What is the Best Way to Setup Outdoor Wi-Fi for Line Busting, Curbside Service and Payment Capture?

Please note: Text transcript below is unedited and may not be entirely accurate.

Today I want to talk about  what’s working for outdoor Wi-Fi when it comes to the foodservice industry we’ve seen a lot of people that have started to do curbside delivery curbside picked up a lot of outdoor payment processing a lot more interest in line busting when it comes to getting through drive-thrus and I really want to talk about what I’ve seen from my perspective as some of those best practices so now we have this whole you know era where people are doing a lot of this curbside pickup they’re doing a lot of this payment processing outdoor in the parking lot where traditionally Wi-Fi wasn’t available and you know the service didn’t really extend outside the front door of the restaurant or the facility so now we’re seeing that a lot more and we’re also seeing a lot more people driving through you know there’s a lot of things that are happening in the world today that are pushing you know the boundaries and the the perimeter of where the restaurant is doing business and so with that comes the ability to properly connect outdoor of that facility so what I want to dig into is a couple of different things number one why we’re doing it number two what I’m seeing is some of those best practices so first and foremost why is this you know a big thing well it comes down to customer services line busting definitely a big customer service initiative making sure people can get their order process as quickly as processed as possible make sure they can get through that line that order processing can take place you know on their own terms without having to wait for a couple of different people in front of them but there’s also the need to retain that human experience so there’s still that one-to-one interaction whether it’s you know seeing a friendly face seeing that warm smile being told thank you have a nice day that’s a big part of why customer service is continuing this way but there’s also that automated experience whether it’s using the app to pay for something or it’s you know coming up to a kiosk or a place where you can pull a pizza out of an automated oven there’s a lot of that going on as well as a rival notification not just when did Drew show up to pick up his food but if I’m a delivery driver when does that delivery driver show up how you know long does it take to get the food to that delivery driver and making sure that that’s an automated process and then there’s the overall engagement aspect of it that hasn’t changed want to make sure that people have some high level of engagement with the facility whether it’s playing a game or you know spinning a wheel for a coupon or whatever it is while the customer is waiting for that food that outdoor Wi-Fi experience can be used to help enhance that now the other side of it is what rings that register what you know from a payment capture perspective what is this enabling and these are those cashless transactions those touchless transactions that are so important today and also those expanded payment types so it’s not just about what you’ve traditionally done with regards to payment capture what credit cards you know you can process and when you can process them but maybe this is something like are you accepting Venmo are you accepting you know a cash app are you accepting different traditional ways to move money into the account so that way you can process the customer as quickly as possible in a way that’s most familiar to them so what we’ve seen and what you’ll see here is this is the basic map that I’m going to use and this is you know nonspecific this is a map that I found that thought could illustrate a little bit of what I’m trying to talk about here with regards to outdoor Wi-Fi so there’s three main areas that we care about here one is obviously the line busting area on the top left-hand corner and the other two are those traditional parking spaces either opposite the drive-through window or right in front of the front door of the restaurant and as long as dining rooms are closed or as long as dining rooms have not reopened you know that’s a good area that front area is a good place for curbside pickup as well as those payment processing but how do you get Wi-Fi into these three key areas so option one and I’m gonna go through a couple but option one is using your existing indoor Wi-Fi why is that a good thing why does that a bad thing well let’s dig into it first and foremost the pros are it’s the status quo you don’t need any new equipment you don’t need any new switch ports you don’t need to configure anything differently you just use the existing Wi-Fi to broadcast outside this is the least expensive solution and a lot of people are trying to do this I would absolutely caution against this the reasons why you should not do this are huge number one has to be reliability can you actually get a reliable signal outside they can help you with that payment processing or is that unreliable signal causing more harm than it is good you know I’ve done a couple of RF studies where I’ve walked around parking lots of facilities to see just how far that RF signal goes and let me tell you it’s not good it gives you really unreliable poor performance and if you’re using the existing Wi-Fi that’s not PCI compliant that’s definitely something to take a look at so let’s look at what that would look like in this diagram what you see is the access point is located inside the building and you’ve got this really weak moderate signal just coming out of the drive-through window