Mister Beacon Episode #17

Cisco's new Beacon Point creates the virtual beacon category

September 27, 2016

Cisco is disrupting the Beacosystem with its new CMX Beacon Point vBeacon product. Moving beacons with a point and a click promises to change the way we look at the Total Cost of Ownership of large beacon developments. We discuss where vBeacons work best and see Cisco's web management tools in action.


  • Darryl Sladden 00:01

    Well connected. Okay, looking good. No pixelation, although it was sort of looking good. And then it just dropped. So let's, before we started recording, so we talked for two minutes to see if it's a time based issue. Yeah, 24 seconds now. So the last Yeah, the last recording, I think we went fine. 47 minutes, I don't know if that's the regular sort of length of your podcast or so probably probably be around for about 4540 or so. Because a lot of the stuff the beginning was was just an intro. And I started the recording early. So it's probably closer to around 40 minutes. I don't know if that's the regular time for your podcast. What are you? What are your other ones? It's about that length. They're too long. I just love getting detail. And I do have so so we should try and make it shorter? And I think, yeah, I will. What I won't do is delve into kind of the, you know, where this fits into the rest of Cisco. I think that's interesting to me, but probably not. Cisco's a big company. So we'll skip that. And we'll just get into the heart of it, which is, what is this? How does it work? How much does it cost? And, you know, what are the use cases? Yeah, I noticed a lot of the other guys don't give prices, I don't know if it's good or bad to be giving us less price. That's true. They don't. And I think, you know, I think it's gonna be an issue that needs to be hit head on. I think the others in their cases, price isn't an issue because they're dirt cheap. And this is definitely premium pricing. And I think so we can kind of leave the issue off. But I don't think that's doing you guys any favors at all. I think we have to hit it head on and explain why it is you would want to pay more. All for giving the pricing. It's just like, Am I doing something that your other guys getting for a particular reason? Or I guess it just Yeah. Never asked because it's not that interesting. But you did talk to the last guys about the cost of deployment, right? The the the episode with Gimbal. About how Yeah, but deployment costs take up a lot of your cost. Exactly. Yeah. So that was I don't know whether I was doing that subconsciously, because I knew that this conversation is possible. Alright, we've got two minutes and 41 seconds without any glitches. So I think we're visual.

    Steve Statler 02:44

    I think we're good. Okay, let's start again. So welcome to the I always start with so so I'm gonna just welcome. Welcome to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Beacosystem. My name is Steve Statler. We're doing this in partnership with Proxbook. And this week, we have Cisco on the show. So that's a really big deal. It's great for us, but more importantly for the beacosystem is huge deal. Cisco have got a new product out called beacon point. And we're going to be talking to Darryl Sladden about it. Darrell, welcome to the show.

    Darryl Sladden 03:23

    Thank you very much, Steven. Glad to be here. I'm very excited to follow your many of your episodes on the Hitchhiker's Guide. And glad to join.

    Steve Statler 03:32

    It's very cool to have you and I'm excited that you have really jumped into this ecosystem with both feet. And of course, you had products with beacons. Before Do you want to just touch briefly on what?

    Darryl Sladden 03:47

    Yeah, absolutely. This is actually our third beacon pocket product. We have the Mr. 30 twos from from as part of our Meraki line, and they've got embedded beacons. So we've got beacon APS with beacons embedded in them. And that can be used for proximity to where the particular APs and we also have our 3700, which has got a module and the module is called the RM 3010 use as part of our hyper location solution. And that also has an embedded beacon. So we both got both traditional Cisco on our 3700 and 3600s, as a as a module add on, because people have found that to be a really interesting use case, while I've got my APS already mounted, is there a way of using that technology to add a beacon to it and that's one of the components of our hyper location solution has been to add a beacon to an existing specific set of APT, but those have been traditional beacons that are unidirectional, single broadcast beacons.

