Cisco UK & Ireland Blog

‘People go online at lunchtime’ and other incorrect assumptions…

May 4, 2016

Last month I had the pleasure of working with one of the hottest startups to have come through IDEALondon (one of the Cisco-supported innovation incubators). The company is called Wittos and we were working together to deliver a new kind of digital experience to attendees at the ‘Retail Week Live’ event in Greenwich, London.

The request of me was fairly simple: ‘Brett – can you just knock up a wireless network to support the 1,200 attendees so that they all get lightning fast Internet access and the Wittos web-app works flawlessly?’. No problem!

It’s always amazing how much you learn running these kind of events. So what did we discover this time?

Firstly, retailers are very good at following instructions. When the first speaker introduced the Wittos app and asked everyone to connect to Wi-Fi and give it a go, they all did! We saw over 200 new clients join the network inside a few minutes during the keynote speech, and I’m pleased to say that the network coped with it admirably.

We have some secret sauce in Cisco Access Points called ‘HDX’ (or High Density Experience) that enables us to better serve clients in these kind of environments. I was personally connected to an AP that had nearly 200 other clients associated (which is absolutely NOT a design best practice by the way!) and was still able to get better performance than I can on BT Infinity at home. When the expectation of Wi-Fi is that ‘it just works’, it’s reassuring that the kit we deployed has these kind of innovations baked into the hardware that really shine through in an extreme environment like this (even with a sub-optimal AP layout).

Another thing we learned is that retailers like new gadgets (and Apple devices are their favourite). 60% of the devices that connected to our network supported 802.11ac, and Apple was the most popular manufacturer by far. It’s amazing how quickly we now adopt new technology. Apple were late to the party in introducing 11ac to the iPhone (they did it 18 months ago) and already the majority of users have swapped their devices to ones which support the latest standard.

Most delegates also bought more than one device with them (1.7 per person in fact), showing that even when visiting an event, we want to be able to use the right device for the job (and no one device can do everything).

We also deployed Wi-Fi Location Services (Cisco CMX) and the Wittos solution was able to use the data to measure how people were engaging with each other and the event. Imagine as an organiser, being able to see in real-time how many Marketing professionals visited a particular stand (without having to scan all of their badges). Or perhaps you want to understand which demographic spend the most time in the coffee areas! This kind of information is invaluable for shaping future events and has been very hard to capture in the past – now using Wi-Fi it’s fairly straightforward.

So do people really not go online at lunchtime? Of course they do, but we did see a steep decline in the number of devices using the network, proving that in spite of all of this technology, you still can’t beat a good old fashioned chat over a sandwich.

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