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Away from Corner Cases: High Density, Low Throughput Wi-Fi

March 19th, 2014

In my blog called Corner Cases, I mentioned that high density, high throughput (HDHT) cases are in the extreme minority (<1%). In this blog, I would like to discuss High Density, Low Throughput (HDLT), which I believe will be the situation that over half of the installed Wi-Fi infrastructures of the world will face at some point over the next 5-7 years. I want to clarify that that when I use the term “high density”, I’m referring to client density (lots of clients in a physical area), not AP density (lots of APs in a physical area).

Unless you’ve been camping out under a rock, you may have heard the term “Internet of Things” or IoT for short. This moniker refers to the movement toward connecting previously-unconnected devices onto the Internet. To clarify, things are being connected to the Internet, thus we get Internet of Things. So how many of these things are we talking about? Oh… a few I suppose. Gartner is saying there will be 26 billion IoT devices and an additional 7.3 billion smartphones/tablets/PCs by 2020. The vast majority of these devices will connect wirelessly, so we’re about to see a crazy explosion in device density. Obviously it doesn’t all grind to a stop in the year 2020, which is truly just around the corner.

The important point to make here is how device density affects: 1) network design, and 2) the type of equipment you purchase to appropriately support your customers (over the lifecycle of your next infrastructure upgrade/refresh). Most vendor marketing departments like to tightly bind high-density and high-throughput requirements together, but they are completely separate topics. You can have the following scenarios:

  • Low Density, Low Throughput (LDLT)
  • Low Density, High Throughput (LDHT)
  • High Density, Low Throughput (HDLT)
  • High Density, High Throughput (HDHT)

HDLT: the de facto standard

I don’t think that comes as a surprise to anyone. In the Corner Cases blog, I specifically addressed HDHT networks and pointed out that they are in the extreme minority today. HDLT networks are reasonably common today, but usually not to any extreme. When IoT bears its full weight on the market (which will be far sooner than you might realize), HDLT networks will be the de facto standard. In a nutshell, this means that APs will need to associate (connect) lots of devices (I foresee 100+ devices per radio becoming common fairly soon), but the traffic to/from each of those connected devices may often be sparse. APs will likely need good QoS, a good understanding of client behavior and needs, and of course security will be all-the-more important with the breadth of devices connecting to the network.

Let’s consider a specific scenario, the average branch office (perhaps real estate or insurance) with 20 employees, to make my point. Today, the branch could possibly have the following devices connected to the Wi-Fi infrastructure:

  • Laptops
  • Tablets
  • Smartphones
  • Printers (let’s hope not, but you never know)

Let’s fast-forward to the year 2020 and consider how that same branch office might look from a technology standpoint. What items within the office could feasibly be Internet-connected in addition to what they have today?

  • Security cameras
  • Printers (they definitely will)
  • Digital signage
  • Digital picture frames at workers’ desks
  • Appliances (e.g. refrigerator, water cooler, coffee maker)
  • Cars that are within range of the in-building (or outdoor) Wi-Fi
  • Wearable technology (watch computers, eyeglass computers, etc.)
  • Building controls (thermostats, security systems, fire systems, etc.)

I’m sure I could go on and on, but for the sake of time, I’ll stop listing things. I’m sure you got my point. It’ll be a ton of things for sure. Some will want some bandwidth (e.g. picture frames sucking down 3MB photos from a file share on a server at a pace of 1 new photo every 5 minutes times 10 picture frames in the office), and some will want very little (e.g. your digital watch updating you on the temperature outside). All-in-all, the bandwidth requirements will be modest at best, but the number of devices will be ridiculous.

Remember how BYOD started? Companies tried to stop it by creating company policies. Yeah, that worked out… NOT. It will be the same way for IoT. It will progress like this:

Users: We want our things on the Wi-Fi.
Admin: No.
Users: Yes, because if you don’t, _________.
Admin: OK, you win, but your devices will be firewalled, rate-limited, and highly controlled.
Users: I don’t care so long as they work properly. Hey wait, why doesn’t my picture frame work properly. It probably needs more bandwidth. Fix it.
Admin: No.
Users: We’ll tell.
Admin: Ugh! OK, it’s fixed, now leave me alone.

BYOD stands for Bring Your Own Device, and trust me, they will, but not just smartphones, tablets, and laptops. They’re going to bring Internet-enabled pens, shoes, and heart monitors. You, Mr. Admin, will be powerless to stop it. You thought all of this BYOD stuff had just about fizzled and was limited to just a few vertical markets didn’t you? Ha. It’s barely even begun, and you haven’t seen complexity yet… just wait. How will you manage those Internet-enabled pens again? No, I don’t mean just at Layer-2… that’s the first step. I mean at Layer-7 also. Sorry I had to break that news to you. Bumpy ride ahead.

There are companies today who are building cloud infrastructures that are specifically designed to manage all kinds of IoT devices for the manufacturers who make them. That’s good thinking. Not every company in the world wants to build a cloud to keep their Internet-enabled devices up-to-date and to push content to them.

In closing, I will reiterate that it will soon be the number of devices, not high throughput, that will become the more significant issue across a large section of the Wi-Fi market as a whole. Make a note, it’s coming.

