Are You thinking Smart?

ThinkSmart Technologies, based in Cork, Ireland, was a software company that delivers location data analysis using Wi-Fi technology.

The Connected Mobile experience solution represents a massive advancement in the way that a venue can interact with a visitor which has been brought to life through a new protocol MSAP ( Mobile Services Advertisement Protocol ).

Like any new Cisco solution that is new it is a little hard to fully understand exactly what it is, what the benefits are and what is needed to implement the solution. So i will attempt to explain what I have managed to research so far.

Connected Mobile Experience is made up from a few core Cisco technologies and a few from external sources.

The following is required from Cisco:

  • CUWN - Cisco Wireless Controller and Access Points (7.2 Software)
  • Cisco Mobility Services Engine (Version 7.4) This has the new location analytics interface included.
  • Cisco Prime Infrastructure (Version 1.2)

External components are:

  • Qualcomm SnapDragon Chipset - Qualcomm has introduced a smartphone chipset with embedded Cisco Mobile Services Advertisement Protocol (MSAP)
  • Meridian APP development -

Licensing Requirements:

Cisco WLC - Just the standard licensing is required

Cisco Prime - Version 1.2

MSE - In the MSE 7.4 release the Advanced Location service is introduced and it includes the Location Analytics service and Mobile Concierge service (more on this later). From Release 7.4 onwards, licensing is going to be AP based and not end point based. To accommodate this, new L-LS-licenses are being introduced.

Cisco Mobile Concierge

The Cisco Mobile Concierge a name that Cisco is using to encompass the following components:

• Mobile Concierge SDK, which enables integrating location into any iOS or Android mobile application. This is the SDK from Meridian for integration with the MSE which provides location based features and push notifications.

• Mobility Services Advertisement Protocol (MSAP).

Mobility Services Advertisement Protocol

The following are the main components and explanation of MSAP

MSAP Server - The Cisco Mobility Services Engine runs the MSAP server as it is embedded in Cisco MSE software version 7.4.100. It is managed in Cisco Prime Infrastructure.

MSAP End Points - The MSAP client is integrated with the latest phones that are built with Qualcomm's SnapDragon client. The MSAP client software could also be integrated into a mobile app.

Configuration of the MSAP is through the Cisco Prime Network Control System. These "Services" are either applications that the customer has developed or a URL. The protocol provides links to these URL's or the APP where the applications can be downloaded.

So how does MSAP actually work?

What i like about MSAP is the fact that it operates over the link layer (like EAP) where the client does not need to be associated to the access point, does not need to go through authentication or even need an IP.

MSAP gets its roots from a 802.11u protocol called GAS (Generic Advertisement Service) and ANQP (Access Network Query Protocol). These protocols are used in 802.11u for discovery of services from various service providers, authentication methods and details of the WiFi network itself.

In the Cisco solution MSAP is configured per SSID (next to where mobility anchors are configured) which advertises n its 802.11 beacon frame that services are available. When a complaint MSAP client receives such a frame it then queries the MSAP server for the services that are available. Depending on what as been configured in the Cisco MSE will depend on what is presented to the client.  But this is typically links to a URL or application on an APP store.

So to summarise the above; A user will walk into a venue which supports MSAP, the users device will detect MSAP and query it for the local services that have been configured. The user will then be notified on their device from an icon (and maybe a vibration) that local services are available.

The user will then click on the icon and will be presented with a list of services. For this example lets say that its a shopping mall that the user has walked into and one of the services is their customer service APP. The APP is then able to be downloaded and installed onto the clients device.

Location Analytics

Location Analytics is 7.4 Software is the ThinkSmart Technologies solution. The service is enabled through Cisco Prime before it can be accessed. The following images shows how Location analytics fits into the Cisco solution.

There seems to be very little difference in what is required when setting up Advanced Location Analytics, You need to go through the same process as before for a location based design, setting up MSE and Cisco Prime. Once you have added the "Advanced Location" license and enabled the service you will be able to log into the Analytics Server which is actually on the MSE.

Location analysis creates and analyses different areas of the building and measures the movement of people within the building. The solution uses the concept of Areas and Zones, Areas are defined by mathematical clustering on the observable Wi-Fi points and a zone is a user defined space with a name and can be used for reporting or for path rule purpose

The different behaviour measurements that are available are:

Dwell Time - Dwell time or wait time is an estimate of the time, a person is spending in an area as they move through the building.

Crowding - Crowding is measured by the density of people within a particular area over a time period. Crowding is a relative measure of crowding across all areas. It is derived from the number of observed devices in that area and a measure of the size of the area.

Number of devices passing - This indicates the number of unique MAC addresses identified in that area and is defined by your filtered conditions. The number of visits is also calculated. In case a device re-appear in the same area after an elapsed time, then it is counted as a second visit.

One of the most powerful parts to location analytics is the reporting. The following reports are available from within the GUI.

  • Frequent Devices
  • Movement Between Zones
  • Daily Device Snapshot
  • Daily Devices and Dwell

The Location Analytics provides an ability to view the analytic results in both 2D and 3D. This provides a better understanding of results, on multiple floor paths or when dwell times are calculated throughout a multi-storey building.

Another great feature is location path analysis. This is the behaviour of devices or people as they move through the building. The typical path presents you with a set of paths taken and the parameters associated with them. The following is a picture of a path taken.

The following information is displayed when you click on a node:

  • Number of paths in the cluster
  • Overall distance travelled
  • Number of point observations recorded along the path
  • Time took to complete the particular path
  • Average speed along the path (km/hr)
  • Date and time of the first and the last recorded point on the path

The following are the parameters for a particular point:

  • Arrival date and time
  • Zones located within
  • Any tags associated with this point
  • The following are the parameters displayed for a particular edge:
  • Crow- files distance between the two points it joins
  • Difference in time between two points
  • Estimated speed between the two points.

I think that the location interface can be improved on which I am sure will happen over the next few releases. Id like to see it to look more inline with Cisco Prime.

Mobile APP Development

What is also interesting about this overall solution is the way that Cisco have engaged with Meridian ( to provide location based application development.

Meridian have released an SDK that is provided once you enable the "Advanced Locations Service" on the MSE. The Meridian NavKit SDK allows you to embed maps and navigation features of the Meridian app into your own custom iOS and Android apps. The SDK communicates to the Meridian software that is pre-installed on the MSE.

Meridian also have a very easy to use "APP Maker" on their website that utilises their native APP on the APP store. ( This allows customers to create their own app in a very cost effective way and not have the hassle of getting software designers involved or have to submit APP's to any APP store.

Meridian also have their "BluDotKit" for developers. The BluDotKit SDK enables the use of indoor location awareness. Provide visitors with their location inside buildings and monitor visitor traffic patterns. This works by Meridian formatting up the floor plans from your MSE to make them "Mobile Ready". The BluDot is the same Blue Dot that you get in Google Maps which makes the interface very familiar.


Am really impressed how Cisco has pulled this all together. MSAP at this point is a propriety protocol but as it is being widely implemented by Qualcomm in their SnapDragon chipsets i cant see it being long before others start to support this. I like the way that they have not only integrated ThinkSmart into the MSE but brought in Meridian for ease of client APP's.

In the next coming parts of this blog post i will go in-depth on the configuration required to set Location based Analytics up!