Wi-Fi products with dynamic, directional antenna systems also have a unique opportunity to correlate antenna metrics to determine client location and further improve accuracy. At the end of the day, collective techniques ultimately contribute to precision. And once you know where the user is, the applications emerge.
Borrowing a theme from the broader mobile ecosystem, Wi-Fi location providers are making it easier for customers to build meaningful solutions by creating easy-to-use APIs and SDKs. Location companies could attempt to build a single killer app, but for Wi-Fi companies, the more scalable strategy is to provide the location engine and the tools that enable customers to build custom apps that make sense to the customer's unique situation.
Beyond the Infrastructure: Data is King
Since mobile devices have become critical to consumers, businesses have realized the opportunity to benefit—directly and indirectly—by adding value to their customers, guests, and employees. The breadth of appeal for everything mobile and the increasing use of Wi-Fi also enables businesses to justify the cost of location-based application development (and the Wi-Fi network itself), because suddenly Wi-Fi is tied to marketing and revenue instead of IT expenses.
It's important to note that the biggest single benefit of LBS services is gathering data and analytics from users. This data can be used by organizations to improve the user experience and customer service. But, almost always, when you hear pundits talk about location services, they cite the usefulness of location to push people advertisements and coupons. This is interesting and potentially useful but users find it bothersome at best.
Naturally, a lot of focus has been on retail, where location and analytics are wed. As we're already seeing, many solutions focus on higher-level analytics with rough RSSI data to evaluate customer traffic patterns, capture rates, return rates, and similar. But with more information, retail centers can optimize store layouts based on typical customer traffic paths, or venue owners can charge more for premium storefront or high-view ad spots.
But look at verticals such as hospitality. They have elements of retail (bar, restaurant, spa/massage services). Then they have navigation challenges (where is the conference room, bar, my child, pool, fitness area, etc.) where a site mapping/navigation app could be helpful.Then there's the huge premium on customer service, where location services could be tied to customer management systems—personalized greetings for loyalty members, quicker in-app check-in on arrival, and you can dream up any number of ways to pamper guests with location-specific enhancements and offerings.
And the wheels are spinning in other industries, like transportation, manufacturing, healthcare, conference centers, stadiums, and other venues. Beyond the enterprise, carriers also have a strong interest in offering location services and analytics not only to better tune their network but to also help monetize them. Everyone has some use for location information.
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