    Steve Statler 04:37

    Okay, so we're talking with this product about virtual beacons. So I think you've done a couple of things here, you've created a new category, and some people were playing around with virtual beacons before but this is really the first big product launch in the space. And the fact that it's Cisco is huge. In such a new revolutionary area, and I think what you do for the ecosystem is you reassure those CTOs who have been kind of looking about and then thinking about, well, are beacons for real? Is this a category that I really should be moving forward and going from pilot to deployment? And when Cisco do something like this, I think it's a great endorsement. So you're gonna, I think this is gonna be competitive. But I think it's largely going to be complimentary because of what the beacon is, what is it the beacon?


    So exactly, we're trying to make the pie of the ecosystem larger. And so a virtual beacon is the idea of you're going to place physical beacons in your area to cover kind of like the way you do Wi Fi coverage. So you create ubiquitous coverage. So you could create a beacon anywhere, and then through the use of our cloud center in our software, you can say at this physical location that's within the realm of my beacon coverage, I'm going to create a virtual beacon. So virtual beacon would take advantage of an SDK that you would add into our into your product. So the the we would work with an SDK similar, most of the other beacon vendors, we embedded SDK into your product. And then you'd be able to take advantage of these virtual beacons that we create across any of your physical infrastructure.

    Steve Statler 06:13

    So I think you've got one of these beacon point beacons, can you wave it in front of the camera?

    Darryl Sladden 06:19

    Yeah, there you go. So it's actually you're gonna go oh, my gosh, that's the largest beacon I've ever seen, is the largest. And so, so it's actually nine inches by nine inches, it really is much more of a infrastructure play. So you're going to be mounting these eight, these beacon points similar to you your access points, so their ceiling mounted, you know, you know, 10 to 15 feet in height, that would be across your environment, you would mount one per every, approximately every 2500 square feet, you'd create a coverage area similar to where you'd created Wi Fi, you'd have them in a in some kind of a staggered area. So you actually are able to triangulate, and so think of three of these beacons in the ceiling. Now we're able to determine the location of the client, by using our by using our algorithms and our cloud Center, as well as the client can be triggered to any particular location within that coverage area.

    Steve Statler 07:13

    And it's a many to one relationship between these big beacons in the ceiling and the virtual beacons that are going to be on the floor of a retail store. Can you talk to that?

    Darryl Sladden 07:24

    Yeah, exactly. So one, one physical beacon would be able to would be able to create eight virtual beacons, so that you've got that eight to one ratio. Again, that's because you know, as you as you start to create multiple virtual beacons, you'll have some overlap. And so the idea that eight virtual beacons out of a six out of a single physical beacon really allows you to scale your solution without having to physically place them anywhere. And we're really tackling that that cost of ownership when it comes to Beacon, right, the idea of having to move the beacons having to power the beacon. So no battery checking, no having to move the beacons because this is a POA powered, so it's Power over Ethernet. So it's gonna be Ethernet connected back to it to switch, it would get its configuration all based on a cloud system. So once this has a DHCP address that's assigned and connected to the Internet of course behind the NAT and things like that, so it doesn't matter how it gets to just needs to connect to the internet, then you're going to be able to do a create eight these eight virtual beacons anywhere within your coverage area per actual physical beacon. And they can be anywhere you're literally just looking at a floor plan and you're pointing and clicking and bang, you just moved your beacon or place to a new beacon. Exactly so you're going to be doing that that idea of we've got a map up and you can and inside that map you can place your virtual beacon at any particular location well over your coverage area.

    Steve Statler 08:46

    Hey, do you think we could put you in a position to actually show us?

    Darryl Sladden 08:52

    Yeah, absolutely. I can show you that so I'm not sure how to share share screen right did that share your entire screen?

    Steve Statler 09:09

    My dogs gonna stop barking it's fine.

    Darryl Sladden 09:26

    So you may have to cut this part out because I don't know how to share screen conversation. I share screen is that does it? I think it comes through your entire screen right? But then do I go and open my Chrome?

    Steve Statler 09:43

    Well, I can see your screen now. The wonderful thing about Final Cut Pro we can streamline this. I have to say it's just really cool from a Beco system. Perspective seeing Cisco's logo on on a beacon product like this, okay, I can see the we can see a floor plan. And this is cool.

