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Pushing cloud Wi-Fi way beyond basic connectivity

Bob Brown | March 17, 2016
Cloud4Wi, Relay2 upgrade their platforms for more engaging WiFi networks.

The savvier that brick-and-mortar retailers get using data from their Wi-Fi networks to make shopping at their locations compelling, the better chance they'll have to compete vs. the Amazons of the world, which already are making a killing off of customer analytics and targeted marketing, Abramowitz says. He envisions a time when physical stores serve more as showcases for products to be ordered and delivered via online means.

If all this sounds kind of creepy, consider that the programs are universally opt-in, according to Abramowitz, whose company provides its clients with customizable privacy statements but leaves it up to those clients to work up their own policies. "Increasingly, shoppers are willing [to opt in] to get better deals and access to information in exchange for having the store know a little more about them," he contends. Cloud4Wi itself gathers only anonymized data that it can use to better design its services (for example, it has learned that 80% of shoppers in Europe use social media accounts to log in to retailer/restaurant Wi-Fi networks and in U.S. it is almost flipped, with most preferring to share email addresses instead). 

The company this week is announcing upgraded management tools for IT as well as better mobile app support, including technology that would enable a brand to integrate its app with location-sensitive beacon technology. Cloud4Wi will also deliver better application integration, so that data collected via Cloud4Wi services could work with third-party CRM and other apps.

The vendor charges enterprises $240 per year per access point or $480 for three years. Abramowitz cited one restaurant in Toronto -- Lone Star Texas Grill -- that got a return on its investment in just a few months by collecting thousands of valuable email addresses.

While Cloud4Wi is squarely focused on the enterprise, it will broaden its portfolio down the line to offer products that carriers can use to target SMBs with similar services.


Founded: 2011

Headquarters: Milpitas, Calif.

Funding: $29M

This privately-held firm started off a few years back targeting the enterprise, and while its vision for a cloud-based WLAN platform with access points hosting applications and various services at the network edge is essentially the same, Relay2 has reworked its go-to-market strategy to focus on systems integrators and service providers. Those outfits largely serve SMBs, such as retailers, elder care and hospitality concerns, looking to exploit Wi-Fi via customized applications.

Relay2 this week is announcing a more powerful family of access points, dubbed the RA200 and supporting the latest technologies such as MIMO and 802.11ac.  Systems integrators would spread APs across a customer’s space and allow management of them via a web-based interface into cloud-hosted WLAN controllers. Relay2 runs data centers in Santa Clara and Shanghai, and is readying a third center in Japan, where it hopes to cash in on that country’s increased investment in wireless and the cloud to support the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics.


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