October 04, 2013, 10:19 AM — The two companies are partnering with large businesses, such as retailers, restaurants, airports and hotels, to make it all possible.
There could be lots of winners, given how the service is set up.
From the end user perspective, you get easy, free Wi-Fi access in a way that's consistent from venue to venue. The venues then benefit because they find out who you are and can push coupons and specials your way as you connect. One example provided was that at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas, you can connect and then get asked if you'd like an app that's a map that tells you where everything is in the hotel. (It's a big place with lots going on.)
The hotel was reported as discovering large volumes of folks were getting on the network at about 2:30 a.m., and they figured out that they were looking for places that were open for food, Bill Rubino, a mobility product marketing manager from Cisco told me. So the Bellagio app pushes time-based alerts to phones with the app as to what restaurants in the hotel are open at that hour.
There are analytics involved, too, that Cisco supplies. Cisco simply gathers network data about the volume of connections at different points. Discovering traffic patterns (foot traffic, determined by the Wi-Fi activity level) can be helpful for merchandising setups and building design.
Facebook hopes to get more merchants to buy ads, Cisco sells more network equipment, and merchants get demographic data (aggregated and anonymous, at least that's the stated intent) and sell products through their promotions. And users hopefully get stuff from merchants that is actually useful or money-saving (not just noise). That could be a win-win-win-win.
Amid all the privacy discussions and scandals of late, though, this has a foreboding ring to it. We'll have to learn more. Facebook contends that once you check in, you're outside the Facebook network and it doesn't collect any info on your browsing history. Cisco's Rubino told me that just because you "check in," exactly where you are doesn't have to be posted to your Facebook page, as it is with a traditional check in. That would be good. Some folks might want Internet access but not want their stalker to know exactly where they are at the moment.