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Cisco Meraki

Electronic Shelf Labels (ESL) Integration with MR Access Points

Please open a case with the Meraki Support team to enable this feature. This integration is available in the US/EU only. Availability in other countries is pending.

Electronic shelf labels (ESL) are digital displays of various sizes and shapes that are used by retailers to display product pricing (among other uses). Unlike traditional paper price tags, the product pricing on electronic shelf labels can be automatically and remotely updated whenever a price is changed from a central control server. Below there is an example of the electronic shelf label from a Meraki partner, SES-imagotag.

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Electronic shelf labels have the following advantages over traditional paper price tags:

  • Instant pricing integrity (accurate prices on all products, including promotions)

  • Improved operating efficiency (eliminate paper label waste and free employees for higher-value activities)

  • The enhanced customer experience (save time to find products and help both staff and shoppers make informed decisions)

 

Traditionally, in order to deploy ESL solutions retailers would need to deploy not only electronic shelf labels (in addition to the existing WiFi infrastructure) but also ESL "gateways" (think of them as access points for labels) or add USB dongles/PCI add-on cards to their existing WiFi APs. Sometimes an on-prem price update server needs to be set up as well. Installing ESL gateways has associated costs that involve cable runs, additional PoE switch ports, IT security provisioning and monitoring, and labor.

 

Meraki partnered with SES-imagotag to deliver a simple integrated solution to our customers that allows using MR access points as ESL “gateways” by leveraging the IoT radio in our AP to control electronic shelf labels, push price updates via V:Cloud (SES-imagotag Cloud-Based Retail IoT Management Solution) without requiring an on-prem server, and provide wireless access to store staff and customers.

SES/Meraki ESL Architecture.

Traditional ESL deployment looks like this:

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Customers have to run ESL and wireless infrastructures in parallel and maintain hardware and software for both which increases operational overhead.

 

Meraki provides a unified ESL + Wireless infrastructure with no additional hardware (e.g. USB dongles or PCI-e add-on cards):

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How ESL SES-imagotag Integration Works

Terminology

  • V:Cloud / V:Cloud instance 

    • SES-imagotag dashboard used to manage ESLs, view the status of MRs used as ESL gateways, and push price updates 

  • Meraki dashboard

    • Refers to the Meraki management web UI interface accessible via Meraki Cloud

 

When configured for the ESL MR access points will establish a TLS tunnel to V:Cloud using their LAN IP addresses and a random port number. The destination IP would be the public IP of the V:Cloud instance and the destination port is 7354. Please note that this destination port can be changed by appending :[port_number” to the V:Cloud URL in the UI or hostname in the API call.

Note: MR access points communicate with V:Cloud directly and not through the Meraki Dashboard. Therefore, data that’s being transmitted between V:Cloud and ESL tags do not go through the Meraki Cloud.

Note: MRs do not use Bluetooth for communication with SES-imagotag ESLs but rather use a proprietary protocol developed by SES-imagotag that allows long battery life for ESLs and scalable updates to tens of thousands of price tags. This protocol operates in the same 2.4GHz band as 2.4GHz Wi-Fi, however, the channels are narrower and differ from Wi-Fi channels. See the “Recommended ESL Channels” section for more information.

Supported Models and Specifications

 

Electronic Shelf Labels (ESL) integration with SES-imagotag is supported on the following MR models:

 

MR Model

MR Family

Max # of ESLs per AP

2.4GHz Wi-Fi Co-existence **

MR30H, MR33

WiFi-5 Wave 2 Indoor

10k

Y *

MR74

WiFi-5 Wave 2 Outdoor

10k

Y *

MR45, MR55, MR36, MR44, MR46, MR56

WiFi-6 Indoor

10k

Y

MR76, MR86

WiFi-6 Outdoor

10k

Y

 

* Wi-Fi 5 Wave 2 APs support “basic” co-existence with 2.4 Wi-Fi. It’s recommended to use 5GHz for Wi-Fi and 2.4GHz for ESL for these APs. If it’s not possible, Wi-Fi 5 Wave 2 access points can be manually set to an ESL channel that does not interfere with the Wi-Fi 2.4GHz channel (see “Recommended ESL Channels” section for details). In addition, SSID(s) broadcasted on 2.4GHz channel(s) can be bandwidth-limited to reduce the amount of consumed air time. Wi-Fi 6 APs support “smart” co-existence and automatically manage 2.4GHz Wi-Fi and ESL transmissions on the same AP to reduce interference.

