About Aptilo Networks

Captive Portal

From IT-tool to Business tool

captive portal management 2001 and now

Aptilo was founded in 2001. Back then Wi-Fi service management was a tool for the IT-department. Our captive portals blocked Internet access and made sure you could charge customers before getting them online.

All that have changed. Sure, the login page is still there. But, now it is primarily a business tool and all about getting insights about your guests and better engage with them online. At the same time, Wi-Fi monetization have gone from being direct to indirect.

Captive portal use cases

A captive portal is a Web page that users in a certain state are obliged to view and interact with before access to the Internet is granted. This state of the user, which triggers a re-direct to the portal from the access gateway can vary.

The most common scenarios are:

  • The user is unknown and needs to sign-up and pay for the service.
  • The prepaid quota has been depleted and the user needs to make a top-up of his account.
  • A user needs to confirm a charge such as 5 USD for one day of Wi-Fi access even if he has been automatically authenticated through, for instance, SIM-authentication.
  • For Wi-Fi marketing purposes, a user needs to see an advert or sponsored message before getting access.
  • Bill-shock prevention, requiring a user to acknowledge that he or she has received information that the quota has been reached.
  • A user temporarily wants to change the service e.g. to increase the bandwidth for video-on-demand.

Captive portal template framework

We are using the latest web-technology and flexible REST-based API towards Aptilo Service Management Platform™ (SMP) to provide a future proof framework. A  Wi-Fi captive portal framework which support the complex user journey flows required for a first class Wi-Fi service. The captive portal in Aptilo SMP works hand-in-hand with our captive portal management tool. All the complexity and web development code hides in a captive portal template in Aptilo SMP. Only the objects and texts defined as editable are available in the user friendly captive portal management tool. This enables anyone, even with no web development skills, to modify the captive portal.

Captive portal supporting all authentication and payment options

An important part of the end-user experience is the login process. Aptilo Service Management Platform (SMP) provides access to the Wi-Fi service both seamlessly and through captive portals. We doubt there is a single login method or business model that we have not already delivered in a real-world deployment among our 100+ carrier Wi-Fi deployments.

Some of the available authentication and payment methods in Aptilo SMP include:

  • Wi-Fi access via CRM or AD integration
  • Wi-Fi click and connect access
  • Wi-Fi credit card payment
  • Wi-Fi loyalty system integration
  • Wi-Fi hotel PMS integration
  • Wi-Fi SMS one-time-password
  • Wi-Fi premium SMS payment
  • Wi-Fi user self registration
  • Wi-Fi roaming
  • Voucher / scratch card
  • Social media

The Aptilo SMP can of course also produce CDR’s for post-paid billing.

Enabling gateways which lack captive portal support

The use of captive portal technology is a very powerful tool for providing differentiated services in real-time and a prerequisite when launching prepaid services with on-line sign-up models. However, far from all gateways have the necessary captive portal support. Some gateways were designed for extremely high performance and do not include a Web server which is needed to be able to redirect a user to the captive portal.

The Aptilo Service Management Platform can bridge this deficiency. The system has the ability to detect an unknown user or device and then send an IP redirection profile to the gateway which redirects the user’s traffic to the captive portal. Known users and devices can be redirected with the same technology through a so-called CoA request (Change of Authorization).

Also, other Web server-related functions can be utilized such as enabling support for WiSPr login for Wi-Fi enabled devices through the built-in WiSPr server functionality in the Aptilo captive portal.

Use Aptilo’s built-in portal or any existing external portal

Instead of using the pre-integrated portal in the Aptilo SMP, you are free to use any existing or third-party captive portal using the very same REST-based APIs towards Aptilo SMP as we use for our own portal. Service providers can even keep their existing Web portals and utilize Aptilo’s payment and portal logic in a hybrid deployment.

However, the use of the Aptilo captive portal solution which has been proven in a large number of installations worldwide is a very cost-effective alternative.

Captive portal management – have it your way!

Most people associate a captive portal with the graphical user interface. Although a good user experience is very important, what’s equally important for the end result is the business logic underneath, and this is where Aptilo Service Management Platform™(SMP) really shines.

Captive Portal management

It’s also a common misunderstanding that a captive portal is only one simple page. Many times it is a flow of several pages dependent on a user’s selection of services or policies triggered from external systems. The logic must also contain error handling and many times it needs to interact with other systems via APIs.

Many cloud-based providers of guest Wi-Fi services offer captive portal management where the business customers can create their own captive portals in a content management system (CMS) editor that requires some web development skills. While the look of the portal can be changed, the logic and user-flow is normally the same.  In our experience, customers have very distinct views about portal flows and logic to meet their business needs and for service providers their different B2B segments.

There’s just no ‘one-size-fits-all’.

Portal management – anyone can do it!

We have a different approach. The objects and texts defined as editable, in the captive portal templates, are automatically available in the captive portal manager. This hide the complexity of web development from the user. Note that the captive portal management GUI automatically changes with the complexity in each template. So, the picture above is just one example of the administrator’s user experience.

Captive Portal Management

Anyone, can replace an existing picture or text. Only a selected few can design a portal from scratch in a CMS system no matter how user friendly it is. Our captive portal management GUI is designed so that anyone can make modifications to the portal with zero knowledge about web page design. This  provides the means to allow the business customer to administrate the portals themselves, for instance enabling a hotel to advertise “the special of the day” in the restaurant.

Administrators at each B2B customer can define sub-administrators at and below their position in the zone tree which means that changes in the portals can be delegated down to a single location.

Captive portal management – any language and always mobile-first

Both the captive portal management administrative GUI and the captive portal templates support multiple languages. Most customers will use a handful of languages. Translations and additional languages can be easily added at any time.

Our captive portal templates are always “mobile-first” because smartphone designs are more challenging and these type of devices are also most common at venues. All portals are adaptive to larger screens.

Captive portal management – user engagement

For businesses who want to create their own announcements or adverts, our user-friendly captive portal management GUI will be just right. They can also use the ability to schedule activation of a portal change at a certain time. This is a feature that’s commonly requested, often from stadiums that have different events going on throughout the year.

But, the user engagement and Wi-Fi marketing features in Aptilo SMP Venue Wi-Fi Manager go way beyond updating a captive portal. We can integrate with advertising networks and also send e-mails or SMS to users, based on their location.

Aptilo’s product are extremely stable, which has radically reduced the time we need to spend on support and maintenance. This means that we have been able to free valuable time for development of our services.

Anjali Bhatnagar Nordic product panager for wireless networks, Telenor

From being just one of the many services that we provide, our Wi-Fi offering has rapidly become a strategic tool for optimizing the use of our networks assets. The ability to offer customers a first-class user experience gives us a competitive edge.

John BerminghamSenior Product Manager - Data Products, eircom Group