With the proliferation of mobile devices, brick and mortar businesses, small and large, have embraced guest Wi-Fi as part of their omni-channel strategies. For SMBs looking to compete against both larger businesses and their online counterparts, the investment in hardware and time can be intimidating. SMBs need a suitable solution for their on-site Wi-Fi access point (AP), security, and content insertion. Typically, they would need to invest in multiple items including an access point, a guest portal solution, a separate firewall device, another device/proxy for content insertion etc. Would it not be more cost effective to have one affordable device handling all these important functions?
The Separate Parts of High-Performance Guest Wi-Fi
For larger companies, the solution may be to buy separate components to fulfill the different requirements:
• A wireless access point (AP) as a network hardware device
• A firewall device to monitor and control the incoming and outgoing network traffic between the Wi-Fi environment and the wired network, based on defined security rules
• A device or proxy for a guest portal, managing customer sign-on and connectivity preferences from one central, secure location
• A device or proxy for content insertion to achieve customer engagement, targeting, branding, and monetization.
Other capabilities of interest include Wi-Fi connectivity analytics, which allow an enterprise to track visitors’ online activities, footprint, and other important metrics used to refine its marketing tactics for better customer engagement. But the cost for all these great devices and capabilities adds up and many business are cash strapped.
Multiplication of Costs Makes Life Tough for SMBs
Multiplying components leads to increased expense, not only because of the number of devices to be bought, but also because of the time and effort required to make them work together properly. As a result, even large companies can run into problems with this piecemeal approach, especially if they want to equip a chain of boutiques, restaurants or hotels, so that each individual location has its own guest Wi-Fi service capability with the functionality listed above. Small businesses face the same challenge of compressing expense without sacrificing functionality.
Specifying a Small, Bundled Wi-Fi Monetization/Security Solution
The solution for reducing the budget is to combine these different functionalities in one device, pre-integrated to ensure ease of deployment and preferably with excellent usability to reduce costs of support and to obviate any need for specialist IT staff. The device itself should have a reasonably low price to make it attractive to an individual SMB, as well as to chains of retail outlets, restaurants, and hospitality venues.
The Raspberry Pi3 Platform for RaGaPa’s CaptiveXS Solution
RaGaPa chose the Raspberry Pi3 as the platform for software to meet all the requirements above. For those not familiar with the Pi3, it is $35 small single-board computer that is on the cusp of challenging the modern PC. The bump to the processing power of the latest machine has, according to its co-creator, elevated its performance to a point where it can comfortably be used as a desktop computer. Software handling all the functionality in the list above is loaded into the Pi3 using a MicroSD card (the same card can be used to drive other similar small devices too). The natural market of the RaGaPa Pi solution is small and medium businesses that have local breakout internet connection with up to 100 concurrent users.
Bringing Guest Wi-Fi Management to SMBs with CaptiveXS
The software on the Pi3 is CaptiveXS, the RaGaPa product that matches point for point the wish list above, with:
• Parental control styled access management, with easy throttling of upload and download bandwidth speeds for all connected users.
• Network security, including content filtering, and discovery, management, and protection of IoT (Internet of Things) devices along with a built-in firewall
• Guest features, including the captive portal with social login
• Content insertion to insert venue specific promoted content/advertisements on all the webpages visited by the user
CaptiveXS allows all the features and configuration management to be done through its cloud based dashboard. In addition, analytics reports and download logs for each location running CaptiveXS on a Pi3 can be viewed at the click of a button. Configuration changes can be pushed to all connected locations in real-time.
Leveling the Playing Field for SMBs
The upshot of all the above is that small and medium-sized businesses in brick and mortar environments now see the playing field leveled once again. The small form factor and entry-level pricing of CaptiveXS and Raspberry Pi3 combination gives them an affordable and effective Wi-Fi monetization solution to let them compete with a first class clicks-and-bricks offering.