BYOD, mobile device management, smartphones, WiFi Access, WLAN planning

Retail Survival: Enabling the Consumer

July 30th, 2013

The age of the empowered consumer is upon us. According to a recent Harvard Business Review article called Mobile Shopping’s Data Goldmine, some 44% of shoppers use their smartphones while they’re shopping; more than a third of them are comparing prices. The impact of mobile research can be profound, affecting the buying behavior of nearly 90% of mobile shoppers,” according to the HBR article.

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HBR Blog Network _ Mobile Shopping's Data Goldmine

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Customer empowerment is extending beyond mobile as consumers become comfortable interacting with retail companies through any channel available, including ecommerce, online, kiosk, voice, webchat, and more. The question is how aggressively retailers are moving to enable this new reality for the customer.

 

As the following short (and funny) video below shows, shoppers want to take a lot more into their own hands.

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she's in your stuff

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How to Respond?

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The video shows a future that is frightening to many retailers, but it needn’t be. Leading retailers are taking a number of steps now to get in front of this approaching tidal wave.

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1) Optimize in-store shopping 

 

Accenture Seamless Retail Study

Accenture Seamless Retail Study

Rather than fear consumer empowerment, retailers should embrace it. In a survey of 6,000 consumers polled across eight countries (US, UK, Germany, Sweden, France, Brazil, China and Japan), Accenture found that the majority of respondents believe that integrating in-store, online and mobile is the number one thing that retailers can do to improve the shopping experience. An IBM study found that, contrary to expected concerns about loss of privacy, “the majority of shoppers were willing to contribute 20 minutes on average to help a retailer better understand their desires in order to provide them with more meaningful offers based on their past purchases.”

By encouraging in-store customers to use their own devices to join a social Wi-Fi portal, retailers can further bridge the gap between the physical and online space.  They can raise awareness about their mobile app and loyalty program.  Stores can deliver personalized offers tailored to specific interests or particular profiles, allow for social sharing and feedback, as well as collect profile information and user analytics (ideally after opt-in).

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2) Create a “Wow” Store Experience

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As consumers increasingly use technology to find the products and services they want at the price they want, what’s the value of the store? Certainly not for inventory lookup and ordering when shoppers can do this themselves. And no longer for immediate gratification as Amazon and other ecommerce sites neutralize this physical store advantage by partnering with same-day delivery services.

Create a “Wow” Store ExperienceThe purpose of the store will evolve to provide an exciting, rich physical experience. Consider a new flagship AT&T store in NY where the “experience” of shopping for mobile or network technologies is being transformed and includes:

    • 130 digital screens
    • The Explorer Lounge to play and learn about apps that interest them.
    • The App Bar where “app-tenders” serve up one-on-one or group demos, which are also displayed on multiple video monitors on the Apps Wall.
    • An 18-foot-high Connect Wall that shows interactive content and product information visible to the entire store and passers-by.
    • Products, apps and accessories organized by needs in the Lifestyle Boutiques, including Get Fit, Be Productive, Share Your Life and Chicagoland.

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3) Empower Frontline Sales

 

You don’t want your sales associates to have less power or knowledge than your customers. But in many stores customers are outfitted with the latest mobile devices, while sales staff has no electronic equipment beyond the register. If equipped with smartphones and tablets and targeted apps, however, sales associates can demonstrate how products work or immerse customers in interactive mobile environments.   The approach can be as simple as training staff to guide customers through existing tools.

At Burberry stores, some 20% of Burberry’s total sales are on iPads, and half of these are from staff iPads in store, according to the Harvard Business Review article mentioned earlier. The article also noted that “by engaging in activities like these, salespeople shift into the role of helping customers rather than simply selling to them.”

AT&T is also having success at its New York City store by arming its salespeople. The retailer rolled out a mobile POS system that has changed AT&T’s concept of retail, expanding the store’s capacity during busy times. Using tablets added efficiency and promoted interaction, creating transparent, friendly, knowledgeable experiences. According to Paul Roth, president of AT&T retail sales and service.

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“They just like us more when we use a tablet. This changed the way we do business.”

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Additional Information:

Evaluating a Wi-Fi Solutions Provider? Make Sure They Talk SMAC

Evaluating a Wi-Fi Solutions Provider? Make Sure They Talk SMAC

Mobile Shopping’s Data Goldmine via Harvard Business Review

Accenture Seamless Retail Study

IBM Retail Study

Evaluating a Wi-Fi Solutions Provider? Make Sure They Talk SMAC

Sometimes you gotta talk some SMAC!   by Geoffrey Moore @geoffreymoore

AirTight Social Solution Brief

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Another Controller-less Wi-Fi Solution by Matthew Norwood @matthewnorwood

The ‘New’ Enterprise WLAN Vendor by Lee H Badman @WiredNot

Product Review: AirTight Networks Wi-Fi by Craig Mathias via @NetworkWorld

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AirTight Networks expands cloud-Wi-Fi product line

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Catch @AirTight at Wireless Field Day 5, August 8th from 8 to 10 am PT (live) or via #WFD5 video archive

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802.11n, Best practices, mobile device management, PCI, smartphones, WiFi Access, WLAN networks , , , , , , ,

How to implement BYOD with Wi-Fi / WIPS assist

June 18th, 2013

BYOD Bring Your Own Device

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Wi-Fi has become the de facto access medium for smart mobile devices in enterprise networks. Sitting at the edge of the network, Wi-Fi can assist greatly in implementing secure and disciplined BYOD in these networks.

