Pushing cloud Wi-Fi way beyond basic connectivity

Cloud4Wi, Relay2 upgrade their platforms for more engaging WiFi networks

social media accounts to log in to retailer/restaurant Wi-Fi networks and in U.S. it is almost flipped, with most preferring to share email addresses instead). 

The company this week is announcing upgraded management tools for IT as well as better mobile app support, including technology that would enable a brand to integrate its app with location-sensitive beacon technology. Cloud4Wi will also deliver better application integration, so that data collected via Cloud4Wi services could work with third-party CRM and other apps.

The vendor charges enterprises $240 per year per access point or $480 for three years. Abramowitz cited one restaurant in Toronto -- Lone Star Texas Grill -- that got a return on its investment in just a few months by collecting thousands of valuable email addresses.

While Cloud4Wi is squarely focused on the enterprise, it will broaden its portfolio down the line to offer products that carriers can use to target SMBs with similar services.

Relay2

Founded: 2011

Headquarters: Milpitas, Calif.

Funding: $29M

This privately-held firm started off a few years back targeting the enterprise, and while its vision for a cloud-based WLAN platform with access points hosting applications and various services at the network edge is essentially the same, Relay2 has reworked its go-to-market strategy to focus on systems integrators and service providers. Those outfits largely serve SMBs, such as retailers, elder care and hospitality concerns, looking to exploit Wi-Fi via customized applications.

Relay2 this week is announcing a more powerful family of access points, dubbed the RA200 and supporting the latest technologies such as MIMO and 802.11ac.  Systems integrators would spread APs across a customer’s space and allow management of them via a web-based interface into cloud-hosted WLAN controllers. Relay2 runs data centers in Santa Clara and Shanghai, and is readying a third center in Japan, where it hopes to cash in on that country’s increased investment in wireless and the cloud to support the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics.

The company’s platform currently works only with its own APs, which boast up to a 4-core CPU and 128GB of solid-state storage and feature built-in caching, web server, deep packet inspection and other services. The access points also house middleware that provides a containerized platform to support a range of applications from advanced security to customer engagement to Internet of Things. “We’re pushing the intelligence out to the edge of the network,” says Keith Sinclair, director of marketing and strategy.

Advances in Wi-Fi application services like this could actually help organizations like hotel chains get away from blocking users' individual WiFi hotspot devices as a way to force them to buy hotel or convention center Internet access, and come up with creative ways to entice guests to want to use the venue's WiFi network.

Relay2 is tight-lipped about customer wins, though did issue a press release last year to tout a big Chinese phone retail chain called DPhone installing the cloud Wi-Fi platform across more than 500 stores. CEO Greg Daily, leaning on Relay2’s status as a private company, declined to say what the company’s largest installation is.

Neither was the company revealing pricing, though says it is competitive with other hardware vendors, and that customers would buy both APs and a cloud subscription. Greenfield environments, rather than organizations with existing Wi-Fi hardware in place, has been fertile territory for Relay2, Sinclair says.

MORE: Enterprise Wireless LAN market is hot, but it's all relative

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