    Darryl Sladden 10:19

    All right, so three to one back end. So I've actually brought up an example here of our beacon center. So again, the components that come into our our solution are, of course, you've got the the beacons. And so you'll physically place the beacon. And here's actually where the beacons are placed. So you'd come up with this beacon center, and you would actually look at this physical beacon. So in my office space, here, we've got six physical beacons. But with these physical beacons, I can now have a coverage area. And anywhere I want, I could create a virtual beacon. So I'd actually just unlocked for editing, and be able to add a virtual beacon. So instead of, hey, I've got a new event, I want something to trigger when a person is by the table here, I can now just drop that virtual beacon here and add any particular comments that I want about it. So once I edit that virtual beacon, I can do things like decide, hey, what's the major and minor that will pop on this beat beacon is detected. And using our API, they can have additional fields that are available, such as a message, welcome to Beacon, center, and a URL. So you could you could pop that. And finally, we can actually decide, again, something you couldn't do with a physical beacon is what's the area of the coverage areas, you can notice how I'm creating either either a very large beacon, or a very small Beacon, the smallest beacon will would be approximately two to three meters. So again, it gets that that's five and a half feet for an immediate, so we're not going to be able to do that, that six intermediate beacon, but we are able to do about a two meter beacon at the smallest size. And again, largest is effectively the the whole length of your coverage area, which is maybe 200 feet in this particular case. Okay, that's how I can create a virtual beacon out of my coverage area of fit of a physical beacons.

    Steve Statler 11:56

    So yeah, let's just pause out some of the things, the new things that you can do and some of the old things that you can't do so people can get a sense of where this fits. Because it's gonna, it's gonna place.

    Darryl Sladden 12:08

    Absolutely. So the idea is, you're going to have your physical beacons and the the physical beacons are going to, it's going to be very important to have the information about them accurate, because all of our calculations are going to be based off of that physical beacon. So a physical beacon, we need to know its rotation, what area what direction it's pointing, because all of our stuff is based off the physical beacon having eight directional antennas on it, we need to know the height. And we need to know for our particular map that we're on, where's the x&y position off of that beacon, the MAC address is of course, the unique identifier. So once we have those four pieces of information, we can then use that to determine that the the rest of the locations, so of course.

    Steve Statler 12:46

    There so there's a little bit more involved in the deployment, you need to have a floor plan, probably you need to get that power over Ethernet, you don't need an electrician, because it's not a high voltage mains power, that you are laying in that power power over Ethernet. Yeah, you just figure out what way this thing is the orientation of it. But that's it. So after that, if I'm doing a story set, and the categories are moving around on the shelves, or even the shelves and moving around, then I don't need to send anyone to site, I can just do all of this from headquarters, right?

    Darryl Sladden 13:23

    That's exactly right. So you're going to position it similar to your the way you'd position an access point, right, you need to run those ethernet cables, make it ceiling mounted, figuring out how you're doing that ceiling mapping. And again, Cisco sells lots of access points. And there's a great deal of installers on who are very comfortable installing Cisco access points, this one would fit in right net naturally to anyone who's actually installed an access point. So they'll be able to create that, they do need to make sure they have a map with that floor plan. And we try to make it very easy to find the x and y coordinates on top of that map. So because in our system, you can actually download a JPEG, put that JPEG in, put the XY coordinates of their of your beacon point, and then go on from there. The idea is that, you know, places like convention centers, when they reconfigure, they'll actually have all their beacons. So think of it. As I change every single one of my conventions, I don't need to worry about having to have individual beacons inside of the stalls which change every single week or every single day I recreate a new dimension. Once I've installed that infrastructure. Now I can share that and take advantage of that for every application in any in any way.

    Steve Statler 14:29

    That's a great example. And really, you know, what we've seen is the movement and installation and battery replacement. That's a big cost probably a lot bigger than the the capital costs of the beacon infrastructure and to be able to do that in a disciplined way. Like this is pretty cool. And so I'm thinking this is a great fit for convention centers is also a really good fit for large retailers who are very disciplined about the layout of their store. If it's kind of left up to the store manager, and he's just kind of moving stuff around all over the place, then this is probably less of a fit. But if you've got category managers who've got planograms, and they're controlling from a central location, what goes where and they will move things around, then this, this fits in really nicely with that kind of big deployment, disciplined approach, where they've done the organization. And they're actually going to be saving a lot of time and money by just having a point and click way of reconfiguring things that doesn't involve any liaison with the local staff and dealing with people on the ground who may not know what a beacon is. And you know, where there's high staff turnover. So I can see a lot of economic benefits to what you're talking about. You had it looked like some geofencing. There, is there some geofencing.

