Starting about seven years ago, wefi set out to develop a virtual cloud based layer to collect information on WiFi hotspots worldwide. Based on information it amassed including, network loads, user locations and types of devices being used, as well as WiFi availability, the company developed software to enable service providers to select the best network alternative for carrying their traffic, wefi’s Intelligent Network Selection technology.
What prompted this initiative? According to Alex Zaidelson, Vice President, Product Development, the company anticipated the massive deluge in mobile data traffic (that we forecast in our 2011 study, Mobile Traffic Deluge.)
The company’s emphasis has been on the quality of connection available to the user at a given time and place. While the carriers, and a number of other companies may analyze data from cellular networks, with an increasing percentage of traffic flowing over WiFi, wefi believes that there is a not a complete picture without including those networks as well. “They lose the user when he leaves the carrier network,” Zaidelson points out.
wefi has also developed a consumer app, offered for free for Android phones and PC/netwooks. It is designed to provide the user with the ability to identify the best quality WiFi available, wherever they may be. The company reports about 10 million downloads to date, with good coverage in major U.S. metropolitan areas.
Zaidelson discussed with us a number of the benefits to carriers of the Intelligent Network Selection offering. Examples included:
– The ability to detect coverage holes, what he refers to as a “largescale drive test”; i.e., creating an analog to the driving tests used by today’s cellullar carriers – which are expensive and not timely.
– The ability of smaller MNOs to check on the level of service their customers get when they roam on the networks of the larger carriers – which Zaidelson points out often demonstrates a lower average network speed on the larger network;
– The ability to help carriers such as MSOs who are building out WiFi networks to determine with a high level of precision where to locate hotspots in venues such as malls or industrial parks – the wefi data breaks out into 10 x 10 meter resolution of traffic patterns.
While improved connectivity was the company’s calling card from inception, as it developed, its data gathering reached massive levels. Not only was wefi accumulating data about the networks – it claims to have identified over 200M hotspots and cell sites that it monitors – but it also gathers huge amounts of data about customer usage patterns.
This has led to what appears to be a major impending change in the company’s business model. When we asked which was likely to be the larger growth business, connectivity or data analytics about the networks and usage patterns, the answer came back, the analytics part.
This analytics part is far from a “sleeper “ in potential. The ability to obtain real world user data by a series of multidimensional data matrixes and predictive tools has great value into optimizing capex and opex programs for MSO’s and cellular carriers – real dollars in savings.
In addition, the marketing/advertising/promotion interests in the mobile user is critically dependent on current real world end user behavior intelligence.
The company has built its own Big Data engine, using Hadoop and an array of other tools. They are looking for breakthroughs in the area of predictive analysis. About three years ago they formed a data analysis group. Underlying this activity is an IP foundation of 8 patents granted and other applications pending.
Zaidelson points to the fact that wefi is gathering data about the locations of users, what apps they are using, where they place and receive calls and other items. He emphasizes that the data is collected anonymously.
This poses the issue of who will be the market for these analytics products. In addition to the cellular carriers, Zaidelson points to device manufactures, who are interested in both the connectivity aspects and the analytics for providing better user experiences and affording them a better understanding of users’ patterns of usage.
He also points to apps developers and states that the company is developing an SDK. He also singles out the cable companies as well, who are bulking up in the WiFi area. Time Warner Cable is an investor and the company reports that it is also working with Comcast. The company does not see enterprises on the horizon as important customers, stating that it is looking for situations that involve large masses of end users.
Visit Website: http://www.wefi.com/