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This syndicated post originally appeared at Network World Zeus Kerravala.

Using Aerohive products, City Furniture upgraded its Wi-Fi
network and digitized operations, moving POS operations
to iPads and setting the stage for Bluetooth beacons

Founded in 1971, City Furniture got its start when Kevin Koenig and his brother Keith Koenig constructed wood bed frames in a garage. They started with a single showroom, Waterbed City, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, but have now grown to 27 locations across the state and operate under the brands of City Furniture and Ashley Furniture HomeStore brands.

The company currently has an older Cisco 802.11g Wi-Fi network that it uses for bar code scanning and inventory management and was reaching the end of its life. City Furniture had big plans to digitize the company by moving its point-of-sale (POS) operations and capabilities to Wi-Fi-enabled tablets so the employees could transact business from anywhere in the store. Also, it wanted to use VoIP to take calls from iPads anywhere in the showroom, as well as access radio apps.

To do these things and become a modernized, digital retailer, the company needed to upgrade its Wi-Fi network to something with greater throughput and 5GHz capabilities. The new wireless network was critical to the plans for City Furniture; they could not afford to make the wrong decision. So Eric Jensen, infrastructure manager at City Furniture, went through an extensive evaluation process to ensure the network would satisfy immediate requirements but also carry the company into the future.

Why City Furniture selected Aerohive

Jensen recruited the help of Gartner to help with the RFP process and to build a short list that included Aerohive and a number of other Wi-Fi players. After pitting all the vendors against the technical requirements provided by Gartner, City Furniture chose Aerohive for three reasons:

  • Ability to meet the physical range of coverage
  • Superior price/performance
  • Excellent customer service through the evaluation process

City Furniture worked closely with Aerohive’s local reseller, United Data Technologies, for integration and deployment.

The solution included Aerohive AP250 and AP245X access points and HiveManager Online for cloud management. The company has operations and warehouses in different states, making cloud management critical to the success of the deployment to make it easy for IT to manage the system and reduce the reliance on VPNs.

The Aerohive AP250 is equipped with a software-selectable radio that allows the AP to operate in dual 5GHz mode if needed. This allows all showroom iPads and corporate laptops to operate in the 5GHz band with minimal channel congestion and better throughput. The Aerohive AP250s also have integrated Bluetooth for iBeacon technology. This was a key requirement for City Furniture because in the future, they will look to use beacons as a way of targeting customers and gathering the data for new insights. The AP245X APs have external antennas to ensure uninterrupted operations in the warehouse.

Also, Aerohive’s private pre-shared key (PPSK) feature is used to quickly on-board and identify mobile devices, giving IT greater control and ease of management, as well as an improved level of security. City Furniture was able to use the cloud management tool to create three SSIDs to isolate the traffic from iPads, laptops, and the scanners and pickers used in the warehouse.

Having Aerohive in place has been the ultimate game changer for our retail business.

– Eric Jensen, Infrastructure Manager, City Furniture

The POS system is now fully rolled out across the entire company, and salespeople can use iPads as they move through the store with customers as they look for information or other products that may not be on the show floor.

The Wi-Fi is critical to this creating the enhanced, digital experience retailers are looking for. I recently interviewed a high-end retailer that attempted this without considering the Wi-Fi network, and the lag in the system was so bad that the in-store staff put the iPads on the shelves rather than being embarrassed by a system that does not work.

Also, City Furniture associates can easily communicate with one another using apps such as Zello and using VoIP to answer calls anywhere in the store. Financial apps for financing and payment are now available on the iPad, so shoppers can complete their experience without having to wait in a queue at a register.

How the new Wi-Fi network helps City Furniture’s headquarters and warehouse

In the warehouse and headquarters, employees are also enjoying their newfound mobility. A combination of new wireless devices from DLI and software from HighJump are in place for optimized retailer and supply-chain operations. As trucks pull into the locations, the extended outdoor Wi-Fi network gives City Furniture the ability to allocate inventory on site

Almost every organization I talk to today has big plans for digital transformation. However, it’s critical that businesses consider the implications of the network, as we now live in a world where everything is connected and it’s these connections that give us the new insights. City Furniture made a big bet with Aerohive, and now its paying off with new customer experiences and improved processes.

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Zeus Kerravala

Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. Kerravala provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long term strategic advice.
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