Partners Applaud Cisco, CenturyLink's Joint Location-Based Analytics IoT System

CenturyLink is strengthening its Internet of Things (IoT) focus with the unveiling of a joint location-based analytics system alongside IT giant Cisco Systems. The two companies revealed their latest joint offering on Monday at Cisco Live in Las Vegas.

The new offering -- CenturyLink Location-Based Analytics -- can help channel partners and businesses operating in public spaces create a more personal experience for end users. Tapping connected devices and big data, businesses that run public venues or retail locations can use the platform to learn about customer behavior in real-time and better engage with end users based on their physical location.

The system combines managed WiFi using the Cisco Meraki line of cloud-controlled access points and security appliances, along with CenturyLink's managed WiFi offering and an analytics platform. CenturyLink partners will have access to CenturyLink Location-Based Analytics immediately.

[Related: CenturyLink Scoops Up More SDN Assets As Carrier Continues Down Virtualization Path]

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Solution providers have struggled with turning big data into actionable information. Many partners have been putting together piecemeal IoT solutions, an effort that takes a lot of work, said Michael Goodenough, vice president of cloud solutions for New York City-based BCM One, an IT consulting and managed services provider who partners with both CenturyLink (Monroe, La.) and Cisco (San Jose).

The joint Cisco-CenturyLink offering helps bring together different IoT components into one solution, Goodenough said.

"[IoT solutions] often don't come with that higher advantage that we need. This ties in all the components -- from development, to hosting, to WiFi connectivity -- it's the full package, and this is a huge simplification," he said.

Once a user logs into the WiFi via a social account, such as Twitter and LinkedIn, or via a short form, the platform can pull in user data, such as location and age range, and push out personalized messages and offers, including directions and activity suggestions, Charles Stallings, master architect of managed services for CenturyLink told CRN.

Both CenturyLink partners and business customers will have access to an online management portal. The portal tracks user information, and will also let customers customize their own marketing efforts and view end user data. The portal's analytics and marketing tools are based on technology from UK-based Purple, a WiFi, analytics, and location-based services provider that works with hospitality and retail end-customers.

Users and partners can also use the portal to manage endpoints, security and the WiFi.

It’s not about simply pushing information and discounts out to users. It’s about helping businesses provide an enhanced digital experience to their end users as they move though venues, Stalling said. CenturyLink can manage the solution for their partners' end clients, or, partners who want to be more hands-on with IoT, will be able to manage them on behalf of their customers, he said.

True, real-time understanding of who users are and where they are going is imperative. The joint-solution will allow channel partners to help their clients target a specific audience in a very different way, BCM One’s Goodenough said.

Master agent Intelisys, a CenturyLink partner, has seen an explosive increase in the demand for IoT and WiFi-enabled customer analytics systems, according to Andrew Pryfogle, senior vice president of cloud transformation at Intelisys.

’A lot of our partners have been selling into the distributed enterprise for years with a lot of success. This is going to allow them to go back to those same customers with game-changing technology and applications that can be transformative for those businesses,’ Pryfogle said. ’Cisco Meraki is definitely best of breed, and CenturyLink continues to lead with solutions that can make a real difference.’

Because CenturyLink Location-Based Analytics is based on the provider’s managed WiFi system, there won’t be a big learning curve for resellers, said David Roth, director of solutions marketing for CenturyLink.

CenturyLink Location-Based Analytics isn't the first joint effort between the telecommunications provider and Cisco. The two companies also have worked together on cloud-based Managed Enterprise: Hosted Collaboration Solution, a Cisco-powered voice and collaboration offering.