There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to BYOD management in the enterprise. However, from my experiences working with Wi-Fi and WIPS deployments, I have seen certain features that are particularly useful for organizations in implementing BYOD. This blog post explores some of these in greater detail. |

 

1)      Monitor new devices entering Wi-Fi

 

Monitoring for new smart devices entering the network is a first and important step in the implementation of disciplined BYOD. Wireless clients connecting to Wi-Fi are fingerprinted using packet level and protocol level characteristics to identify smart mobile devices.

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WPA2 alone is not sufficient to stop personal devices from entering the protected Wi-Fi network.

|Monitor new devices entering Wi-Fi

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2)      Enforce pre-configured policies on new devices entering Wi-Fi

 

Once a new smart mobile device is detected in the Wi-Fi network, different types of pre-configured policies can be automatically implemented. For example, one policy would be to block or limit access to new smart devices pending authorization. The Wi-Fi/WIPS solution can facilitate such policy enforcement by blocking new devices from accessing the secure network or provide them only limited access (e.g., access to only Guest SSID) until they are approved by IT administrator. |

Devices pending review |

3)      Automated approval/onboarding of new devices on secure Wi-Fi

 

Using mobile apps provided by Wi-Fi/WIPS vendor:  With the rising volume of new devices entering the network, manual approval and inventory may prove to be cumbersome. Using onboarding apps provided by the Wi-Fi/WIPS vendor, this process can be automated. New smart mobile devices are redirected to a portal and upon installation of the onboarding app, devices are allowed to enter the protected Wi-Fi. The onboarding app facilitates automated inventory and tracking for smart devices after they are admitted into the secure network. This app can also automatically configure secure WPA2 settings on the device without administrator intervention.

| Onboarding with AirTight Mobile app

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Using third party MDM agents: Many organizations deploy specialized MDM (Mobile Device Management) systems to manage smart mobile devices accessing corporate assets. Several MDM systems choices are available in the market. So, BYOD onboarding workflow in a Wi-Fi solution that facilitates device onboarding with third party MDM agents is useful. With this workflow, new devices attempting to connect the network without hosting the MDM agent prescribed by IT are detected and redirected to install the MDM agent. Upon installing the MDM agent, they are allowed to enter the protected Wi-Fi. A point to note here is that MDM alone does not complete the BYOD story, combination of MDM and Wi-Fi gatekeeping is what is required. This is because MDM can control only managed devices, but Wi-Fi/WIPS gatekeeping detects unmanaged devices and helps bring them under MDM control. Airtight Wi-Fi provides API to implement this workflow using third party MDM agents.

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4)      Wireless security for the admitted devices

 

Once admitted into the network, the mobile devices need to be afforded strong protection from vulnerable wireless connections and wireless attacks including rogue APs, tethering, personal hotspots, Wi-Phishing, client connections to neighborhood APs, ad hoc connections, etc.  With BYOD, the sheer volume of wireless endpoints seen in the wireless environment is expected to triple or quadruple over next 2-3 years. As a result, fully automated strong WIPS, free from false alarms and not requiring excessive configuration and signature maintenance is needed to be the part of the Wi-Fi solution in order to implement truly secure BYOD. |

As we can see, enterprises can take advantage of many Wi-Fi and WIPS features to implement secure and disciplined BYOD in their networks. These features range from identifying new smart devices entering the network to assist in smooth onboarding of the new devices to securing the new devices once they are admitted into the secure Wi-Fi networks. So don’t get stressed by BYOD, there are Wi-Fi and WIPS to assist you.

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Additional Information:

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802.11ac, 802.11n, Best practices, BYOD, mobile device management, smartphones, WiFi Access, WLAN networks, WLAN planning

Fast Forward: The New Personalized In-Store Shopping Experience

June 11th, 2013

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How Retailers Can Reinvigorate Brick-and-Mortar

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Fast Forward: How Leading Retailers Can Reinvigorate Bricks-and-MortarMany brick-and-mortar retailers have used data analytics from their online sites to create in-depth customer portraits based on geography, demographics, interests and shopping habits.  But when the customer enters their physical store, suddenly the store is largely blind, unable to connect the wealth of online data to the customer walking in their store.

Perhaps this is why brick-and-mortar retailers are being hammered by online-only retailers who know so much about their customers. A recent Forrester report predicts online sales will reach $262 billion by the end of 2013, a 13 percent rise from $231 billion in 2012, while retail store sales have limped along at just under three percent growth.

A recent IBM study finds one of the real threats to brick-and-mortar is decreasing customer loyalty in a world rich with choices, literally at the consumers’ fingertips. Other studies show that a clear majority of retailers agree that customers want to use multiple channels (or omnichannel) to interact with stores and that customers who do so tend to buy more.

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So how can retailers make the physical instore experience more enjoyable and desirable for the customer?

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Discount Today on those Vijoss Jeans You Love

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New instore Wi-Fi presence analytics capabilities tied into smartphones, other omnichannel functionality, and a customer data warehouse show promise of transforming this dynamic to create a more customized, personalized and basket-rich in-store experience. These new personalized analytics transcend basic anonymous Wi-Fi analytics — the % of people who look at a window display and actually enter the store, or the number of people visiting the store at certain hours to help set staffing levels. Rather, they understand who the customer is and their  interests and preferences as soon as they enter the store.