    Darryl Sladden 15:56

    So yeah, bringing it back to the capabilities. So there's the idea of creating zones. And so once we create individual zones, as you can see here, we can grab some statistics about how is the application used within the zone. So when I look at metrics, I can actually understand how many people occurred, you know, what's the average dwell time and total dwell time, within devices that were in that zone. So if I look at these individual zones, you know, we've got empty datasets right now, but I can figure out the maximum or average dwell time within each of those zones. And so we've got the capability of doing a couple of things on the map, right, you're gonna create your beacon, you're going to create your virtual beacons, you're going to create the zones. And you're also going to create the concept of path. So if I want to actually do an indoor mapping solution, the I can snap my person to a path in order to make the indoor mapping solution even more elegant. So the idea of walkable paths inside of inside of regions to make sure that even if I've calculated you to be in an area, that doesn't make sense, I can snap you to a virtual path. And so are you providing the kind of API's that I could use if I want to implement wayfinding with this? Yeah, that's actually probably the biggest component of it. It's 50%, proximity marketing with beacons, and really 50% Wayfinding. A lot of our biggest our first use cases are people trying to solve the problem with indoor Wayfinding. So we provide the entire infrastructure end to end for the indoor wayfinding provide the map we provide the the API's that allow you to click on a location and find where it is, we have a sample application right now called Cisco DNA in the in the App Store, that you actually just have to scan a mobile QR codes, which is B, which you get in your beacon center. So you can immediately start showing how indoor mapping works. So it's one of the four components of our solution, right? The solutions are this beacon center, the beacon points and SDK and the sample application.

    Steve Statler 17:41

    Okay. Wow, this looks really cool. Let's let's talk about pricing. Because I think it's important for people to wrap their head around that.

    Darryl Sladden 17:52

    And yeah, so this beacon point is one of the what.

    Steve Statler 18:10

    Excellent. Okay. So yeah, let's just reset. Let's talk about pricing. Right.

    Darryl Sladden 18:17

    So the Cisco beacon point is the, you know, the main component of this, this actually has a list price in the US at 695. Again, Cisco sells all of our stuff through a series of resellers, there's going to be a lot of people who can actually participate in the reseller community of these devices. And then our cloud center that that component that you saw for the cloud, that comes as a subscription costs, that ranges in approximately around about 150 per year for a three year contract. So you're going to have your beacon point and your beacon center, the two components of the cost, and then you can have some ongoing additional maintenance, depending on how you're you're looking at that. But those are those are probably more premium pricing than others. But you know, the difference is with Cisco is that, you know, we actually have a resellers who have participating in this, as well as these are infrastructure devices. And again, you can use eight beacons for every one physical and this is a component that Cisco will be supporting.

    Steve Statler 19:11

    Yeah, so and that's, I think, for really big deployments where they're looking at accountability from an organization that's obviously not going to be acquired, you'll probably be acquiring other companies. No one's gonna be buying Cisco, you obviously incredibly stable. So I can see that if I am a very risk averse, CTO, it's a big deployment. I already have a relationship with Cisco through through a well established distributor, then this could help me rationalize my vendor policy. It's certainly a lot more money than I would then I would pay but if I am looking at total cost of ownership, then I think your sales channel I've got a really good argument to compete with you With the physical beacons in this space, but this isn't the end of even if money weren't an issue, and this isn't the end of the beacon industry as we know it, because what you're doing is fundamentally, you're tracking phones, you're not tracking beacons, is that correct?

    Darryl Sladden 20:19

    That's correct. This, the way this works is the phone itself would receive the the the energy from all the different beacons can put that into a UDP packet and send that out to our cloud service for us to calculate the location, and then that would come back to the phone for it. So it does require an SDK on the phone, in order for the for the calculations to work. And so that's one of the important components of it is to require a connected device for us to be a locating.

