Aruba Networks Ditches WiFi Gear to Promote Bluetooth Beacons Instead

Aruba Networks has been known as a leading maker of enterprise WiFi gear. The company recently deployed a massive network of Bluetooth beacons at the Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, USA. Sports fans at the stadium are using beacon signals to navigate their way through seats and concessions. Aruba had earlier planned to bring beacon like services using its WiFi gear but is now exploring Bluetooth low energy technology.

Aruba had acquired a wifi indoor location company called Meridian last year in order to help it map public indoor spaces by their Wi-Fi signals and offer proximity-based services. Apple has had a drastic effect on Aruba looking more towards Bluetooth beacons. Apple is not in favour of Wi-Fi-based positioning for privacy reasons, and has even made many changes to iOS 7 and iOS 8 to prevent apps from using Wi-Fi signals for triangulation, including eliminating a developer API that controls Wi-Fi scanning.

If the proximity industry continues pushing Wi-Fi as a proximity-based location technology then it would witness that accuracy and responsiveness on the iPhone and iPad would be worse than on Android devices. Given Apple’s huge market share and influence, the Wi-Fi option had to be stepped aside.

But Apple offering iBeacon technology as an alternative has turned out to be a tradeoff because it much more precise. BLE beacons can determine location for indoor navigation purposed down to 1-to-3 meters and it can trigger events (such as push notifications) at distances less than a meter.

Aruba is wholeheartedly building its own line of beacons that integrate with its Wi-Fi access points and controllers. As for Wi-Fi, Aruba certainly hasn’t given up on its long-running success it has gained with the wireless LAN. Aruba would turn out a single effective network with two radio technologies.

In the last one year we’ve witnessed a lot of beacons used for loyalty and marketing purposes. There have been scenarios where you walk into a store and get pushed a store coupon. The 1,000-beacon deployment by Aruba at Levi’s Stadium is showing some cool new applications pop up. The 49ers app being used for accessing the beacon network generates a map that gives turn-by-turn directions from your seat to the closest concession stand. It can even use your location to allow you pre-order your food from the nearest vendor.