** 2.4GHz Wi-Fi Co-existence is planned for MR 28.2 release

 

This integration works by using MR IoT (previously known as Bluetooth / BLE) radio to control electronic shelf labels from SES-imagotag.

 

  • 2.4GHz Wi-Fi coexistence refers to AP’s ability to simultaneously manage wireless transmissions on the 2.4GHz client-serving radio and IoT radio enabled for ESL. In other words, AP can serve 2.4GHz clients and send updates to ESL labels simultaneously. On MR33/MR30H it's recommended to use Bandwidth Shaping to implement 2.4GHz coexistence. On new Wi-Fi-6 models, 2.4Ghz coexistence is managed automatically.

Prerequisites

  • Access to SES V:Cloud. Please work with the SES-imagotag Sales team to get access.

  • Access to Electronic Shelf Labels from SES-imagotag. Please work with the SES-imagotag Sales team to get the tags.

  • Enabling ESL on a Meraki network precludes other MR IoT functionality, most notably BLE. That is, when using ESL, MR access points will not transmit a BLE beacon or scan for nearby BLE devices.

ESL Firmware Upgrades

ESL firmware upgrades are automatic and do not require any intervention from Meraki dashboard admins. Once a new firmware version from SES-imagotag becomes available Meraki MRs will automatically download this new firmware on the IoT radio. There is no need to upgrade MR access points firmware. 

Requirements

  • MRs listed in the “Supported Models and Specifications” section

  • The Network firmware version should be set to MR 28.1 or higher

  • MRs should be allowed to communicate with V:Cloud using the destination port TCP 7354 (default) or any custom port configured

 

[Optional] Predictive Site Survey

Ekahau Pro software can be used to show ESL coverage using the BLE option below. Note that it only shows how many MRs hear BLE beacons from each other.


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Manual ESL channel planning using custom tags is possible as well:

 

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Note: Currently a heat map for BLE that shows RSSI values and automatic ESL channel planning is not available.

 

  • Coverage planning - possible

  • ESL channel planning - not possible (automatic)

Some rudimentary channel planning can be done with the custom tag functionality. For example, you could set "esl-channel : 1" tag for the ESLradio and you could then display the ESLcoverage for all ESLradios that have "esl-channel : 1" tag.

 

Meraki Dashboard Configuration

Before starting ESL configuration in your Meraki dashboard configuration please have the 

URL for your V:Cloud instance readily available (in format XXXX.XXXX.cloudapp.azure.com). This information should be obtained directly from the SES-imagotag.

To enable ESL integration on supported MR models navigate to Wireless > IoT radio settings, select the “Electronic shelf labels” tab, and toggle "SES-imagotag integration" from “Disable” to “Enable”.

 

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Input your V:Cloud URL.

When specifying the URL, please ensure to use “example.com:7354” format if the default TCP 7354 port is desired. Otherwise, specify a custom port, e.i. “example.com:63401” This will set the AP to connect over HTTPS and to use TCP 7354 or the custom port 63401 instead of the default TCP 443 port.

If the port number is not specified (e.i. "example.com", MR will use the default HTTPS port 443 which might not be supported on the other side.

Screenshot at May 17 11-25-13.png

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Next, click the “Add an AP” button, select an AP from the dropdown, and assign an ESL channel for that AP (more on the ESL channels below). The “AP ID” field will be automatically generated. Repeat this step to enable ESL integration on additional MRs. 

If the “Auto” option is selected for the ESL channel V:Cloud will select a suitable ESL channel for the AP.

The “AP ID” field will be automatically generated. Repeat this step to enable ESL integration on additional MRs.

Note: AP ID is a 32-bit value generated by the Meraki dashboard once ESL is enabled on the MR for the first time. AP ID is permanently assigned to an MR and will never change.

 

Use “Download CSV of ESL-enabled APs” to download a CSV list of all ESL-enabled APs along with ESL channels and AP IDs. MRs can be added via API call (please refer to the SES API documentation on the https://api-portal-us.vusion.io/ portal) or manually as shown below. Leave all settings at defaults.

 

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Recommended ESL Channels

SES-imagotag proprietary protocol that allows communication between MRs and ESL tags operates in the same 2.4GHz range as 2.4GHz Wi-Fi and has similar channel numbers, however, ESL channels have different central frequencies as shown below.

 

Note: This section is primarily meant for Wi-Fi 5 Wave 2 APs that support basic co-existence.

See “Supported Models and Specifications” for more information.

 

Note: All ESL channels are 1 MHz wide while 2.4GHz WiFi channels are 22 MHz wide.

