Indoor GPS? Cisco Debuts New Location Awareness Technology

Imagine a world where you are immediately alerted to location specific content on your smartphone, when you’re in a store, airport or museum. It’s not quite the world of Science Fiction and Minority Report, but it’s now a world that is reality thanks to innovative new technology from Cisco.

Cisco announced today an advanced Wi-Fi location data analytics platform and partnerships with mobile chip vendor Qualcom as well as AT&T. All together, the platform enables content providers and venues to deliver customized location based experiences and offers to mobile users.

On the silicon side, Qualcom is now embedding Cisco technology on its silicon to enable a more precise level of indoor location identification. Murali Nemani, Senior Director, Marketing, Service Provider Mobility at Cisco, told EnterpriseNetworkingPlanet that the new indoor location capabilities can be thought of as an indoor equivalent to GPS. GPS is pervasive when users are outside, but inside of a physical location, be it a retail mall or say a museum, regular satellite based GPS does not work.

The silicon based solution will begin showing up in Qualcom based chipsets in early 2013 and will leverage capabilities in Cisco’s Wireless Access Points to pinpoint user location with granular accuracy. Cisco’s Mobility Services Engine which is a technology that first entered market in 2008, is at the core of the solution.

Prashanth Shenoy, Senior Marketing Manager, Enterprise Wireless Networking Group at Cisco noted that there is now also a set of Mobility Services Engine APIs that developers will be able to leverage. Cisco calls their mobile development location technology for developers, Mobile Concierge. By accessing the Cisco technology, wireless developers will be able to receive context awareness information from the wireless infrastructure.

For example, if a user walks into a museum they can be alerted to the fact that the museum has an app available. That app can then provide full indoor mapping as well as location specific information based on what the user is looking at. In fact, Cisco has now partnered with the Fernbank Museum of Natural History in Atlanta to provide such a service now.

With something that Cisco calls Network Services Discovery, Wi-Fi networks can be used to engage users. In many typical free indoor Wi-Fi deployments today, users simply get access for free. With the Cisco approach, in exchange for users getting Wi-Fi access, the users also agree to let the network provider deliver location specific information and offers to users.

“What we have is a pretty exciting technology that opens up opportunities to enterprises and service providers to create a tremendous amount of value for consumers,” Nemani said. “For enterprises, this is a way to deliver really compelling in-person experiences around location.”

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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