Qualcomm's (NASDAQ:QCOM) Atheros business and Cisco Systems are ramping up efforts to leverage the Hotspot 2.0 standard to go beyond mere Wi-Fi offload and public hotspot access scenarios and instead deliver customized location-based services for vertical market segments and enterprises.
"The theory is that Qualcomm has a very large footprint in the mobile device ecosystem, and Cisco has a very large footprint across the Wi-Fi ecosystem in terms of venues. Qualcomm and Cisco together and enable a better indoor-location experience with the client and the network together. And we can enable a better local service delivery experience," Bob Friday, CTO of Cisco's wireless networking group, told FierceBroadbandWireless.
In posts on Qualcomm's blog this week, the companies are touting their support of Passpoint/Hotspot 2.0 and explained how Wi-Fi can enable the next generation of location-based services.
The Wi-Fi Alliance's Passpoint certification program is based upon technology defined in the group's Hotspot 2.0 specification. Passpoint-certified mobile devices can automatically discover and connect to Wi-Fi networks powered by Passpoint-certified access points. In June 2012, the Wi-Fi Alliance named certain Qualcomm and Cisco products to its initial Passpoint Release 1 reference set for the industry.
Qualcomm and Cisco announced their collaboration last November, when they began promoting indoor-location services for public and private venues. The services are based upon Qualcomm's IZat platform, which includes chips that can use Wi-Fi, cellular and GPS signals to determine a user's location, along with Cisco wireless access points and intelligent network technology combining Passpoint/Hotspot 2.0 indoor-location information with real-time analytic technologies to deliver personalized mobile services and content.
Qualcomm's IZat location engines are integrated into the vendor's application processor and modem chipsets to enable a device to discover venue-specific location-based services even before it becomes associated with an access point, This technology, when bundled with Hotspot 2.0 functionality, can enable venue owners--think retailers and restaurants--to push coupons to nearby mobile handsets or enable users to pull desired local coupons, said Rishi Grover, senior product manager with Qualcomm Atheros.
"When people walk into a venue, they should be able to get to information that's relevant to them within two clicks" on their mobile device," said Friday. "You should be able tell the mobile device, 'Here's the local service I'm interested in, and here's how I want to be notified."
Such trigger-based marketing efforts are still in development, but Cisco has made other inroads in commercializing indoor-location services. For example, AT&T (NYSE:T) worked with the vendor to enable a Meridian application that guides visitors through the Fernbank Museum of Natural History in Atlanta. In addition, the Copenhagen Airport is using Cisco equipment to monitors passenger movements from incoming flights, so the airport can staff accordingly in the clearance and customs department.
Because aspects of Hotspot 2.0 still need to be standardized, some operators are using proprietary implementations today. For example, AT&T's international roaming program uses a proprietary platform from Accuris Networks to automatically connect the operator's customers to Wi-Fi hotspots via SIM authentication when they roam abroad.
Grover, however, contends that once Passpoint Release 2 is finalized, "more operators will jump on this implementation."
Release 2, which Grover said is expected to be certifiable in the second half of 2013, will add support for features such as provisioning of operator policy for network selection and immediate account provisioning. He noted some industry plugfests assessing Release 2 interoperability have already taken place.
Different operators will have their own unique uses for Passpoint even after Release 2 is available. The operator use case for Passpoint "depends on how far the operator wants to take this Wi-Fi integration," said Grover. Some operators intend to integrate Wi-Fi offloading with their core network so they can apply policy rules and QoS as they do on cellular handsets, while others want to have two separate networks and just use Wi-Fi for offloading cellular data traffic.
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