Cisco, Facebook Team Up To Offer Wi-Fi, Analytics Platform

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Cisco is expanding its Connected Mobile Experience (CMX) portfolio to include new wireless access points and a new partnership with Facebook it says will help businesses better understand their customers and create more targeted marketing campaigns.

The new solution, called Cisco CMX for Facebook Wi-Fi, allows users to access Wi-Fi networks in retail stores, hotels and other business venues by logging into Facebook and checking-in, either publicly or privately, to that specific location from their Facebook account.

According to Cisco, the benefits of CMX for Facebook Wi-Fi are two-fold. First, it makes it easier for users to access Wi-Fi networks by letting them sign-in through a familiar platform -- Facebook -- rather than having to set up a new user name and password, like many businesses require.

[Related: Cisco CEO Chambers: Expect 'Brutal' Industry Consolidation Around Internet Of Things]

Secondly, it provides a way for the businesses to learn more about their customers, not only in terms of demographics, but how they move throughout their venue. These geo-location capabilities are provided through Cisco's Mobility Services Engine -- a component of CMX -- that leverages Cisco access points and controllers to detect and trace the presence of mobile devices as they move throughout a venue.

For retailers, this capability could be used to identify the parts of their stores that receive the most traffic, while a hospital or hotel, for instance, could use this to push out location-based services to help customers or patients find their way.

"Think of a retail location where, literally, with the appropriate privacy protections, you could watch and see what a consumer wants out of your store, and what they don't, and increase your sales that way," said Cisco CEO John Chambers during his keynote address Wednesday at Interop 2013.

As for demographics, CMX for Facebook Wi-Fi can help businesses identify the age and gender of each user accessing their network, along with his or her "likes" on Facebook.

Chris Spain, vice president of product management for Cisco's Enterprise Networking group, stressed that, while one of the primary aims of CMX for Facebook Wi-Fi is to help businesses learn more about their customers, user privacy is still a priority. Businesses will not have access to a user's actual Facebook profile and will only receive high-level, aggregate data on that user, Spain said.

"This is done, importantly, in an aggregate fashion, and I want to really highlight that that's the case, because there are a lot of privacy concerns floating around," Spain said. "We don't necessarily want to be tracking people."

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