HP's Aruba introduces next wave of beacon solution

Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, introduced the next wave of its beacon technology, rolling out a cloud-based beacon management solution designed for multi-vendor Wi-Fi networks and beacon analytics. It also expanded its app developer partner program for the Meridian Mobile App Platform to boost innovation of location-based mobile apps.

Aruba's sensor is about the size of a deck of cards.

The company said that since its introduction in November 2014, Aruba Mobile Engagement, powered by Aruba Beacons and the Meridian Mobile App platform, has improved customer satisfaction in such diverse organizations as Levi's Stadium and Orlando International Airport. By directly interacting with customers via their mobile devices based on the customers' in-venue location and their personalized preferences, Aruba Mobile Engagement is designed to enhance customer experiences and revenue opportunities for the venue operators.

Aruba bought Meridian in 2013 and last year it introduced its Mobile Engagement platform. After that, it approached a number of its customers and asked them how it could make its product more attractive to mainstream buyers and to help early adopters scale for big locations or across many locations, according to Jeff Hardison, director of product marketing at Aruba.

The Aruba sensor is about the size of a deck of cards that can be plugged into any standard outlet in a building and used to remotely manage all of the beacons from the comfort of an IT office. The sensor is designed for customers that don't have Aruba Wi-Fi already installed; it works with any Wi-Fi system from other vendors as well.

While there are all kinds of analytics tools out there to tell venue managers how people are moving around their locations, some of them give consumers pause because they want an opt in option. With Aruba's new beacon analytics, the consumer has to opt in before aggregate data can be compiled. The system doesn't identify individuals.

Some press reports have triggered alarms about the use of beacons and their ability to track consumers, but Hardison said that is not something to worry about. "One of the things we love about beacons is that they are inherently privacy friendly. Compared to any type of indoor positioning out there … beacons are the only truly privacy-friendly way, and the reason is the beacon is on the wall and it can't track you. Wi-Fi can actually track you," he told FierceWirelessTech. Beacons are just simple little devices on the wall that chirp and say "I'm here," and the app on the phone that the consumer downloads actually tracks the beacon, "so it flips the power structure on its head. The beacon is dumb and the venue can't track you, but you track the beacon with your device. That is inherently privacy sensitive."

Any analytical data that gets collected is also more privacy sensitive because analytical reports can't be done about 100 people who walked into a venue unless they've opted in with an app on their phone. Plus, the app asks the end-user if they want to share their location.

One more thing being added to Aruba's solution is a new partnership program. Doing things like identifying the shortest lines at concession stands within stadiums and other tie-ins require a lot of work with partners to make it all happen, so Aruba is training and incenting developers with a new developer partnership program.

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