and this is what I’ve seen you know walking around and actually measuring the RF this is almost identical what I’ve seen in the real world environment now does that help the restaurant it doesn’t because those three areas that we’re talking about and here’s two of them number one is line busting this isn’t going to help with line busting at all and number two it’s going to give you that poor unreliable performance opposite the drive-thru window where people are set up so that they can do you know the pickups the payment processing so on and so forth now if you knew that your payment processing wasn’t going to work 100% of the time would you do it I don’t think so that’s what makes this a pretty a pretty bad thing to look at number two is using Wi-Fi mesh now I’ve heard a couple of people talk about this and the pros are that it’s easily deployed it’s it’s rapid and you don’t need a cable for it and this is where you essentially take a radio of a Wi-Fi access point you turn it into a mesh node or a repeater as some people call it where it basically uses Wireless to convey the signal to the other wireless device and it sounds really good in theory and I’ve had a lot of experience in mesh network and I’ll tell you then straight up it doesn’t work as well as it’s supposed to all the time now a lot of the time it works pretty well but are you willing to risk all of your profits everything that you do in your industry are you willing to risk that on may be pretty well kind of some of the time I don’t think so it’s unreliable its poor performance there’s also some PCI compliant issues when you talk about how those Wi-Fi radios and those repeaters communicate with each other to make sure that that’s an absolutely secured connection because if it’s not you blow PCI compliant section 4 right out of the window you also worry about sticky clients and what that means is if your cell phone or the tablet that you’re using to do the payment capture is still connected to the Wi-Fi access point you know where it has a strongest signal and you walk outdoors maybe it doesn’t transfer over to that mess unit the way that it’s supposed to and that creates this really unreliable connection so if you swipe that credit card and it doesn’t go through and then you swipe it again all of a sudden you’re hitting you know fraud alerts on your customers credit cards the transactions aren’t processing as quickly as they’re supposed to that defeats the entire purpose of what you’re trying to do so there’s that there’s airtime issues and also there’s the wear and tear of the physical equipment itself now combine that with the physical security of someone being able to walk off with that access point and trying to find a mounting location where where you gonna put that ap where you gonna stick it to the ceiling you can stick it to the wall is a new penetration when you combine all these things together this is one of my least favorite models when it comes to doing this type of this type of communication so let’s look at what that will look like from an RF perspective so you’ve got your three main areas but you really only have two of these connected if you’ve got that mesh Wi-Fi right by that front door and you’re trying to you know a blast signal out the front area to make up for the curbside delivery that really doesn’t help and as you can see if we illustrated here you don’t really get all of the coverage necessary to do it this is still an indoor device and you don’t get that line busting that maybe you were hoping for so this is that second option third option is the old fashioned just running cable to it running cable out to the parking lot you know put it under some some type of covering so that way it doesn’t get run over you know it’s easily deployed it’s it’s very rapid to deploy it gives you a very reliable connection because it is wired in so this could be an option as long as you want to put the equipment out there and take the equipment inside at the end of each night at the end of each day the cons are PCI compliance again from a security perspective you want to make sure that that equipment is secured that’s one of the big deals if someone has access to that where they can plug a laptop in or plug a device in or they can walk off with a piece of equipment that creates a PCI compliance issue and you also have that wear and tear not just the equipment but the cable that goes back and forth you really want to focus on physical security here and having that place to mount the access point because those are the things that make a big difference here so if you’re ok with that and have any cable that runs out there and pulling it back and forth this is a pretty easy option to put a Wi-Fi access point outside and get that outdoor parking lot coverage and what we see is in that configuration in those three areas that will give you a great coverage area where you place that ap now it may not give you the line busting side of it but it’ll definitely give you you know wherever that ap is it will definitely give you some great coverage out there option number four is one of the most widely used in the industry and it solves a number of different problems and that’s where you take an access point and you mount it inside you drill a hole in the wall and you run cables for the antenna and you place the antennas outside now that’s a pretty good fit because it gives you a lot of different options first and foremost it keeps the access point as close to the client device as possible and in this case that client device is a card swiper it’s a tablet it’s a phone whatever it is it’s handling that transaction you want to make sure that it’s