Silicon Valley tech startup Mist Systems is pioneering smart wireless networking for the smart device era. Since its founding in 2014, Mist Systems has worked to bring its Mist Intelligent Wireless Cloud and Enterprise-Grade Access Points to corporations across multiple sectors including retail, hospitality, health care, education and more.
“Wireless isn’t new, but we’re in a new era of how consumers use it,” said Jeff Aaron, vice president of marketing at Mist Systems. “It’s no longer just about connectivity. What we have done is to solve the challenges of delivering Wi-Fi on the scale needed for the smartphone era and to introduce Bluetooth into the equation to deliver personalized experiences to users.”
To do this, said Aaron, requires three key ingredients.
“First, you need a purpose-built cloud infrastructure. Wireless was built prior to 2007, so it didn’t have the opportunity to take advantage of smartphone or cloud infrastructure. And we’re not just taking traditional wireless controllers and moving them to the cloud — we’re building it from scratch. The same type of cloud that Facebook and Netflix use to build their infrastructure is what we use to build the Mist cloud.”
Second are the access points.
“We’ve incorporated Bluetooth antennae into our access points,” said Aaron. “This eliminates the need to put physical beacons every 25 feet to interact with people. They’re a pain to deploy, people knock them off, batteries go dead. We eliminate those issues and put Bluetooth into an enterprise-grade access point just like Wi-Fi. It’s managed via the cloud.”
Third, Mist Systems incorporated AI components into their technology.
“Machine learning is the hidden element that takes this all to the next generation in simplifying the way you deploy Wi-Fi,” said Aaron. “We’re constantly monitoring activity to correlate events to tell if users are having a wireless problem, a wiring problem or a device problem — and where and what device type it is. We can capture packets in real time and store them in the cloud so we don’t have to send a tech on site in an hour or a day to try to recreate the problem.”
These three aspects allow Mist Systems to deliver a more consistent Wi-Fi experience across all different types of smart devices. Additionally, Mist System’s technology enables high-value services using Bluetooth — including high-accuracy, low-latency location-based services.
Aaron gave a few examples of the services Mist System’s technology provides.
“One use is proximity-based messaging. When I walk into a casino, a hotel, or a store, it recognizes who I am, wakes up my app and sends me a relevant notification.”
“Another common use is way finding,” he continued. “If I walk into a mall, a hospital or a campus, I want the ability to access directions to where I want to go inside. Google Maps and Waze work great outside, but once you walk inside, you don’t have the ability to navigate around a mall with turn-by-turn directions. This is another one of the things that we can now provide.”
Another example of Mist System’s capabilities is asset tracking.
“In a hospital, I might want to know where all of my wheelchairs are, where all of my insulin pumps are, where doctors and nurses are spending their time,” said Aaron. “In a store, I can find where the closest retail associate is if I need assistance. That’s all something that you can do with location services built into your wireless infrastructure. You can deliver a more personalized experience for your employees, for your guests, for your customers — for anyone using your wireless network.”
Since it began shipping out its technology in June of this year, Mist Systems already has nearly 100 customers, including a top social media company, a global retailer, an online retailer and a resort in Orlando.
Just yesterday, Mist Systems announced the Mist BlueTooth Low Energy (BLE) Alliance, a broad, collaborative network of companies in the ecosystem driving the adoption and evolution of high-accuracy, indoor location services and ensuring the seamless interoperability of their various BLE components with Mist’s wireless platform.
“That’s the beauty of the cloud and microservices,” said Aaron. “We can add new services seamlessly like a SaaS provider. It’s very early to roll new things out. There’s a whole ecosystem around location-based services, and we’re just the infrastructure, we give you the blue dot to tell you where you are. All of these other elements that need to come into play to make it functional. We’ll be working with a lot of industry leaders to build those solutions and bring them to market.”
The next step for Mist Systems is to continue working with machine learning to work toward automating its technology.
“We want to take it to the next level and offer predictive recommendations,” said Aaron. “That way it’s not just ‘Here is the problem,’ but ‘Here is a potential problem that’s about to come up; you should think about doing this before it arises.’ Continuing down the path of automating our Wi-Fi operation is key.”