their buying decisions. These venues can retain more customers for longer by improving their experience and delivering location-based personalised offers and incentives to eat, shop and relax onsite.

With the new Aruba Mobile Engagement, venues now have a mechanism to deliver tailored promotions to their customers when they are on the premises. Once customers complete the opt-in process, notifications will automatically communicate with the customers’ mobile app and deliver personalised offers, promotions, and nearby amenities and services.

Since this platform uses venues’ Wi-Fi infrastructure and easy-to-deploy Aruba Beacons, Aruba Mobile Engagement is simple to manage for the IT staff and use by customers.

San Francisco 49ers Levi’s Stadium
The new home of the San Francisco 49ers and one of the world’s most advanced open-air sports and entertainment venues, Levi’s Stadium seats 68,500 spectators inside a 1.85 million square foot facility. Levi’s Stadium’s state-of-the-art network was built on Brocade switching and Aruba mobility technology to deliver exclusive content, venue information and services to visiting fans (see photo of mobile phone above).

“From a technology perspective, it is imperative that we engineered a network infrastructure that not only delivered ultra-fast connectivity to tens of thousands of fans’ mobile devices, but also provided a mobile engagement experience like none other,” said Dan Williams, VP of Technology for the San Francisco 49ers, the team that provided the technology infrastructure and mobile app to the Santa Clara Stadium Authority’s project.

“By partnering with Brocade for switching and Aruba for mobility, we were able to blaze new ground and create a platform that gave our fans the experience of a personal game day command centre in the palm of their hands. Fans can now watch instant replays, receive precise turn-by-turn navigation, and order food directly from their mobile devices. Visitors get to experience the facility and game like never before by greatly enhancing their onsite experience.”

Aruba Beacons
Aruba Beacons use Bluetooth Low-Energy (BLE) technology (Bluetooth 4.0) to provide indoor location data for mobile devices. The data can be used for indoor wayfinding, proximity aware push notifications and other types of location services in mobile apps.

The Beacons broadcast in the unlicensed 2.4GHz band and can be heard and interpreted by iOS and Android devices that are also equipped with Meridian-powered mobile apps from Aruba. The beacons only broadcast small amounts of data, so Meridian-powered mobile apps must fetch relevant content for them.

Aruba Beacons come in two physical formats. Aruba USB Beacons plug into an Aruba Wi-Fi access point while standalone Aruba battery-powered beacons (see below) can be placed anywhere within a venue. Both types can be configured either as a location or a proximity beacon, so that corresponding actions are triggered on a venue’s Meridian-powered mobile app.

Greg Murphy, Vice President, Business Operations for Aruba Networks, illustrated how the system works for a hotel as an example. ‘If a guest walks into the hotel lobby, the Aruba Beacon recognises him via the hotel app he has downloaded before. It knows the number of the room he has book and sends a push notification to him to say: you may go directly to room 225.

‘In short, he has checked in. The system can also trigger a notification to the hotel staff to say, this valued guest has arrived, and the concierge can welcome him by name.’

The guest can go straight to his room without going to the check-in desk. But he needs a key. What happens is that as he nears the door he gets a push notification on his smartphone to say: you can unlock the door now by pressing the screen unlock message; this sends a notification to the door locking system to open it.’

Murphy said: ‘For this to work you must have very accurate location information; you don’t want the guest to be able to unlock the door from two floors below. He must be within 1-2m of the door. Once he is in the room, the hotel can use the push notification function to inform the guest about offers in the bar, restaurant, gym and so on.’

However, he emphasised that to use the Aruba Beacon Bluetooth solution the user must have downloaded the venue app, so they can be securely identified  and tied into the venue’s CRM solution.

Murphy added that similar location can be used in museums (pushing information in different languages about exhibits, wayfinding and venue information); hospitals, where wayfinding is often confusing; and retail environments, where customers can use their mobile phones to find the products they want quickly without having to wait for assistance.

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