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Hughes Electrical gets smart about wi-fi to help boost in-store sales

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Hughes Electrical, the second largest independent electrical retailer in the UK, is deploying Ruckus Smart Wi-Fi technology across its retail outlets to allow better access to information for its mobile customers in store and to connect and demonstrate hundreds of in store multi-media consumer electronic products, such as Smart televisions, wireless music systems, and other consumer products now equipped with Wi-Fi.

Founded in Lowestoft, Suffolk in 1921, Hughes has experienced decades of expansion, leading it to now become the fourth largest electrical retailer in the UK and the second largest provider of home entertainment and kitchen appliance rentals.

“Almost every new consumer product coming to market today has an embedded Wi-Fi capability,” says Tim Pearce, IT Manager at Hughes Electrical. “To effectively demonstrate and sell these products, customers want to actually see and understand how to use them in a live environment.”

Pearce continues: “The problem we faced was the inability to concurrently and reliably connect hundreds of multimedia devices simultaneously in our stores. Our existing wireless kit, based on conventional Wi-Fi technology, simply wasn’t able to cope with the capacity or traffic demands essential to running our business.”

Hughes Electrical, which also operates under the brand Apollo, has more than 43 stores across East Anglia and The Midlands. Hughes needed a more robust Wi-Fi system that could handle the dense device capacity and streaming of multimedia traffic within a challenging Wi-Fi environment that is riddled with all sorts of RF noise and interference.

Hughes Electrical had previously installed conventional Wi-Fi technology in an attempt to connect the products in its stores, being forced to build out the network by adding additional access points (APs) to expand coverage and capacity as its Wi-Fi demands grew.

However, they found that the network would frequently crash under the strain of so many devices. Often a single device would monopolize bandwidth on the Wi-Fi network, rendering other products on display technically impaired. It was also soon evident that building out the network with additional APs was counterproductive, as the APs operated autonomously with no coordination between them. This caused disruptive co-channel interference between adjacent units and an inability to manage the APs as a unified Wi-Fi infrastructure across all Hughes Electrical stores.

“When it comes to Wi-Fi, Hughes would be considered a super user,” said Fred Astfeldt, network security specialist at Advanced Network Security (ANSecurity), a Ruckus Alpha Dog Partner and the systems integrator that designed and installed the new Ruckus Smart Wi-Fi infrastructure.

“As the consumer electronics market has evolved, it became apparent that Hughes needed to move to next generation Wi-Fi technology that could deliver the power, reliability and capacity to connect a huge number of devices without any complications. Several providers were considered, but Ruckus simply offered the most powerful, dependable and cost-effective kit on the market,” says Astfeldt.

After evaluating a variety of equipment from competing Wi-Fi suppliers such as Aerohive and others, Hughes selected the Ruckus ZoneFlex(TM) system. The company is now deploying hundreds of dual-band Ruckus ZoneFlex(TM) Smart Wi-Fi indoor access points in all of its locations. All the Ruckus APs are remotely managed from a central point through redundant Ruckus ZoneDirector(TM) 3000 Series wireless LAN (WLAN) controllers installed within the Hughes network operations center (NOC).

According to Hughes officials, one of the biggest benefits of the new Ruckus Smart Wi-Fi system has been the reduction of support calls from stores. IT support staff at Hughes were receiving three to four calls a day from frustrated store employees unable to get the Wi-Fi stable enough to demo products. “Once the Ruckus kit was installed, those calls effectively vanished,” says Pearce.

“Streaming high definition multimedia traffic over Wi-Fi from so many devices requires a new class of Wi-Fi system discretely designed for that purpose. The Ruckus system, with its integrated adaptive antenna array technology, is simply in a different league and has helped increase in-store sales. It has proven to be an ideal choice for our capacity and multimedia streaming needs,” concluded Pearce.

With the Ruckus Smart Wi-Fi infrastructure now in place across all Hughes stores, their new network provides the ability to enable future value added services such as wireless point-of-sale (POS), mobile advertising and location-based Wi-Fi services (LBS).

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