Here’s how this might work:  a regular customer of a clothes retailer, who has also purchased from the store’s ecommerce site, walks into the retailer’s physical store. As she does, a screen pops up on her smartphone asking if she’d like to access the Internet using the store’s Wi-Fi.  The screen, a social access portal, can be custom designed by the retailer using the store’s branded colors and images. She only needs to ‘opt-in’ once. After that, each time she visits the store it automatically recognizes her and provides access.

Opt-In Social EngagementBeyond providing the customer with access to the Internet and to the retailer’s website, this opt-in also opens up a new world of capabilities for the retailer.

From online data gathered from its ecommerce site, the clothes retailer knows that this woman is 32 and that she loves “urban clothing.” It knows her size and color preferences. She has viewed and bought numerous items from leading brands such as Vigoss and Frenchi and has also left items in her basket (perhaps she had wanted to try on the items?), and put certain urban clothing type items on her wish list.

Currently, the store has a special on Vigoss Colored Skinny Jeans. So as she enters the store (and once she has opted in), a pop up appears on her Smartphone alerting her to the special. (Or it could display  the Flap Pocket Skinny Crop Jeans she had abandoned in her online basket.) She’s interested in the Vigoss jeans and the app creates a map directing her to the item. It also suggests other accessories to the jeans, including shoes and tops.

Once the customer decides to purchase, she has the option to scan the items with her Smartphone, the items are debited to her account, she places them in a store-branded bag nearby, and leaves – walking by the typically understaffed checkout counters with lines at most clothes retailers.

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Personalization Combined with Location and Weather

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Combining customer preferences with location information and a daily updating data point such as weather can open up new opportunities for personalization through smartphones. For example, Starbucks could incorporate a weather feed to their mobile strategy, and dynamically shift a promotion from a hot drink to a cold drink as the temperature rises in a particular location.

Hot Strawberry Toaster Pastry with frosting and sprinkles|

Walmart discovered that, by analyzing its vast data warehouse of daily customer interactions, it uncovered gems of insights that drive its merchandising decisions. Doug Stephens, known as the “Retail Prophet,” noted recently in a recent radio interview on CBC’s Fresh Airthat the giant retailer had discovered that in some hurricane-prone states people would stock up on a particular item – Pop Tarts — prior to a hurricane. So Wal-Mart would physically re-arrange its stores in response to changing weather conditions, ensuring that the Pop Tarts were in prominent, easy to get to locations within these stores, driving up sales.

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Or on those days when a downpour strikes a city like NY or Chicago, a well-timed promotion on umbrellas or rain gear that catches commuters or visitors or residents within a block of a store could quickly translate into increased sales.

 

The power of a LIKE | Social ReferencingBeating Back Showrooming

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While showrooming has become a growing threat to many retailers, studies such as IBM’s  From Transactions to Relationships show that shoppers are willing to purchase from and be loyal to a retailer’s storefront and online site if the retailer pays attention to the shopper’s desires. The report states:

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“Eighty-nine percent of shoppers in our study were willing to contribute 20 minutes on average to help a retailer better understand their desires and provide them with more meaningful offers. Fifty-five percent of shoppers expect the retailer to use past purchases in order to offer relevant promotions.”

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The message is clear: by creating a highly personalized in-store experience, combined with a connected online capability, retailers can surround the customer with a more complete and satisfying shopping experience – and create much greater loyalty and increased sales.

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Additional Information:

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Retail Infographic

Retail Infographic

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Listen to the ebook

 

AirTight Solution Briefs

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mobile device management, PCI, smartphones, WiFi Access , , ,

Not Your Mom’s Shopping List

May 21st, 2013

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Today’s Digital Lists Can Increase Basket Size and Build Loyalty

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Not Your Mother's Shopping ListI remember my mom’s shopping list. Usually written on scraps of paper and stuffed in her purse, it served an effective single-function purpose: memory enhancement. And while it was mobile, it was easily misplaced, difficult to replicate, and sharing it with others required a physical handoff.

Today’s shopping list bears little resemblance to my mom’s; it is digital, easily storeable and modifiable, mobile and social. It can be created at home online while viewing items on sale from a retail vendor’s website, or created on a mobile device.

Most important for retailers, when opened in-store on a smartphone, it helps to increase basket size.

It turns out that the digital shopping list — combined with in-store wifi, mobile ecommerce and in-store navigation — helps to move shoppers more quickly to their desired items by suggesting efficient shopping paths. This doesn’t necessarily mean less time in the store – or money spent.

Herb Sorensen, known as the Shopper’s Scientist, notes that a more efficient shopping experience actually increases basket size because it offers more time to browse.

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Sorenson notes on his blog:

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“We have documented repeatedly that shoppers waste as much as 80% of their time in the store, and this wasted time represents the potential for large increases in sales for those who learn to leverage it, whether retailers or their suppliers. We have also noted that the principle time wasters for the shopper are decisions/information seeking:

Where is?   (navigation search — choice of path and shelf location)

Which do I want?   (item search — selection choice)

 

What’s more, knowing a person’s shopping list, an mcommerce app could also suggest specific items that a shopper might have forgotten – such as the hamburger buns or ketchup if the shopper included hamburger meat but forgot to include these items. All of these capabilities can increase basket size.

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|80% of mobile consumers are influenced by in-store Wi-Fi as a factor in deciding where they shop.

motion infographic on YouTube

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Loyal Mobile shoppers also spend more

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In a competitive space such as grocery retailing, where margins are around two percent, mobile can provide supermarkets with a direct connection to customers as well as opportunities to acquire and retain new customers if they provide strong value.

