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Aerohive's retail strategy comes full circle with radius partnership

How beacons are becoming almost as valuable Wi-Fi for retailers.

Earlier this summer, Aerohive put together a solution for retail environments under the brand of Personal Engagement Platform. The solution packages Aerohive’s products with some from strategic partners such as Euclid and Airwatch to remove the complexity around creating personalized services. The strategy seems like it’s been a big success, as last quarter Aerohive announced its retail strategy was up 300% year-over-year and now accounts for 10% of its overall business.

Today, Aerohive added to its retail strategy by partnering with Radius Networks, one of the leaders in proximity services and beacon technology. For those not familiar with beacons, they are small, Bluetooth low energy (BLE) nodes used to deliver personalized services and list for as low as $29. For example, in retail, the store application on a customer’s mobile device can “listen” for the beacon and then, based on user preference, push an ad, coupon, or promotion to the device. If the shopper is a female, she may receive a 2-for-1 special on women’s shoes. If the customer is male, he may get pushed a promotion for sport coats. Basically, the combination of a smartphone application and a beacon can trigger an action for the customer.

Beacons are used in more than just retail. Any business that wants to push personalized information to a mobile device could benefit. For example, museums have had some interest in beacons as a tool for providing an enhanced experience for visitors – when they pass a painting, they’ll have interesting information about it pushed to their device. Universities could use beacons to notify students of important information, and gas stations could entice someone filling their car to come into store.  There are literally thousands of uses of beacon technologies today.

There are currently two types of beacons: iBeacons are beacons that are used to communicate with iOS devices such as iPhones and iPads; AltBeacons are based on a proposed standard, developed by Radius Networks and designed to communicate with non-Apple devices, primarily Android.

Under the terms of the partnership, each Aerohive AP will also become a beacon in the store. As far as I know, Aerohive is the first business-class Wi-Fi provider to support beacon technology, giving them a unique offering.

In addition to the AP integration, the beacons can be managed through Aerohive’s cloud management platform. While there are many ways for any vendor to differentiate themselves, Aerohive’s biggest differentiator is its management interface, as it is one of the best in the networking industry. Customers that use the joint offering can manage the beacons as a “network” through the Aerohive interface. Today, beacons are managed as discrete elements with no centralized control. This is similar to the early days of Wi-Fi, when APs were managed independently. This poses a significant management problem given that a store can have as many as 10 times more beacons than APs. The integration with Aerohive brings centralized management to the network of beacons. This can also help with planning where beacons will be located for optimized coverage in a store, stadium, building or other location.

This strategy should be a boon to Aerohive as it looks to fill the void in retail left by Motorola. At one time, Motorola dominated retail, partially because it could create a bundled sale of Wi-Fi plus other wireless infrastructure from Symbol, including point-of-sale equipment and other wireless devices. Today, Motorola’s wireless business is in shambles. The strategic relationship between Aerohive and beacon provider Radius Networks should make an attractive offering for retailers, similar to the old Motorola/Symbol bundles.

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