Earlier this month I was honored to attend the announcement of the Aruba Mobile First Platform as a Mobility Field Day delegate. The event as a whole consisted of product enhancement announcements that were tightly integrated and focused squarely on how Aruba’s mobility architecture moves beyond reliable connectivity and deeply into the realm of solving business problems and enhancing customer experience. =
Among the presentations were a nice mix of anticipated upgrades and, at least for me, pleasant surprises. I’ve listed a few of them below, and I recommend following the links more detail and description.
- ArubaOS 8, a major update to the capabilities and user interface of Aruba’s core operating system
- The long-sought ability to virtualize Aruba Mobility Controllers
- The Mobility Master, which provides more flexibility than ever for network administrators planning firmware updates and downtime
- OnConnect, which profiles every device connected to the network and assigns policies accordingly
What stands out to me, however, is the extent to which Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, has transformed its mature, enterprise Wi-Fi architecture into a true platform that facilitates innovation and problem solving at a very human level. As the day’s presentations and demonstrations progressed I found myself focused much more on the potential for integration of the products than the products themselves. Then, about halfway through a detailed overview of new ClearPass enhancements, I realized this Wi-Fi geek was daydreaming ways my clients could begin to reimagine how their staff and customers interact with each other in new and meaningful ways.
In public schools, front office staff are often challenged with providing guest services such as Internet access to visitors, parents, and contractors, while maintaining a safe and secure facility and maintaining administrative order for the school. Currently, disparate systems lock and unlock doors, perform instant criminal background checks, print temporary identification badges, onboard guests for network access, notify staff of student checkouts by parents, and provide video surveillance of entrances, corridors, and common areas.
Aruba ClearPass, along with solutions from development partners such as Envoy, Avigilon, and Honeywell, can leverage personal identification data the first time it’s captured to automate guest approval, provide segregated Wi-Fi access, print visitor or contractor badges, notify staff of visitor arrivals, and even allow access to allowed hallways and rooms. And all of that could happen while the receptionist is occupied with a phone call.
In hospitals, patients and visitors alike are often stymied by maze-like facilities and disconnected information systems. Whether getting directions to a patient room or updates on a family member’s condition, more often than not the key to success is finding the right person at the right time.
After seeing what’s now possible with APIs from Aruba, I have no trouble imagining someday soon visiting Aunt Sally in the hospital and experiencing the following instead: After parking, a sign in the garage invites me to join the hospital Wi-Fi network as a registered guest. Location sensors identify the level and row where I parked so they can direct me back later. As I check in at the visitor information desk, my driver’s license is scanned to verify my identity, and it’s confirmed that Aunt Sally previously approved me as a visitor when she checked-in (had she not, I might have been politely notified by a message on my phone that she is resting and would prefer not to have any guests). Turn-by-turn guidance using a blue dot on a map guide me to the correct elevators, corridors, and room, saving me from the embarrassment of misunderstood directions. When I arrive, Uncle Harry is ordering her dinner from a customized menu on his phone, and a few minutes later receives specific instructions regarding the prescription medication she’ll continue taking once she goes home. The nursing staff will be more engaged with patient care rather than redirecting lost visitors and explaining the doctor’s reasons for a low-sodium meal for the third time.
Much of this is made possible by ClearPass Extensions and APIs, which enable the integration of data about network-connected users with third-party databases and apps. Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) are not new to ClearPass, but it’s now easier than ever to integrate cloud-hosted software without re-writing everything from the ground up. After some manageable modifications, third-party cloud apps can be leveraged by ClearPass from a repository via an API. An impressive group of partners already exists on ClearPass Exchange, and I anticipate more growth of this ecosystem as developers catch-on to its potential.
I traveled to Silicon Valley for Mobility Field Day anxious to see some technical feature enhancements that would make it easier to implement and manage Aruba wireless networks. I wasn’t disappointed, and I’m excited to find time in my lab to learn and play with everything we saw. But today Wi-Fi should exist for more than its basic connective utility. We now can focus a little less on what else we can do to the network, and begin to think more broadly about what the network can do for us. Aruba understands that, embodied by the excellent work that’s gone into the Mobile First Platform.