As a result, grocery retailers are able to build stronger loyalty ties with customers and, ultimately, drive increased sales.

Rebecca Roose, senior product marketing manager at MyWebGrocer, Winooski, VT, which develops mobile platforms for some of the leading retailers, noted recently that mobile shoppers spent 68 percent more than in-store shoppers.  And because these mobile shoppers build shopping lists based on things that are on sale that week, they become more loyal – “They’re not going to shop anywhere else,” Ms. Roose said.

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The Big Payoff: Personalizing the Experience

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Pinkberry Serves Up Guest Wi-Fi Services with a Side of Rewards

Pinkberry Serves Up Guest Wi-Fi Services with a Side of Rewards

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What if the retail store is able to combine the insights revealed by a shopper’s preferences and habits online  (including those revealed on the  virtual shopping list) with realtime presence analytics as the shopper moves through the physical store?

Just-in-time offers. This customer likes Newman’s lemonade in summer, instant gourmet coffee in winter – on warm days push the lemonade discount coupon to her smartphone, in winter push the gourmet coffee with a discount coupon for coffee mugs. And how about that CoffeeMate sugar-free Hazelnut creamer that she always buys around Christmas?

Now we’re talking loyalty.

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Additional information

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802.11n, PCI, smartphones, WiFi Access, Wireless security , , ,

Attention Retail Marketers: In-Store Shoppers are Changing. Are You?

May 16th, 2013

Brick and Mortar Standout|

To say that mobile technology is impacting brick-and-mortar retail is akin to proclaiming at the turn of the last century that the motorcar just might change the horse-drawn carriage business. Shoppers today are empowered by technology to gain the advantage at every turn, whether it’s using a smartphone to find the best price for the same product online, locate out-of-stock sizes or colors in the store next door, or learn what their friends or other customers had to say about a product before they buy.

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Retailers have two choices.

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They can pretend this isn’t happening and actively try to discourage these new consumer behaviors, like not offering in-store Wi-Fi for fear of increased showrooming (see Free Wi-Fi is a Win-Win for Retail Marketers and Customers ). Or, they can listen to their customers and do everything in their power to meet their changing needs and expectations.

 

IBM Retail Study: From Transactions to RelationshipsSo what do these empowered consumers want?

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According to the recent IBM study, From Transactions to Relationships: connecting with a transitioning shopper, what they want is a personalized in-store experience that not only mirrors the experience they get with online shopping, but is seamlessly integrated with their on- and offline shopping habits, preferences and history.

 

“Consumers are increasingly gravitating toward shopping experiences that allow them to be served according to their individual preferences,” states the report written by Kali Klena and Kill Puleri.

 

They then go on to outline the three key factors that retailers must address in order to capitalize on the changing behavior of the transitional consumer:

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1.   Store dominance decreases in an omnichannel world

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“The long-standing center of retail commerce, the brick and mortar store, is rapidly losing its appeal as customers turn to convenient online channels for their purchases.” This is not to say that the physical store will soon be going the way of the horse and buggy. While e-commerce is a legitimate threat to physical retail, it still represents only a tiny fraction of the overall retail market — 5.4% of total revenue to be exact.

No, the real threat to brick and mortar is decreasing customer loyalty in a world rich with choices, literally at the consumers’ fingertips. According to the IBM study, while 84 percent of respondents made their most recent non-grocery purchase in-store, only 56 percent said they were sure to return to the store for their next purchase.

 

2.   The impact of showrooming

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Showroomers—those who use mobile devices in-store to research and often purchase lower-priced items online—may be a small (but growing) segment of the consumer population, according to the IBM study, but they have a grievous impact on in-store revenue. Showroomers made nearly half of all online purchases in the retail categories covered by the IBM study. Most chilling: twenty-five percent said they initially planned to buy in-store, and 65 percent plan to buy online for their next purchase.

showrooming figure 4 from IBM Retail Report

 

3.   Consumers desire more meaningful retail connection points

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In this burgeoning world of location tracking, web, retail and social Wi-Fi analytics, one might think that consumers would be overly sensitive to a loss of privacy. On the contrary, they want retailers to know even more about them and their buying preferences. In fact, the IBM study states that

“the majority of shoppers were willing to contribute 20 minutes on average to help a retailer better understand their desires in order to provide them with more meaningful offers based on their past purchases.”

The key is to make sure you are using the data you collect to treat customers like individuals, not as a market segment, by providing personalized offers, tips and information.

 

What to do about it

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The IBM study provides many more insights and next steps for retailers, and we highly recommend you read it. One tip that we at Airtight Networks agree with wholeheartedly:

 

AirTight Networks on-demand webinar“Technology will play a key role in helping retailers use this trend to boost loyalty and sales. As retailers start to offer customers free Wi-Fi access in their stores, they will have the opportunity to engage with customers while they are browsing the displays, by branding their Wi-Fi to drive shoppers to their own websites and services. And if customers give permission for their location to be tracked via their smartphone as they sign on to the Wi-Fi network, retailers can use analytics to make sense of this data and provide shoppers with personalized deals to drive conversion.”