    Steve Statler 20:44

    And that's a pretty good assumption, I think, for a large number of use cases. But the key point from my perspective is like asset tracking, this is not an asset tracking place. So if I've got 2000 beacons on pallets that are moving around a warehouse, or I've got beacons on products that I want to measure, then, then that's basically when you need to look at some of these other solutions. And you guys have solutions in that space. And there are many other players in that space as well. So this is, this is about Wayfinding. It's about locating the phone. And there's some real value for large deployments where there's a well known layout and and cost of management is the key. So I think you're in great shape there. What sort of interest have you been seeing? I'm assuming this wasn't just a spontaneous product. You had people asking you for stuff. Can you talk a little bit about the demand? And what are the verticals where you think this will be used?

    Darryl Sladden 21:43

    Yeah, we absolutely we've had a lot of demand from our from our Salesforce, we on sale, Cisco's got a Salesforce at 17,000, AM's and SES out there's it's very strong Salesforce touches pretty much every company out there, unless you're not, unless you're an anybody but Cisco company, you're going to have some type of relationship and Salesforce, I have been covered. And so we've we've had them ask, Well, my problem for the customers has been indoor Wayfinding, we've we've been very deep into our asset tracking solutions, again, with Wi Fi Asset Tags, on top of expensive assets. We've been doing that sort of for a long time, we sort of innovated in that space, all the way back to before 2000. With with our some of our initial capabilities with our what we call our location engine. So we've been in this in that space for a long time, but people are asking for No, I'm looking for an indoor wayfinding for a person with an iPhone to find themselves on a map that was a very specific ask, and are one of the largest ones to do that has been in the healthcare space, right? Because that as you go through these complicated hospitals in the US, you know that the time it takes from when you enter the door to when I find orthopedics is all sort of time that's wasted. Because the at that time, it may be an expensive doctor or clinician who's waiting for you. And you need to be able to do as effective indoor mapping, as you had outdoors, right, you're able to have a great GPS solution that gets me to the hospital. But that last, you know, 700 feet of going from the hospital door to the right door within the hospital is often one of the most most costly journeys of that of that patient. And so one of the areas that we really are starting to focus on is the idea of indoor wayfinding and medical locations. Again, Cisco is an expert on understanding how APS need to be hygienic and covered and be able to washable, all that stuff is, of course included in our beacon points. And so you're able to deployment deploy within a hospital and in an environment that we're very familiar with. And that's one of the the primary use cases that we've seen. That's really exciting. Well, I think we've got a really good sense of where this product fits. I think it's pretty revolutionary in terms of creating the new, we had iBeacon now we got VB can anything else we should cover off? No, I think well, well, one of the things that I do think that might be interesting is, again, with the initial price of 695 and 150 bucks for the for the beacon points, people have been starting to do experiments a little more expensive than others. But this is a good sort of CTO experiment, right? They can try things out. It doesn't cost all that much in comparison to Human Resources costs, and the costs of hiring programmers in the US to install this and try it out. And so we've actually had a lot of people who are saying, Yeah, it's a little more expensive. But when I try this out with Cisco, I know these guys are going to be there for a long period of time. So I would encourage people, as we start to wrap up to think about how we can include Cisco and trials because once you understand what's at work with Cisco, you'll be able to really scale this in a very large environments.

    Steve Statler 24:33

    And so you're launching this today and so how if someone wants to get a hold of one of these things, what did they do?

    Darryl Sladden 24:40

    Well, let's start at the www.cisco.com/go/cnf. So there's a there's a webpage that will actually start to position that and you're gonna you're gonna work with your local county partner, so any of the Cisco partners that are in the area, we're having a webinar for those ones that will be really informed about our Cisco beacon points. So contact your Cisco sales and go on our Cisco website.

    Steve Statler 25:00

    Fantastic, Darryl. Congratulations. Thanks for joining us. It's been a real pleasure. All right, thanks very much Steve. Back. Okay, I am a little bit cuz I looked at you as a long look and that is like a Call Recorder as a thing which had frozen at one point so let's, let's end this. Well hold on a second. I can I think I can just hit the stop.