Fortinet wireless security gateway can now track, entice shoppers

FortiGate gear can identify MAC address on shoppers' smartphones, help with store marketing

Retail store managers would like to know, in real time, how many shoppers enter their premises and what they are likely interested in buying. Security firm Fortinet, which makes the FortiGate threat-management gateways that include a wireless access point, says its gear can now pick up the presence of shoppers' smartphones in order to provide retailers a real-time view of where shoppers go in stores.

FortiGate is wirelessly capturing just the presence of the unique MAC address on the shopper’s smartphone if it’s turned on. That’s enough to be able to map out and track where shoppers go and how long they stay in a store. In addition, if retail stores choose to offer shoppers free WiFi access in which they can elect to log in via their Facebook accounts, the store’s marketing group can push out e-mail to the shopper. Basically, it means the store’s wireless security gateway is also being put into use for real-time monitoring of shopper’s presence and marketing to them.

Koroush Saraf

Koroush Saraf, senior director, product management at Fortinet, says using security gear for in-store monitoring and marketing is about “real-time visibility” for store managers.

“It’s about real-time visibility” to help retailers identify loyal shoppers and what parts of the store interest them in their routine visits, says Koroush Saraf, Fortinet's senior director of product management. The FortiGate unified threat management gear with wireless support already provides firewall, intrusion-prevention, VPN, application control, web/e-mail filtering and anti-virus defense.

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The new “sensor” capabilities through FortiGate gear are also intended to give retailers a way to defend themselves against “showrooming,” says Saraf.  “Showrooming” is when shoppers go to a store to try out something, like sunglasses, but then order online, perhaps through Amazon if they think the same thing is cheaper. Fortinet has established an alliance with Kiana Analytics to provide detailed tracking information about shoppers based on the smartphone MAC address detected by FortiGate gear. Retail stores could make use of digital signs in their stores to display real-time price checks if they wanted to. “The sign will do an instant price check and coupon just for you,” says Saraf. He said a number of stores are testing out the FortiGate gear for retail marketing purposes.

Fortinet is also releasing new FortiGate models, including the FortiGate 280D-POE that’s a rack-mounted 96-port device with 4Gbps firewall throughput.

Ellen Messmer is senior editor at Network World, an IDG website, where she covers news and technology trends related to information security. Twitter: MessmerE. E-mail: emessmer@nww.com

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