as close to the wireless access point as possible when we talk about the other options about having something indoor versus outdoor it’s not necessarily about how strong and powerful that ap is and how well that Wi-Fi signal can go out from inside the restaurant it’s about if you have a cell phone or a tablet and you’re outside of the restaurant that’s a that’s a radio that’s very dimly lit if you will it’s not a very high-powered radio so having that outdoor device communicate through the brick wall through the kitchen through the kitchen appliances into the manager’s office wherever that is that’s kind of difficult to think about how that would actually work it’s very similar to having a speaker right if you have a loud speaker inside the restaurant you can hear the noise from the speaker outside of the restaurant but if you’re sitting outside that restaurant and you talk in a normal voice and you say hey can you guys turn it down it’s kind of annoying there’s no way that the person inside standing right next to that speaker is going to hear what you have to say and that’s a lot of what we deal with in Wi-Fi is how well does that uplink connection work so this is one of the most impactful ways to do it because what it does is it takes that speaker and it puts it as close to the client as possible takes that ap puts as close to the client as possible now there are some cons to this you do have to have two mounting locations one for the AP inside you have to drill a hole it’s a pretty decent-sized hole to get the in connectors through there and then you put the antenna outside so it’s going to require that larger penetration there’s multiple points of troubleshooting and failure here because not only do you have to troubleshoot the AP if something goes wrong but the cable the connectors and the antenna so it’s a little bit more cumbersome when it comes to support and troubleshooting and there’s also that service complexity of if you need to service it do you go inside you go outside do you have the right ladder height you know so on and so forth and it’s absolutely the most expensive solution so you’re paying for the AP you’re paying for the cable you’re paying for the antenna you’re paying for to mount locations at least so there is some cost complexity involved there that doesn’t make it easy now what does that look like from a coverage and RF perspective let’s go back to our diagram here and you’ll see that we get really decent coverage across all the areas that we’re worried about we get the line busting we get the the front parking lot we get the parking lot adjacent to the drive-through window and if you see those three main areas are definitely covered by this so that’s a really good solution solving the problems of what a lot of people are looking for now the fifth is my favorite because this is kind of your all-in-one solution this is where you take an ip67 rated an outdoor weather rated device it’s an enclosure with an access point inside and you mount it outside and when you mount it outside number one that takes your ap close to the client it gives you focused RF energy if you want to do a 60 degree pattern a 90 degree pattern and how many directional pattern you can really start to tie that beam in a little bit closer on the art up to make sure that you’re not getting interferences from all the other places it is a single installation location it is PCI compliant because it’s secure when you mount it up and away from everybody it takes a single penetration of one small cat6 cable that goes through to provide the POV and the data connectivity and it is ruggedized for that harsh environment so it can take the wind it can take the rain it can take the Hurricanes not as long as it’s mounted appropriately the cons are this is an outdoor installation so you still have to mount something to the wall and that’s you know could be a little bit more expensive but you’re only mounting one you’re only mounting this outdoor ap and you have that single penetration versus the last one which is mounting indoor and outdoor and having that penetration for the cables so that ends up being kind of the the biggest issue there but overall I think it’s the best solution that’s the one that I would definitely recommend to move forward with now from the art up perspective what does that look like well it’s very similar to the one that we just saw you get those three areas of coverage that you’re looking for line busting you get the front parking lot and the parking lot adjacent to the director window if you can see the triangles I have there obviously are the access point mount locations and then this configuration there’s two of them one on each corner of the store so that you get that wraparound access because Wi-Fi does not turn corners it has an issue with obstructions so mounting it in the appropriate location is absolutely a necessity so that being said I want to thank you for taking the time to listen to me when it comes to this you know it’s just some experience that I have in the industry and I thought that it would be helpful because I’ve had a number of conversations about this specific topic so I wanted to take some time to illustrate it and share it with you please let me know what you think if you have any questions or concerns please leave them in the comments shoot me a message you can always find me online at wireless nerd on Twitter on Instagram and on LinkedIn as well so please feel free to leave reach out to me I look forward to hearing from you and if there’s anything else I can explain better please let me know have a wonderful day

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