The networking giant on Wednesday announced its latest acquisition -- one that focuses squarely on the exploding mobile world. Cisco has acquired ThinkSmart Technologies, a developer of network and Wi-Fi location analytics that Cisco plans to use to boost customer experiences in retail locations, hotels, airports and other public venues.
Based in Cork, Ireland, ThinkSmart Technologies delivers location data analysis using Wi-Fi technology. Hilton Romanski, vice president and head of Cisco's corporate business development, said the companies will enhance the wireless network by providing location intelligence and analytics to service providers and enterprise customers. This information will help them to understand what is happening in their environments and to better engage their end users.
"ThinkSmart's location analytics [technology] collects information on movement within a venue including time of day, traffic patterns and dwell times," Romanski explained in a blog post. "This information helps enterprises and venue operators improve the customer experience by identifying appropriate staffing levels, reducing wait times, optimizing business processes and improving customer flows."
Accelerating the Mobile Vision
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, however, Romanski said the acquisition will help accelerate Cisco's vision for mobility solutions. The key is making it possible for businesses 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 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," Romanski said. "This aligns with the core; one of Cisco's five foundational priorities, by providing differentiated solutions within the infrastructure of the network."
Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst at ZK Research, said the ThinkSmart buy is indeed a strategic acquisition for Cisco on the mobility front because traditional mobile apps are falling short of the networking promise.
"We've taken big applications like the Internet browser, improved the interface and made them smaller so they fit on a mobile device," Kerravala said. "But in essence it's the same application on a smaller device. To me an application that is uniquely mobile is one that uses the unique capabilities of the device."
Mobile that Knows You
Kerravala offers a few examples: If you look at a subway map on your computer, it shows you the map. When you look at that same subway map on your mobile phone, it should have some knowledge of who and where you are and tell you that the closest stop is two blocks away.
Likewise, if you are in a department store, the mobile app should know who you are, along with the type of shopping you normally do, and make recommendations. And if you are reading a text message and the car starts, the network should know and cue the mobile app to read text messages aloud.
"In order to make applications uniquely mobile, the nature of applications has to change and the things ThinkMobile does go a long way in fulfilling that vision," Kerravala said. "Right now there's lot of chatter about what your primary mobile device is. The mobile device won't just be more convenient than a desktop or laptop, it will become better than that because it will have a lot more predictive abilities."