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Parting Thought

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horse-drawn buggies riding into the sunsetIf you’re still worried about embracing the very technology that is threatening your business, I leave you with the story of William Durant, co-founder of General Motors and Chevrolet. Initially, he was highly skeptical of the gas-powered “horseless carriage,” thinking them so dangerous he wouldn’t allow his daughter to ride in one. He wasn’t alone. By 1900, there was an enormous public outcry for safety regulations. Rather than wait for the government to intercede, Durant embarked on a mission to build the safer machines consumers were demanding. He succeeded by listening to transitioning consumer expectations and embraced technical innovation head on. (For the record, prior to the revolution he helped bring about, his Durant-Dort Carriage company was the leading producer of horse-drawn buggies in the world.)

 

Additional Information

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Best practices, smartphones, WiFi Access, Wireless security ,

Book Review: The Retail Revival: Re-Imagining Business for the New Age of Consumerism

April 24th, 2013

Canadian Doug Stephens, founder of “Retail Prophet” is the author of the groundbreaking book,

The Retail Revival: Re-Imagining Business for the New Age of ConsumerismThe Retail Revival: Re-Imagining Business for the New Age of Consumerism.

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I read the retail futurist’s book soon after it was released in February 2013.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.  It’s a sobering wake-up call for all retail professionals and offers them prescriptions for what to focus on in order to profit from the current and coming chaos. Part of the book’s appeal is that the discussion isn’t restricted to a narrow definition of retail.  Instead, it looks at the topic from a broad category perspective. Best of all, the book appeals to the consumer in all of us.

Retail Revival starts off with a historical assessment of the shaping forces in retail as well as perspectives on how massive demographic, economic and media disruptions are thrusting a once predictable industry into a vortex of change.

Historically known for being laggards in the face of technological change (especially when compared to other industry segments) the retail industry is undergoing a complete metamorphosis – albeit somewhat involuntary in many cases.  Stephens explains how some retailers are embracing the change opportunities while others blindly absorb the ripples of change.  Laggards invest (sometimes unconsciously) much of their energy in reactive competitive moves or plain old inertia.

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Customer Centricity

Forward thinking retailers place the customer at the heart of their differentiated value propositions while others continue to muddle through with strategies of bygone eras.  Stephens emphasizes that companies that don’t adapt to the disruptions will become extinct whereas companies that adapt will grow and thrive.

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Fossil|

The retailer’s choice is clear: evolve to a model of true customer centricity or accelerate the rate at which you become a fossil.

Stephens discusses several “fossilized case studies” throughout his book.  In a recent blog post, he takes a position on J.C.Penney – the troubled U.S. retailer.  Read “Is It Time To Let The Troubled Retailer Die?”

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In the first part of Retail Revival, much of the historical lessons are North American, primarily U.S. and Canadian examples. However, in the near term future of an industry in transition, Stephens features several worldly examples ranging from the U.K., Germany, South Korea and many other countries.  In the end, the book is well balanced in its diversity of case study examples.

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Location, Location, Location

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Especially compelling is Stephen’s argument that the future of retail shouldn’t be thought of in polarizing terms of online or brick-and-mortar worlds but rather at the intersection of where the current or future customer is.  Opportunity rewards retailers who respond with contextually compelling offers – when and where – the customer most wants them.

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Related Blog Posts

The Future of The Retail Store by Doug Stephens

Local Retail Won’t Disappear — Mobile Will Transform the In-Store Experience by Steven Jacobs

 

IDC describes this modern group of consumers as the value-savvy Five-I shoppers who are:

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      • Instrumented with mobile devices,
      • Informed with access to the Internet on their devices,
      • Interconnected in social communities,
      • In-place always in stores or wherever else the shoppers might be, and
      • Immediate in their ability to take action.

Source: IDC Retail Insights: Retail industry 2013 Top 10 Predictions, #GR1238956

 

Clicks Meet BricksClicks Meet Bricks

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Social media and technology will obviously play a big role in retailer transformation.  Those with a deep understanding of customer demographics and real time analytics will design personalized and frictionless paths to purchase and will be rewarded with sales AND positive social reference.  Connectivity will obviously be at the intersection of these worlds.

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RIS Infographic|

 

Customer Analytics Gains Traction in
2013 via Retail Info Systems [infographic]

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In the new age of consumerism, the world is now your store.    Doug Stephens

Source: The Retail Revival: Re-Imagining Business for the New Age of Consumerism | page 185

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Bridge to The Future

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If you opt to read the printed version of the book, you can still benefit from video interludes opportunities as these are sprinkled throughout the book.  Using the QR code reader on your smart device (I happen to like i-nigma), simply scan the QR code in context within a chapter and you’ll quickly be taken from traditional media to digital media. 

My 3 Retail Revival favorites are:

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1) US Postal Service “Hacked” Ad

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YouTube video : US Postal Service “Hacked” Ad (The QR code scan leads to this location)

YouTube video : US Postal Service “Hacked” Ad
(The QR code scan leads to this location)

Using the QR code reader on your smart device  (I happen to like i-nigma)

Scan with the QR code reader on your smart device
(I happen to like i-nigma)

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QRcodeScanArrow|

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2) The Third Shelf: Retail Speaker Doug Stephens

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Scan the QR code with your smart device QR code reader (I happen to like i-nigma)

Scan the QR code with your smart device QR code reader
(I happen to like i-nigma)

View the YouTube video : The Third Shelf: Retail Speaker Doug Stephens

View the YouTube video : The Third Shelf: Retail Speaker Doug Stephens

 

 

QRcodeScanArrow|

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3) Mobile 3.0 Explained: Retail Speaker Doug Stephens

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Scan with the QR code reader on your smart device (I happen to like i-nigma)

Scan with the QR code reader on your smart device
(I happen to like i-nigma)

View the YouTube video : Mobile 3.0 Explained: Retail Speaker Doug Stephens

View the YouTube video : Mobile 3.0 Explained: Retail Speaker Doug Stephens

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QRcodeScanArrow|

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Through the use of QR codes, Stephens effectively creates a bridge between print and digital.

