Collecting Analytics Using a Unique Identifier

Sometimes people ask us why they should be using WiFi Analytics at their store or public venue.  After all, beam counters and video cameras have been around for years.  So what’s the value in monitoring the WiFi network if you already have other means of people counting or general visibility?

There are several reasons to monitor WiFi activity at your store or public space to improve organizational decision making.

The one we’d like to discuss today is the concept of a unique identifier.

What is a Unique Identifier

A unique identifier is anything that uniquely tracks an item and attaches any changes or history to that item.

Here are some common unique identifiers that you probably already know.

  1. Email address.
  2. Car’s license plate.
  3. Driver’s license id.

You wouldn’t want anyone to have the same email address as you, because your emails could be confused with another person’s.  The same applies to your license plate or drivers license.  You wouldn’t want someone else’s accident or bad driving to cause you to receive a ticket or cause your insurance rates to go up.

Each of these is a unique identifier that ties your history and your things to you.

Importance of a Unique Identifier in Location Analytics

Consider the example of a store that has a simple turnstile and a basic security camera.

Using the turnstile alone, are you able to tell whether 12 people came in at 1 time, or whether 1 person came in 12 times?  On simple systems, you’d need to confirm this with the video footage.

So what about the video footage.  Today, you see a man in a blue hat walking into the store.  Was that the same man in a blue hat that came in yesterday, or was the man from yesterday a different person wearing a similar blue hat?

Was that the same man in a blue hat that came in yesterday, or was the man from yesterday a different person wearing a similar blue hat?

Most modern beam counters now do directional detection to eliminate double counting, and many video systems are starting to incorporate machine learning to identify information such as gender, or relative age. Even with their modern upgrades, both of these technologies are unable to tell if a visitor that comes in today was the same visitor that came in yesterday, or the day before, or a month ago. Tracking information such as return visitation patterns and dwell time can be difficult based on beam counters and video feeds alone.

That is where WiFi Analytics comes in.

The Smartphone as a Unique Identifier

A Mac Address uniquely identifies each visitor’s smartphone device.  A smartphone or tablet can be identified whether they connect to the WiFi or not, although it’s much more accurate if they do connect to the WiFi.

WiFi Analytics should be part of your overall Location Analytics strategy. A MAC address is the key identifier for anonymous visitors. Beam counters and video cameras can spot people, but the MAC address tells you how often they come back.

If you’d like to get insights into how visitors are using a space over periods of time, you need a unique identifier, and WiFi Analytics tracking smartphones and tablets is a good solution for this.


Because we’re talking about uniquely identifying individuals within a public space, privacy of visitors immediately becomes very important.  We will be covering privacy at length in a future post, but for now, just be aware that this is an important concern for our company as well as other companies in this space.

Who’s On My WiFi helps tie together all of your location analytics to give you business insights that improve your space.  If you’d like to learn more, contact us for a demo of how our product can help.