Unleash Your Wi-Fi with Hitron’s App Portfolio
Service providers, who have always been responsible for the quality of their signals to set-top boxes, routers and gateways, are now being held responsible by their customers for the quality of wireless connections within their homes. The novelty of Wi-Fi has long since faded, taking along with it any tolerance customers might have once had for any compromise in Wi-Fi service quality.
At the same time, customers are putting greater demands on their Wi-Fi networks, in terms of the reach they expect, the number of different types of devices they are connecting wirelessly and the volume of data they consume. Customers also want to use their Wi-Fi in different ways, in terms of permissions and restrictions.
This makes managing customers’ Wi-Fi networks a challenge, but Hitron is making it easier with the introduction of a portfolio of apps intended to assist and empower both carriers and end users. These apps include: EasyInstall, for technicians, Smartify, for carrier support centers, and MyHitron, for customers. Between the three, a service provider can support almost every aspect of Wi-Fi quality of experience (QoE) and enable customers to optimize their service with no phone call or truck roll involved.
The different apps have different sets of tools appropriate for their specific use cases. Every version provides several benefits, but there are key advantages for each:
The installer version, EasyInstall, will help technicians set up Wi-Fi networks with ideal coverage from the get-go, using data directly from the gateway, minimizing the need for dedicated handheld technology.
The end user version, MyHitron, will give subscribers actionable information that will help them configure, optimize, and manage their own Wi-Fi networks without needing to be an advanced user.
When customers are empowered, they are less likely to inundate support centers. When subscribers do call, the customer support version, Smartifi, will let CSRs see the same data that subscribers see, via a server-side user interface (UI), which will help simplify and speed up problem resolution.
This app functions within a cloud-based environment, the CloudCheck Architecture, through which Hitron enables operators to provide a set of remote Wi-Fi network management functions – in real time. An operator can opt to manage this process itself, or it can rely on Hitron to do it as a service.
Many of the features of the apps are configurable, based on service providers’ wants and needs. The app can have Hitron’s name on it or, using APIs, MSOs can build their own branded variants for Android and iOS.
Giving subscribers control of their own network is simply good customer service, which is ample justification to adopt the app. But customers who are equipped with the tools to understand their networks, manage them, and solve problems on their own aren’t making calls to service centers, thus reducing operator expense and saving them money.
It is unrealistic to expect subscribers to understand IEEE 802.11 specifications, but managing a Wi-Fi network doesn’t have to be mysterious. With the appropriate tools, customers can be empowered to easily configure and manage their Wi-Fi networks. The MyHitron end user app provides a comprehensive set of such tools. Through the app, customers can be given access to information that immediately apprises them of the current health of their network (both to the gateway and Wi-Fi to the device), as well as tools and recommendations on how they can optimize their network.
The app can be used to augment an existing self-install interface, or to replace it entirely. Subscribers can determine the best placement for their Wi-Fi network elements (gateway, extenders) in order to get optimal coverage using a tool called SweetSpots, which maps signal strength throughout the home.
The app can be used at any time to manage access, including establishing guest networks, setting a variety of parental controls and blacklisting devices, amongst other functions.
Once a Wi-Fi network is up and running, the app can be set to alert customers about coverage, congestion, and configuration issues, as well as suggest and implement optimization measures.
For example, one member of a household might be monopolizing bandwidth (using a peer-to-peer site, for example). The subscriber can reset bandwidth allocations for active devices in his home with a simple setting change.
Wi-Fi routers are now dual band, operating at 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. If, for example, one band is being overburdened compared to the other, the app can suggest balancing the load by explaining Band Steering to the user.
A significant volume of calls to customer support centers are from people looking for help with passwords, often when adding devices to the network. The app can alert people when they’ve entered incorrect passwords and, if a password has been forgotten, the customer can be prompted to follow a procedure for password recovery.
Note that while customers can be given the wherewithal to do all this on their own through the MyHitron app, the cloud-based system is robust enough that service providers can remotely manage and optimize many aspects of in-home network operation automatically on behalf of their customers (see “CloudCheck Architecture” below).
The installer version of the app, EasyInstall, includes a sophisticated set of tools that enable any installer to easily set up a Wi-Fi network, and not only validate that the network is operating correctly, but also ensure that all customer premise equipment (e.g., gateway, extender) is placed in an optimal configuration for each subscriber’s home.
EasyInstall includes SweetSpots, the same tool available in the customer version of the app. Installers can also use SweetSpots to determine the best placement for subscribers’ Wi-Fi network elements in order to establish optimal coverage throughout subscribers’ homes right from the initial set-up.
That’s just superior customer service, and reason enough to adopt the use of the app for technicians, but there are additional benefits. The tools available in EasyInstall are so comprehensive and easy to use, installers are able to get each installation done right the first time, dramatically reducing costly return visits. They can also get each installation completed faster, opening the opportunity to perform more installations each day.
The key to the family of apps is that several critical aspects of network performance are being measured by Hitron gateways. These include spectrum analysis, power and signal to noise ratio (SNR) and QAM modulation analysis.
No matter what kind of company you run, customer service is an exacting process as customers rarely ask for assistance when things are going well.
The challenge of customer service tends to be more acute where the product or service is technological. Customers are seldom equipped to accurately describe the problem they are having. As bad if not worse than mischaracterizing what they’re experiencing, callers are apt to completely misdiagnose what their problem actually is.
Customer care for video services is even more fraught. A customer who has a problem with a lighting fixture, a vacuum cleaner, or a car can bring the item in for professional inspection and diagnosis, but that simply isn’t possible when the product is a service such as video or broadband.
This is why Smartifi, the customer care app, can be a boon to service providers. The same rich set of metrics that can be drawn from Hitron customer premise equipment that is available to installers is completely available to CSRs as well.
The Smartifi UI is simple to understand and easy to use. Using Smartifi can change the customer service game. When a customer service representative has performance data from the preceding days, and can also see what is currently happening with a customer’s service, in-home network and all connected devices, their diagnosis becomes significantly easier and problem resolution is much quicker.
The app is predicated on Hitron CPE that provide the rich set of data that can be used for the entire QoE chain, from installation to self-management to customer service. The real power, however, comes from analyzing a steady stream of customer data leveraging machine learning and translating this back into relevant data for the operator’s staff to accelerate diagnosis and remedy.
Service providers can use this data stream to support tools that can remotely monitor, analyze, recommend solutions, and validate fixes – reactively and proactively – for all three use cases (installer, subscriber and customer support).
Many of these fixes can be implemented automatically; in other words, the service becomes self-optimizing and self-healing.
The analytics system incorporates machine learning and big data techniques, so the overall system continually improves based on learning every user’s usage patterns over time. Customer QoE improves along with it.
We call the overarching structure the CloudCheck Architecture. It is software-based, which makes it eminently upgradeable and compatible with nearly any operator back-end system. As a truly cloud-based architecture, it is highly scalable and can be deployed worldwide, on premise, and in a public or private cloud.
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