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Aruba Networks Location Services Solutions: Part II

From its very beginnings, WiFi was a potent marketing platform, though not one which was always fully utilized. Advancement of modern technology made it possible to use various WiFi infrastructures and get useful insights into user behavior on our networks and enhance user experience – while justifying network-centric investments.

In our last article we’ve covered the first of two Aruba location services solutions. Talking about ALE (Analytics & Location Engine), we’ve given a quick overview of its features, capabilities and integration with third-party solutions. The second Aruba platform for location services is based on different technologies and offers new options and possibilities. Continue reading to find out more.

 

What is Aruba Meridian?

Aruba Meridian is a software-as-a-service (SaaS) public cloud-based content management system (CMS). It offers an easy way for customers to quickly create brand new (i.e. white-label) mobile apps via an intuitive interface accessible from any internet-enabled spot. Alternatively, customers that already have (own) a mobile app and wish to upgrade it with additional functionalities can use the Meridian Software Development Kit (SDK) add-ons on their existing apps. Whatever the specific case may be, Meridian supports the creation of apps and additional functionalities for iOS and Android operating systems and devices.

In addition to the cloud-based CMS app creation system, Meridian offers advanced location services powered by Bluetooth. There are three main components of Meridian location functions:

BluDot (Indoor location awareness) – Indoor micropositioning

Navigation (Indoor turn-by-turn directions) – Indoor navigation

Campaigns (context-aware information) – Location-based marketing campaigns and actions

How does it all work?

Aruba location services basically leverage the Bluetooth signal to power indoor location and wayfinding. Special sources of mobile device positioning data are used for this purpose – called Aruba Beacons – small devices that emit signals based on Bluetooth Low-Energy (BLE), also known as Bluetooth 4.0. Location Beacons are physically deployed according to a deployment plan, making sure that each client (typically a smartphone or tablet) simultaneously receives at least 3 different signals from surrounding Beacons, enabling the Meridian-powered app to triangulate and calculate the current location in space, i.e. on the map.

Simply speaking, Beacons are active transmitter devices (with an integrated 4-year battery) broadcasting Bluetooth signals at regular intervals, thus having a passive role in client’s self-guided wayfinding. Triangulation and positioning calculations are performed on the mobile device (which must be configured to receive Bluetooth signals) inside the app that communicates with the cloud-based Meridian platform. This communication between the mobile device and the Meridian platform is exchanged over the WiFi infrastructure network (not necessarily Aruba), or via the mobile network available on the mobile device itself. This location context ultimately shows a glowing blue dot that indicates a mobile app user’s map location in real-time, providing him with a GPS-like wayfinding experience.

 

PUSH NOTIFICATIONS – A new way of communicating with customers

In addition to location services and indoor navigation and wayfinding, Aruba Meridian can also send push notification messages to engage users and provide them information on locations, products, services and promotions in their immediate vicinity.

Marketing campaigns and targeted messages can be created very easily and quickly using the cloud-based Meridian CMS, and delivered to customers over Bluetooth via Aruba Beacons, which are set to “Proximity” mode. As was the case with blue dot wayfinding and location indication, this process also integrates Beacons, mobile devices, and the Meridian cloud-based platform, however in this case the distance of customer’s mobile client from the Beacon is used as a “trigger” for sending specific push notifications. Switching the Beacon from location to proximity mode and adjusting Beacon sensitivity (i.e. minimum distance needed for clients to receive set messages), as well as controlling the frequency of specific notifications, can be done very simply from the cloud-based Meridian platform.

Applications of this technology are varied and include simple greetings (e.g. “Hello and welcome to our hotel/restaurant/place of business…”), informative messages about products, services or locations the customer is currently visiting, as well as targeted marketing actions for sending personalized messages to end-customers (e.g. regarding customer loyalty programs and delivering rewards and benefits after a certain number of visits, sending information on in-store promotional prices, etc.).

 

LOCATION SHARING – Share your location with friends

Location sharing is a new Meridian feature that lets users share their location – location of their mobile client – with others using the mobile app. This feature also uses the previously mentioned mapping and positioning technology powered by Bluetooth Beacons. To activate it, simply enable the Find My Friends option within the Meridian CMS AppMaker system, with both types of app deployment being supported – white-label and SDK.

Whatever the venue, a large congress center, hotel, office building or a crowded shopping mall, customers and other users may use this additional functionality to easily share their location with others. This new location sharing feature is always reciprocal (both users have to share their respective locations), and once the connection is established, they can find each other in real time on a digital map.

 

ASSET TRACKING – Locate valued assets using Aruba Tags

Aruba Meridian CMS is a constantly-upgraded living system. One of its newest features is the option to track specific objects of interest. This typically entails tracking valued assets with applications in various branches of the economy; from retail chains, healthcare facilities, to warehouses in various other industries. Main advantage of this system is the completely automated tracking function, eliminating the need for readers, bar code scanners, or other tracking systems. Using this real-time locating system, you can streamline business processes, increase efficiency, and reduce total costs.

Aruba’s Asset Tracking solution uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) for tracking, however Beacons are replaced by Aruba Tags – physical devices mounted on each piece of equipment, objects, or asset we want to track. Technically speaking, Aruba Tags send signals to the WiFi infrastructure network that must be able to receive Bluetooth signals, i.e. have BLE-enabled wireless access points. All current Aruba access points are delivered with an integrated BLE Beacon.

Tags periodically transmit signals and report their location to the WiFi infrastructure that receives and forwards these signals to the cloud-based Meridian platform where the information is processed, and Tags are positioned on the map. This makes it possible to precisely determine where each asset is located, and accompanying contextual data can be expanded to include descriptions and images. Additional advantage of using the mobile app is that it lets the staff to easily find their way to each asset. Like all previously mentioned Meridian features, asset tracking is supported on iOS and Android devices via white-label apps created with the Meridian CMS or your own apps with integrated SDKs.

In conclusion, all statistical and contextual asset data collected over time and analyzed within the Meridian system can be viewed from a single point – portal accessible from anywhere via the internet, greatly contributing to the quality and facilitating the decision-making process.


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