 

The New Moon Race:  Personalization and Community

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Retail Revival includes several examples of current and future technologies that will completely change the way we shop.  Many of the examples showcased in Retail Revival are also featured by springwise.com in Top ten Retail articles from the last 12 months.

Forward thinking retailers will transform – not just evolve their business models. As IDC puts it, the winners will have a “whole-person understanding of each customer before, during, and beyond each shopping journey to purchase”*. Imagine a not so distant future where your shopping cart lives on in time, across devices, from online to mobile; and from store to social community.

*Source: IDC Retail Insights: Retail industry 2013 Top 10 Predictions, #GR1238956, page 6

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Liquid & Linked

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In a world that rewards velocity, retailers would be wise to heed Bruce Lee’s advice of “be like water”.  To that end, Stephens’ book provides retailers with advice on how to capitalize from historical shifts, focus on what matters and how to profit from the current and emerging changes. Any business eager to remain competitive or one that dares to trail blaze should assign this book as mandatory reading.

As for the consumer in all of us, Retail Revival will further awaken each of us to the burgeoning power of association and the transformation of the shopping experience on our terms.

 

Additional Information:

 

  • RSR Research and AirTight Discuss the Benefits of In-store Wi-Fi [webinar] Wi-Fi as a Competitive Retail Advantage | Date: April 30,2013 Time: 11 AM Pacific | Register for the webinar

 

PCI, smartphones, WiFi Access, Wireless security , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Future of Enterprise WLAN in 2013 and Beyond

April 9th, 2013

By Kaustubh Phanse  – AirTight Chief Evangelist

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If predictions from leading technology analyst firms are to be believed, the worldwide Wi-Fi market will continue to grow.

Dell’Oro estimates the Wi-Fi market to grow to $9.9 billion by 2016 of which the enterprise WLAN segment alone is estimated to be over $5 billion in revenues.

Gartner anticipates an even faster growth for the enterprise WLAN segment, with spending expected to reach $7.9 billion in 2016.

Here are a few trends (some of which are already happening!), which will go hand-in-hand with this next wave of massive growth in the enterprise WLAN market.

 

Distributed Wi-Fi, Centrally Managed

 

A growing number of enterprises will want to extend their Wi-Fi rollout across remote locations, e.g., branch offices, retail stores, distribution centers, restaurants, and the list could go on. The key challenge then would be to have centralized visibility and management of the entire deployment—ideally from a single console.

Controlled in the cloudThis trend will make the traditional controller-based architecture outdated sooner than later because it was not designed to manage Wi-Fi networks across geographically distributed sites. It’s too complex, costly, and does not scale. The change of guards is evidenced in the number of recent announcements by controller-based WLAN vendors. Some are hiding the controller in the cloud, some are hiding them in arrays, some are saying that they are giving customers a “choice” to turn it off (without telling them what functions will stop working without it!), while some are simply giving their marketing a “controller-less” spin. Unfortunately, you can’t turn a fork into a spoon overnight to eat soup instead of spaghetti! Or maybe you can! ;-)

 

Naturally, an increasing number of enterprises are looking for an alternative that:

Linearly scales to tens, hundreds or thousands of distributed locations, but can be managed centrally from a single console;

Enables literally plug-and-play installation and true zero-touch configuration of access points (APs) at remote sites without IT staff;

Is fault-tolerant by design so the full wireless network and security functionality continues to work without depending on access to a central management server;

Supports a new paradigm of network and security management and role-based administration of distributed locations in the context of locations and not in the context of “SSIDs” alone.

 

WLAN as a Managed Service

 

cloud managed via tabletThat brings me to my next trend, which will redefine how enterprise Wi-Fi networks are managed: Cloud! Enterprises have adopted cloud technologies in recent years to replace software applications that they once ran on their own network. But in 2013 and beyond, an increasing number of companies will look up to the cloud to manage their distributed Wi-Fi networks and related services such as wireless security and compliance. And in many cases, they will outsource their network and security management to managed service providers (MSPs). In fact, we have seen a significant growth in our partnerships with MSPs wanting to host cloud-managed WLAN services. But, not all clouds are made equal. So providers looking for cloud partnerships should carefully assess how cloudy is the cloud before making the leap. Only a true multi-tenant cloud solution will allow them to manage hundreds of customers in a cost-effective way, i.e., without having to host a server (appliance or VM instance) for every customer!

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Follow AirTight Networks on Twitter

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Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)

 

The BYOD trend, with employees using personal smartphones and tablets at work, has significantly driven Wi-Fi adoption and evolution over the last couple of years. It has also led to a growing trend of other unauthorized Wi-Fi devices, e.g., Rogue APs, Soft Rogue APs and mobile Wi-Fi byod word cloudhotspots, on enterprise networks. While mobile device management (MDM) and NAC vendors have tried to market themselves as the silver bullet for managing BYOD, neither of them have complete visibility into the Wi-Fi activity of these personal devices and hence cannot provide comprehensive access control for BYOD. Naturally, questions are being raised on whether MDM is really needed or is it dead?

