Published on September 17th, 2014 | by Alexis Argent0
Transforming the City of Palma de Mallorca into a Smart Destination
Providing free and accessible WiFi to millions of users along the beaches of Palma has revolutionized the tourist industry for this Spanish city.
Technology continues to revolutionize the way people interact, shop, and carry out day to day activities. In Mallorca, the City of Palma is taking great steps to integrate technology into the daily operation of its seaside district, which is one of Europe’s most popular vacation destinations with over a million tourists every year. Using Cisco Meraki APs (Indoor, Outdoor) , they are working to enhance the quality of life by providing free wireless to their residents and visitors throughout the Playa de Palma.
People are constantly using their mobile devices to make informed decisions on travel, shopping, food, and to keep up to date on news. However, high data roaming charges often dissuade visitors from using their mobile devices while vacationing, preventing them from learning about special events or unique cultural opportunities promoted online.
In an effort to provide the best possible visitor experience, the City of Palma began looking at new concepts that would provide a more tech-friendly environment for tourists. As a member of the Spanish Network of Smart Cities (RECI), it was crucial for the city to create a framework that built upon the idea of Smart Cities and developed solutions that could be replicated in other cities.
Finding a solution to support millions of users
After reviewing several ideas, the city partnered with MallorcaWiFi to deliver accessible WiFi using the Cisco Meraki cloud networking solution, which provides easy-to-use management of distributed networks via a centralized dashboard. “We’ve been trusting the Cisco Meraki solution for six years and chose it here because we wanted to provide the best possible service: management, capacity, scalability, and adoption of new features,” remarked Mauricio Socias, MallorcaWiFi CEO. MallorcaWiFi’s proposal stipulated that they would not only manage the daily operation of the entire network, but would also carry the complete investment for the project in exchange for advertising contracts with local businesses. Once deployed, the city and tourists would benefit from the wireless at no additional cost.
Blanketing beaches in free WiFi
Phase One of the project, spanning an area of 5 km along the first line of Palma beaches, was completed in just three months. “The installation process with Cisco Meraki was very easy and fast,” said Socias. “Most of the time was spent on the strategic placement of equipment on 15 meter tall lampposts and working on partnerships to place APs on buildings and other structures where service would be provided to the most users.” In areas where the APs would be exposed to extreme environmental conditions, such as humidity, salt, and high temperatures, rugged Cisco Meraki outdoor APs were used. Depending on deployment location and available infrastructure, APs are connected either via Ethernet cable or through an automatic, self-configuring mesh network.
We’ve been trusting the Cisco Meraki solution for six years and chose it here because we wanted to provide the best possible service: management, capacity, scalability, and adoption of new features.” – Mauricio Socias, MallorcaWiFi CEO
MallorcaWiFi is taking full advantage of the 15 different SSIDs available on every Cisco Meraki network for local businesses, organizing public safety, promoting cultural events, and more. Each local business, including hotels and cafes, that chooses to purchase advertising contracts on the wireless is assigned an SSID with a unique authentication method. Companies are implementing custom click-through splash pages or Facebook WiFi login, wh
ich enables clients to “check in” to the location to access the free wireless, providing increased brand awareness for the companies. Built-in features allow MallorcaWiFi to shape traffic to restrict access to heavy bandwidth applications, while prioritizing other apps that tourists rely upon.
Making management simple and reliable
With only two technicians and two account managers from MallorcaWiFi ensuring the network’s daily operation, the centralized management provided by the Cisco Meraki dashboard is key. The team’s work is facilitated by numerous built-in features that assist in providing a reliable and secure network environment. For example, RF optimization automatically ensures strong performance on each AP in MallorcaWiFi’s high density wireless environment, maximizing the network performance, while Air Marshall detects and neutralizes wireless threats like rogue SSIDs and malicious broadcasts. Using the web-based dashboard, admins can quickly analyze any problems and troubleshoot remotely, without the need to go on-site. “We work with the dashboard in real time, anywhere, at any time,” notes Socias. “It is simple and very effective.”
The benefits of increased wireless usage
Since the deployment of the first phase of the project, the City of Palma has seen a steady increase in daily connections, initially at 3,500 daily connections using 1.5 TB of traffic and surging to more than 25,000 daily users now. This influx in wireless usage has benefitted the city in numerous ways, including increases in tourism at cultural sites, awareness of tourist presence throughout the city, and overall public works and safety. Additionally, the placement of the Cisco Meraki wireless solution along the beaches of Playa de Palma provides opportunities for local companies to develop new business practices, increasing revenue and improving visitor experience. “Innovation, adaptation, and trust were important considerations for us when choosing a wireless solution,” said Socias. “The implementation of the Cisco Meraki network has seen unprecedented success in these areas. 95% of users accessing the network are tourists using smartphones, with more than 25,000 unique daily users connected!”