Wi-Fi radios in mobile devices can now be used by retailers to better understand customer behavior at their stores, and then change window displays, catalogs, and promotions based on that knowledge.

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The new capability is a product of an integration deal between Aerohive Networks, a Wi-Fi vendor offering access points that rely on a cloud-based controller service, and Euclid, which sells Wi-Fi sensors and cloud software that collects anonymous Wi-Fi data about shoppers at retail stores.

Aerohive is integrating the sensor software with its HiveOS, so its access points can now act as data collectors; and using the JSON Java API to link the two cloud services, so that some of the Euclid analytic data can be viewed via Aerohive's HiveManager application.

The combination lets retailers see how many Wi-Fi devices pass the store front, how many stop at the window display and for how long, the number of shoppers who actually enter the store and how long they stay, the average stay length and other metrics. Euclid can identify repeat visitors, tell the last time they visited, and what percentage of visitors are repeats or brand new.

Euclid's offering takes advantage of the fact that Wi-Fi radios in a smartphone or tablet constantly send out probe requests for network connections. The Euclid sensor, which is just a reflashed consumer-grade Wi-Fi access point, and now the Aerohive access points, detect the probe and the MAC address associated with it. The software hashes the address, without actually collecting or storing it, to protect the user's privacy. The Wi-Fi protocol doesn't yield personal information such as an email address or phone number.

Then it's transferred to the Euclid cloud service, hosted on Amazon AWS, aggregated and analyzed. There, customers can access the full Euclid Analytics dashboard or, via HiveManager, a simplified version of it.

Incorporated into HiveOS and HiveManager, the software is available to all Aerohive customers. Retailers can opt to deploy Aerohive access points to be used solely as Euclid sensors to start with. Later, they can opt to turn on the standard connectivity of the access points for use by store employees or visitors.

The data can be used to see traffic patterns, test the drawing power of different window displays, or measure the impact of various promotions, ads, or catalog changes.

The Aerohive software is scheduled for its next update in March. The basic Euclid dashboard will be free with the update. The premium Euclid version, which gives more in-depth metrics, supports a larger number of retails sites, and holds a longer historical record of data, is $200 per month per deployed sensor (in this case the Aerohive access points).

John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World. Twitter: @johnwcoxnwwEmail: [email protected]

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