Facebook and Cisco Launch User Check-In Service for Free WiFi

TechCrunch is reporting that Facebook and Cisco are ready to expand their “Facebook Wifi” program, which lets brick-and-mortar stores ask customers to check-in to their pages before being granted free internet access. The service has been active in select businesses in San Francisco’s Bay Area since last year, but will soon be available to any company in the US.

The businesses involved in the test reported that their daily check-in numbers tripled after they implemented the software. Pretty much any company can use the service as well, as the “Cisco CMX for Facebook Wifi” software integrates with businesses existing routers and broadband services.

When customers connect to the wifi network, they’re directed to a custom landing page. Once a customer checks in, the service automatically connects them to the secured network. Customer’s can opt out, and still connect to the internet, but the “skip check-in” button is noticeably obscured on the page, as you can see below (photo from TechCrunch).

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For businesses the service provides anonymized, aggregate data on their clientele’s demographics, and allows them to offer free, secured internet access without having to tell each customer the password. It may also provide an extra incentive for local businesses to provide free internet. For Facebook, the service provides even more data on user behavior, including potentially valuable metrics on the stores they visit, which could in turn lead to greater advertising revenue. What exactly Cisco is gaining, besides increased brand presence, is not readily apparent.


Born in Alaska, Cameron is now a resident of Nashville, TN. He graduated from Sewanee: The University of the South with a degree in English and Political Science. He enjoys following emerging technology and its impact on business. Follow Cameron on Google+, or email him with any questions or comments.

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  1. Eric Perry

    Don’t a lot of business do this already?  For instance a larger chain
    like starbucks does this, and many hotels do this also.  What is the
    difference between these stores and the small mom and pop places?  Is it
    the equipment and services involved in the setup or something like
    this?  For instance, if you buy a cisco router, will it now allow you to
    redirect new connections to a landing page of your choice before being
    able to connect to the rest of the world wide web?

  2. Cameron Graham

    Eric Perry I think larger chains such as Starbucks have been purchasing custom software, whereas this Cisco/Facebook software is free and works with businesses existing routers/ISPs. It’s also less versatile though: as you mentioned, many hotels redirect you to their custom landing pages (airports are another example). The only option for businesses here is to redirect customers to their Facebook page. Still, if it’s easy to set up and install, smaller companies without dedicated IT teams will probably adopt it. Especially since it doesn’t require purchasing new equipment. 
    Interestingly, the only benefit for Cisco here seems to be increased name recognition, and the hope that when businesses upgrade their network they remember Cisco.

  3. Cameron Graham

    Interestingly, the only benefit for Cisco here seems to be increased name recognition, and the hope that when businesses upgrade their network they remember Cisco.