Cisco Buys ThinkSmart For Location Analytics for WiFi Networks

Cisco is looking to add more intelligence to WiFi networks to give businesses and service providers more insight into customer behaviors.

Cisco Systems is buying startup ThinkSmart Technologies, whose location analytics technology will enable enterprises and service providers to better understand what is going on inside their retail stores and to more easily give their end users what they want, according to company officials.

Cisco executives see ThinkSmart's offerings as a natural extension of their strategy of adding greater intelligence to the network--in this case, WiFi networks--through such capabilities as analytics. The networking giant announced the acquisition Sept. 26; no financial details were disclosed.

ThinkSmart, located in Cork, Ireland, will become a part of Cisco's Wireless Networking Group, and will be integrated into the company's Mobility Services Engine.

"Together, Cisco and ThinkSmart will enhance the wireless network by providing location intelligence and analytics to service provider and enterprise customers to know what is happening in their environments and to better engage end users," Hilton Romanski, vice president and head of corporate business development at Cisco, said in a Sept. 26 post on the Cisco blog. "Cisco's vision for mobility solutions will be accelerated by the acquisition of ThinkSmart, enabling customers to analyze location data from wireless networks and provide insight that can be used to drive new commercial opportunities and enhance end-user experiences."

The rapid growth in the use of mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets, gives businesses and service providers an opportunity to get a greater understanding of what their customers are interested in and how they can best engage those end users, Romanski said. Location analytics capabilities are a key to gaining that insight, particularly in such public places as retail locations, hotels and airports, he said.

Using ThinkSmart's technology will enable businesses to collect a variety of information from their venues, from the time of day to traffic patterns to how long end users stay in the stores. With that information, businesses can then target the end-user experience by ensuring appropriate staffing levels, cutting down on the amount of time customers spend waiting, improving the flow of customers and optimizing business processes.

Combining all that with Cisco's networking capabilities will only enhance what enterprises and service providers can do, Romanski said.

"The acquisition of ThinkSmart reinforces Cisco's commitment to deliver an intelligent network by providing customers with enhanced tools, such as location analytics, that increase the value of the network," he wrote. "This aligns with the core, one of Cisco's five foundational priorities, by providing differentiated solutions within the infrastructure of the network."

Cisco executives for the past few years have been talking about the rapidly growing numbers of Internet users and mobile devices that are on the horizon, and how that growth is driving the increasingly huge amount of Internet traffic. According to a Cisco survey released in May, there will be 3.4 billion Internet users—or about 45 percent of the world's population—by 2016. Also by that year, the percentage of Internet traffic generated from PCs will drop from 94 percent in 2011 to 81 percent, with other devices like smartphones and tablets increasingly generating more.

WiFi networks also are growing in importance, with more than half the world's Internet traffic coming from WiFi connections, Cisco found. In addition, wireless carriers concerned about a looming bandwidth crunch on their broadband networks are looking to WiFi networks to ease that burden by offloading some of that traffic.