A growing number of enterprises are opting for a reliable wireless intrusion prevention system (WIPS) – either as an overlay on top of existing WLAN solutions or as a built-in feature with their WLAN solution – to provide them with 24/7 wireless monitoring and policy enforcement, including BYOD. Automatic and accurate classification of Wi-Fi devices detected in the enterprise airspace, automatic fingerprinting and onboarding of smartphones and tablets onto the enterprise network, and the ability to reliably block any unauthorized devices or those violating security policies will be crucial to minimize security exposure and ensure compliance with regulatory requirements, while avoiding excessive burden on the IT security staff.

 

A New Standard, Higher Speeds!

 

Last, but not the least, 2013 is also expected to see the ratification of a new Wi-Fi standard in the form of IEEE 802.11ac, nicknamed as Gigabit Wi-Fi! 802.11ac uses wider channels (80 MHz and 160 MHz) as compared to 802.11n (20 MHz and 40 MHz) in the relatively clean 5 GHz frequency band and enables data rates up to 1.3 Gbps. Some pre-standard 802.11ac products are already in the market, with the approval of the standard expected in late 2013. Like it was the case with 802.11n, the early 802.11ac rollouts will be mainly access points. This year has already seen some rumors and some announcements of 802.11ac support in mobile devices. However, widespread adoption of 802.11ac is expected only by 2014-2015 when majority of Wi-Fi clients will support the standard. Till then, enterprises are likely to postpone the investment in an 802.11ac upgrade of their WLAN infrastructure to maximize the ROI.

 

Listen to the ebook

Listen to the ebook

Additional Information:

802.11n, BYOD, mobile device management, WiFi Access, Wireless security, WLAN networks

Forbes – “stores are finally turning to WiFi” but is security lacking

December 14th, 2012

Really interesting article in Forbes by Verne Kopytoff on the reasons retailers have recognized the value of Wi-Fi for their customers and business processes. He notes that after years of resistance, stores have conceded that the shoppers have won the war. They want Wi-Fi and they will use their smartphones to check out deals.

There is no doubt that Wi-Fi has many positive effects on the shopping experience and, I would suggest, those effects outweigh the negatives of comparison shopping online in a store. There is also the obvious benefit of making sales associates more efficient and able to serve more customers faster.  Anyone who has ever gone into an Apple store near Christmas – and really who has not – has experienced just how fast one can get in and out even in a crowd.

However since retail stores have been late to this party, they need to think about the security implications of adding Wi-Fi and continuing to comply with the PCI DSS wireless scanning requirements.  Kopytoff points out that several large retailers added Wi-Fi capabilities just before the holiday season, which is unusual in and of itself since retailers rarely want to disrupt their systems too close to the holidays. In haste, they may have overlooked adding true Wi-Fi security processes to protect credit card data. It will be interesting to see if any problems arise during this season of manic shopping.

smartphones, WiFi Access, Wireless scanning, Wireless security , , , ,

Securing your network from bring-your-own-device (BYOD)

June 12th, 2012

What makes network administrators and security professionals tear their hair out – the “cool” employee who is carrying 2 or 3 or more devices and only one of them is actually issued by the company. I admit, I am one of them but not sure how “cool”, just a gadget junkie. There is a lot of advice around these days about how to manage this deluge of personal smart devices entering the enterprise, but I found much of the advice given by Software Advice and CRM Market Analyst, Ashley Furness, very solid in her recent post, “Strategies to Secure Your Enterprise in the New World of BYOD“. Some of it may seem obvious,  but, often the obvious is overlooked for just that reason.  We all know folks who do not change their password from “admin”.  Ashley’s article is a good addition to the body of work out there about the challenges of BYOD in the enterprise. One area which is not mentioned, however, is wireless intrusion prevention (WIPS), which is the natural ally of MDM.  With MDM, employees have to have an incentive to get the agent on their devices. WIPS solves that problem.  AirTight WIPS as an example protects the network from being accessed by unauthorized devices – those which have credentials but are not an authorized device – by allowing administrators to set up rules which will automatically block unauthorized devices (not just rogue APs) from connecting to the network.

AirTight recently concluded a study of IT professionals to understand their attitudes, challenges and methods of dealing with BYOD and it became obvious that there is a lot of concern around this subject. As the BYOD tide rises, organizations will need to embrace various smartphones and tablets for the enterprise applications, while at the same time tackling the security challenges from consumerization. On one hand, it is necessary to ensure that the IT assigned authorized smart mobile devices are free of malware and that these devices and the data on them can be centrally managed and monitored by IT. On the other hand, IT will be required to deal with unmanaged personal mobile devices attempting to access the corporate IT
assets, since such personal mobile devices may not be within IT’s device management reach.

Additionally, increased consumerization of the smart mobile devices may also heighten the risk of rogue Wi-Fi connections on the enterprise premises. As a result, an all-encompassing approach to BYOD security will entail protection of IT assigned devices, gatekeeping the unmanaged mobile devices, and blocking rogue Wi-Fi connections. Security systems are available today which address different parts of the BYOD security problem. (See the tables below) The right combination of these security systems can be useful for a comprehensive BYOD security.


BYOD, mobile device management, smartphones, Wireless security