As many as 87%* of Singaporeans carries a smart phone today and they have high affinity to be constantly be connected to the internet for reasons of either work related or for entertainment. Many public spots such as shopping malls, food and beverage outlets, airports, train and bus stations are offering free Wi-Fi hotspots as part of a standard amenity for visitors. Besides benefiting customers, there are also benefits retail and food & beverage owners can gain from offering Wi-Fi services. Advertisers have also exploited the smartphone as an effective and interactive advertising platform. Providing Wi-Fi service to customers at shopping malls, retail and Food & Beverages outlets is no longer just a competitive advantage, but has become an expected service to customer. To provide Wi-Fi services to customers, establishments usually adopts the Cloud Wi-Fi where the access points, controllers, gateways, servers and all other Wi-Fi equipment are centrally managed. Cloud Wi-Fi can either be managed by the establishments themselves or outsourced to a Cloud Wi-Fi service provider. *Nielsen report: http://www.nielsen.com/ph/en/insights/news/2014/asian-mobile-consumers.html
Benefits of Providing Cloud Wi-Fi Services
Besides having the benefits of attracting customers to visit the Malls and their premises, providing Wi-Fi also provides the Malls with good customer analytics. Here are some potential benefits when customers are connected to the Cloud Wi-Fi of the mall and its establishments:
- Footfall Analysis. This gives an indication on the number of people who patronise a shop or business in a particular period of time by counting the number of users connected to the access point at a shop or a particular location. Footfall is an important indicator of how successful a company’s advertising is at bringing people into its shops.
- Customer Analytics. Capturing useful information such as usage patterns and frequency of visit. Additional information such as age and gender of the customers can be captured with a Captive Portal in place.
- Targeted Adverts and Promotion. Base on the historical information on customer analytics, target adverts, promotions of discount e-coupons can be sent to the customers whenever they are in-store to develop customer loyalty and to increase sales. Targeted Adverts and Promotion also helps to drive traffic to new retail units and or other areas where a footfall increase will be viewed as a major benefit.
- Feedback from Customers. Online feedback can be obtained via The Cloud Customer Surveys to further capture customer analytics to make improvements where necessary.
Setting Up a Cloud Wi-Fi
To provide Cloud Wi-Fi service, certain key infrastructure and equipment need to be in place. Below are some (may not be exhaustive) of the key capital expenditure investments to be made when offering a Cloud Wi-Fi service:
- Fibre cable infrastructure. Before being able to offer any Cloud Wi-Fi service, the building needs to be wired up with fibre cables to all essential locations within the building.
- Installation of Access Points (APs). APs are installed at strategic location to form a wireless mesh network. This is to allow customers to stay connected to the Wi-Fi as they roam within the building.
- Internet Gateway. This piece of equipment is necessary to connect the Cloud Wi-Fi network to the Internet.
- Repeater. A Repeater extends the size of the Wi-Fi zone by repeating the Internet connection via one or more APs and meshing with each other.
- Controller. The basic functions of the controller is to monitor the performance of the APs and to flag out issues if any, track usage, configure access control, track users’ devices used and to create a terms and conditions splash page for users to agree upon before allowing them access to the Cloud Wi-Fi.
- Software and Servers. Software, which resides on Servers, acts as Cloud Controller to monitor zones and to ensure everything is working in order.
To ensure continuity of the Cloud Wi-Fi service, redundancy of equipment will have to be put in place in anticipation of any faults or breakdowns. Equipment and Software also have a definite lifespan that will need to be replaced or upgraded as and when they become obsolete. Once the infrastructure and equipment are in place, a group of competent staff and resources would be needed to operate and to maintain the system. In doing so, operating expenses and human resource issues would need to be considered.
Owned & Managed Cloud Wi-Fi vs Service Provider’s Cloud Wi-Fi
The concept of having full ownership and control over the Cloud Wi-Fi network, presents an attractive option for building owners to own the network at first. Being not their core business, many establishments are however, not prepared to incur capital & operating expenditure and having to deal human resource issues associated with running of the Cloud Wi-Fi service. Another option for building owners would be to subscribe Cloud Wi-Fi services from a service provider, such as GRID. In this model, GRID would install all APs in the building at minimum cost to the owner. To turn-on the Cloud Wi-Fi service, building owners just need to pay a monthly license fee, based on the number of APs installed. Under this model, building owners will not need to worry about hiring IT staff to manage the cloud Wi-Fi, as all maintenance work would be carried out by GRID. As a service provider, GRID has adequate redundancies of its equipment and a group of competent maintenance & operational staff to ensure that its Could Wi-Fi is always up and running at optimal performance. GRID also regularly upgrades its equipment and software to keep up with the changes and demands of new technologies. For more information on GRID’s Cloud Wi-Fi, please click here (download the white papers).
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