The days when hotel Wi-Fi just connected travellers to the Internet are going away. Now it can be part of a system that helps give guests more personalised service – if they don’t mind the hotel tracking their location on the property.
The new MR30H access point from Cisco’s Meraki division will work with Bluetooth beacons – small wireless location devices that stores and other businesses are starting to use so they can tell where people are.
The benefits, as long as guests are willing to opt in, could include things like having an attendant walk up and offer a drink or a towel as you go out to the pool, thanks to your frequent-guest status. The new APs won’t do that tracking directly, but they’re designed to be part of a broader wireless system that incorporates the beacons and smartphone apps that loyal customers can use so staff members always know when they’re arriving somewhere.
Meraki’s also upping its game on performance with the new devices, its first APs for the hospitality industry that use 802.11ac Wave 2. And there’s a built-in four-port Ethernet switch where the hotel can plug in things like smart TVs and VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol) phones. The APs themselves can do some location tasks, too, like telling the housekeeping department whether the room is occupied (is there a phone connecting to the AP?) so they know whether they can clean up or provide turn-down service. Bluetooth beacons make that more accurate, though.
Because some travellers might be uncomfortable giving a hotel all this information, Meraki says it gives its customers guidelines for making sure guests know what’s involved and can opt out. Not all these features are new to the industry, but where Meraki sets itself apart is in its cloud-based management platform, which is designed to help companies get by with a smaller IT staff and eliminate things like Wi-Fi controller boxes. That mission extends to wired LANs, too.
Meraki is also upgrading its Layer 2 switches for branch and campus networks. The new MS225 and MS250 gain 10-Gigabit Ethernet uplinks and ports that allow customers to physically stack switches together as their networks grow.