Smarthotspots began in 2014 when two technology businesses came together to tackle a common problem with public WiFi. From that, they now offer managed WiFi solutions to businesses around the country and a customer engagement platform to help companies market their products to their customers.
We spoke with Philip English to find out more about the company and the services they offer.
Can you tell me about the services Smarthotspots offer?
We offer two services. The first is a cloud based fully managed WiFi solution in hotels, bars, schools and other sectors. We manage the solution from installation, all the way through the term of the contract. We don’t believe in plug and play WiFi solutions, as we believe networks need constant changes and updates to keep them performing to their best level and from our cloud controller we can remotely manage all of this.
The second service we offer is our cloud based customer engagement platform, which we have developed in-house. It allows businesses to push branded content to their customer’s mobile device while they are accessing the guest WiFi. They can then market directly to registered users using marketing campaigns, which can be scheduled based on present actions and triggers.
Our customers also have access to our enhanced analytics suite which gives them a real-time view of how their guest WiFi network is performing.
When was the company launched?
We noticed a huge gap in the market for reliable WiFi that was secure and didn’t require a tedious exchange of information for access. We were tired of trying to get work done in cafes and hotel lobbies that offered a poor user experience so we developed our own which launched in January 2014.
How does the process work for consumers? Is there a cost for using it?
Our customers decide how they would like the services to run internally for them, we support free access, social login, email, voucher and paid WiFi services on our platform. It is that simple: no forms to fill in, no long question and answer session, just a couple of clicks. We always recommend that business owners offer free WiFi as it serves as a great incentive for customers to enter your venue. Public WiFi is expected pretty much everywhere these days and people are relying on free WiFi access more and more, so implementing a fee will only drive customers to a competitor who does not charge, but ultimately that decision it is down to the business.
Although we never recommend it we can include an access fee if required. We feel that businesses can get a higher return on investment from increased sales or from displaying a promotional campaign on a customer’s device while they are in-store, than from charging users for WiFi access.
For businesses looking to roll this out, what is the process for them? Are there prerequisites and what if broadband is very poor in their area?
Before we install our solution we perform a full site survey. We walk through the entire venue, making notes, developing a location map and deciding how many access points are required and where they need to be placed in order to ensure complete WiFi coverage.
The second step is the installation. Our experienced team will discreetly install, configure and test all of the hardware onsite to ensure it is all working properly and to iron out any issues which may occur. Once we are satisfied that the WiFi is set up correctly, users can connect and landing pages are in place, our onsite job is done.
From this point on we monitor the hotspot remotely. If businesses owners wish to run a promotional campaign or upgrade their package we can configure and implement these changes remotely so they just need to give us a call.
We always strive to deliver the best WiFi solution we can. If the broadband in the area isn’t great we would be inclined to roll out a multiple connection solution to boost the WiFi signal, however if we thought that option wouldn’t be strong enough we will not take on the job. We understand that the vast majority of the general public cannot and do not differentiate between broadband and WiFi. In their minds it is the same thing so if we can’t provide a reliable WiFi service with 100% coverage we understand that it will be perceived as being our fault, and not because the broadband in the area is poor.
We pride ourselves on ensuring we always provide the best service we can, but if we know that the broadband will not be strong enough to support our service we will walk away.
What other services do you offer businesses who deploy your service in their premises?
Content filtering is an additional service we always encourage businesses to install. Public WiFi is accessed by people of all ages so we strongly believe that any online content accessed within a public venue should be family friendly. Our content filtering system works in real-time to blacklist access to explicit and inappropriate websites. It also prevents users from accessing suspicious websites that are running malware or phishing scams.
While family friendly WiFi and user protection is incredibly important, content filtering provides so much more than that. It also allows business owners to dictate what hours their free WiFi is accessible to prevent people hanging around the venue after hours, impose time and bandwidth limits and restrictions for each user to prevent one person from hogging the entire connection and it can even prevent automatic cloud backups from running (typically users set their images and files to back up while using WiFi, but obviously this kind of activity can place a strain on everyone else’s WiFi experience). Content filtering gives business owners complete control over their hotspot to help provide the best possible experience for their customer.
What makes you stand out from your competitors?
We believe that smarthotspots’ unique selling point is our strong customer focus. The entire WiFi experience is built around the end-user’s needs and expectations. We developed a solution that gets users online quickly without filling out long forms, and provide them with reliable WiFi access. Our platform provides business owners with a ready-made customer engagement tool to interact with them naturally while they are in-store to further improve their experience by displaying exclusive and relevant promotional material on their device.
We also think our personal approach sets us apart from the competition. We don’t just post out our hardware in a box and leave the business owner to figure it out by themselves. We are consciously involved in the entire process right from the first phone-call. We perform a site survey with the business owner to ensure access point placement will optimise their WiFi experience, we install all of the hardware ourselves and we configure and customise the solution to match their expectations. But this is only the 1st phase of our relationship with them. We actively work to build and maintain a strong, personal connection with each of our customers that lasts long after the installation is complete. We pro-actively monitor their hotspot and stay in touch to ensure everything is running smoothly, to discuss their monthly hotspot analytics and to answer any queries they may have.
What have been your big successes to date?
We have achieved much more than we expected during our 1st year in business. After just 12 short months we are proud to be in position where we can say that we are providing our managed WiFi solution to key players in the hospitality industry like Wagamamas, Captain America’s, Pygmalion and Copper Face Jacks. We are delighted that successful Dublin hotels like The Dean, The Dawson and most recently Portmarnock Hotel & Golf Links have entrusted us to provide WiFi access for their guests.
While customer WiFi was our initial market we are also excited to be providing enterprise WiFi for the likes of Pulsate and Fumbally Exchange. 2014 was very kind to us and we are working hard to build upon this success and become Ireland’s leading WiFi provider in 2015.
What’s next for Smarthotspots?
Going forward we want to continue providing and optimizing what we believe is the most customer focused WiFi solution on the Irish market. We are already developing the next version of our platform which will include some exciting new features including key business indicators such as presence analytics.
While it is important to continue to upgrade our service with additional features we believe in the concept that everything can be improved, which is why we will also be working on enhancing the features we already have. We will also continue to work hard at forging new relationships to extend our network of public hotspots by teaming up with more of Ireland’s top businesses in 2015.
For anyone who’s interested in your service, what’s the best way for them to get in contact and find out more?
If anyone is interested in learning more about our managed WiFi solution and what it can do for their business they can give us a call on (01) 485 3730 or send an email to [email protected].
We are also on Facebook and Twitter so be sure to follow us and say hi.
If you would like to have your company featured in the Irish Tech News Business Showcase, get in contact with me on [email protected]