SK Telecom goes global with indoor location-based services

Guiding your way around large and crowded indoor venues, such as shopping malls, sports stadiums, museums, convention centres and hospitals, can be difficult. Signage is often ineffective and the global positioning technologies built into mobiles cannot be used indoors because they require a clear satellite signal to work effectively. Today, many companies are realising the benefits of deploying indoor location-based services (ILBS) solutions that not only help people navigate venues easily, but also provide them with contextual information to enhance the visitor experience.

“Indoor spaces are becoming much larger so there is new demand for ILBS tools that use wi-fi networks or Bluetooth beacons to pinpoint the exact location of individuals and use contextual information to guide them around indoor venues,” says Kyle Rhee, manager at South Korea’s leading wireless telecommunications operator SK Telecom.

Recognising the demand for such service in South Korea, SK Telecom introduced its own Bluetooth 4.0 beacon-based ILBS solution in 2013. Named Wizturn, the B2B ILBS solution is hosted on the Microsoft Azure cloud platform and uses Bluetooth to automatically detect the exact location of consumers and deliver relevant, real-time information to their mobile devices.

To date, Wizturn has been integrated with geo-fencing and zone-based check-in services and implemented in various indoor venues across South Korea. “For example, convention centres have implemented Wizturn to enable visitors to use a mobile app to access information about each booth and plan their schedule before they even enter the building,” explains Rhee. “Exhibitors have also harnessed the solution to send targeted promotional offers directly to visitors’ mobiles to help boost foot traffic and enhance customer engagement. Plus, the technology has been used at sports arenas to notify fans about discounted merchandise or food offers, or to encourage them to enter fan competitions.”

In addition, Wizturn has been integrated with various back-office solutions on the Azure platform – such as business intelligence or customer relationship management tools – to enable companies to capture and analyse data about their customers’ behaviour.

“Using these analytics tools to better understand the data captured via our beacons helps companies to develop targeted marketing campaigns, improve operational processes and boost customer engagement,” says Rhee. “For instance, retailers can use analytics tools to track peak visitor times to plan staffing rotas, identify popular products, determine where to place promotional products or even to send personalised offers to consumers as soon as they step into the shopping mall.”

Now Wizturn is well established in South Korea, SK Telecom plans to extend its services across the globe with the help of Microsoft and its partners in 2015. Rhee believes one of the key factors that will help to achieve international growth is the fact that Wizturn is available as a software-as-a-service solution on Azure.

“As the first solution to integrate ILBS technology with a globally available public cloud platform, Wizturn can easily be deployed anywhere in the world without customers needing to invest in their own on-premises infrastructures,” he explains. “Plus, our StorSimple solution allows customers to store the vast amounts of data gathered in on-premise resources and on Azure, providing them with a secure and flexible way to access information whenever they need it.”

SK Telecom also aims to leverage Microsoft’s extensive network of system integrators, independent service vendors, software developers and other partners to expand its services into new markets.

“We already have a solid partner base in South Korea, but this year we intend to join forces with Microsoft partners in the Asia-Pacific region and elsewhere in the world,” explains Rhee. “We also plan to establish a co-marketing campaign with Microsoft and train its partners to deliver our ILBS solution themselves. Eventually, we hope that WizTurn will gain the necessary certification to be offered as part of the Microsoft technology stack.”

To help elevate its position in the global ILBS market, SK Telecom also plans to increase the accuracy of its geo-positioning technology to identify the location of individuals within a distance of 50cm. “We will also add asset tracking functionality to Wizturn to enable our customers to tag equipment with Bluetooth beacons and track these items in real time, helping to improve operational efficiency or security,” says Rhee. “For example, police forces could use it to track rifles, or it could be used by factory workers to track shipments and inventory stock.”

As the global ILBS market continues to grow, Rhee is confident that by extending its partnership with Microsoft and adding and upgrading the features to Wizturn, SK Telecom will be able to quickly gain customers in new markets. “Our experience as a wireless telco operator allows us to provide some of the most accurate positioning technology in the market, while our advanced beacon technology, routing engines, map-authoring tools, geo-fencing, check-in, analytics solutions provide everything a company needs to offer customers a reliable context-driven ILBS service,” he concludes. “2015 marks the start of our global expansion and we look forward to building a win-win partnership in the growing indoor location space business with many capable partners.”

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