 

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ESL Channel Number 

Central Frequency (MHz)

Recommended?

0

2404

No

1

2410

No

2

2422

No

3

2425

Yes

4

2442

No

5

2445

Yes

6

2462

No

7

2470

No

8

2474

Yes

9

2477

Yes

10

2480

Yes

 

Note: Due to the overlap between ESL and WIFi channels in 2.4GHz it’s recommended to only use ESL channels 3, 5, 8, 9, and 10. Never use a recommended ESL channel twice before all 11 available ESL channels are used. If an ESL channel needs to be reused, please contact SES-imagotag support for guidance. 

Warning: While in ESL mode, this AP will no longer be able to collect data for Scanning API, track Bluetooth clients, broadcast Bluetooth beacons, or serve as an MT gateway. ESL integration is mutually exclusive with BLE, MT gateway functionality, and any future uses of the IoT radio.

When ESL is disabled on the MR the AP will resume collecting data for Scanning API, tracking Bluetooth clients, broadcasting Bluetooth beacons, or serving as an MT gateway

ESL and Templates

If you would like to enable ESL integration on a network bound to a template, you can do so using the Wireless > IoT radio settings page within the template.

Screenshot at Jun 04 14-06-20.png

Please note that only V:Cloud URL can be configured on the template level. Enabling ESL on specific APs, setting ESL channels, and generating AP ID is still done on the child networks.

Screenshot at Jun 04 14-07-27.png

 

ESL and MT Coexistence in the Same Dashboard Network

MR access points can support both ESL functionality in the same dashboard network with the following caveats:

  • If an MR access point has ESL enabled it cannot serve as an MT gateway and vice versa. ESL is mutually exclusive with any other feature that uses IoT radio including Bluetooth, MT gateway, and any future uses.

API Support

Please refer to the “Help > API docs” page in your dashboard to see all supported ESL API endpoints.

  • ESL network settings

  • ESL node settings

Troubleshooting Steps

Problem: MR access points do not come online in the V:Cloud

Troubleshooting Steps:

  • Ensure that the MR is online in the Meraki dashboard and its configurations up to date. If everything looks good proceed to the next step.

    • If the MR is not online please follow the steps in this KB. If you are still not able to bring the MR online please contact Meraki Support.

  • Get the public IP of the V:Cloud instance your MR should be connected to by using the Traceroute tool on the MR’s Tools tab and inputting the V:Cloud URL. Note that the traceroute most likely will not complete if ICMP is blocked on the V:Cloud side for security reasons, however, traceroute will resolve the URL to the public IP of V:Cloud.

 

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  • If the MR is not able to resolve the V:Cloud URL to a public IP address this could be a DNS issue. Please check the DNS settings on your MR, ensure that they are correct, and DNS servers are reachable. 

    • Possible solutions: 

      • Check the DNS server configuration on the MR. Change the DNS servers to Google public DNS servers to rule out any issues with currently used DNS servers

      • Ensure that DNS traffic from the MR to the DNS server is allowed by the upstream firewall / another access control device

 

  • Take a packet capture (Network-wide > Packet capture) on the wired interface of the MR and filter by the LAN IP of the MR and the public IP of the V:Cloud instance you collected earlier. You should see a bi-directional communication similar to the below. This is a standard SSL/TLS tunnel.:

 

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  • If you do not see a bi-directional communication make sure that the traffic from the MR to the V:Cloud instance is allowed upstream and that the return traffic from the V:Cloud instance to the MR is allowed as well.

 

  • If none of the above steps resolved the issue please contact Meraki Support.

Problem: Some of the SES-imagotag ESLs are not coming online in the V:Cloud

Troubleshooting: Please try switching an ESL channel from the current one to a higher channel. For example, if the MR is set to ESL channel 7, set to channel 9. If tags don’t come online, please contact SES support.

 

Problem: All of the SES-imagotag ESLs in the vicinity of a specific AP are not coming online in the V:Cloud and that AP is online in the V:Cloud.

Troubleshooting: There is a potential problem on the MR. Please contact Meraki support for assistance.

 

Problem: Both MR(s) acting as ESL gateway and labels are online in the V:Cloud, however, price updates are not going through

Troubleshooting: Ensure that MRs are online in the V:Cloud. If they are not, please follow the steps above.

Check the ESL status indicator on the Wireless > Access points page (add XXXX column). If the status is OK, please reach out to the SES-imagotag support as there is likely a problem on the V:Cloud side.

If the status is not OK, please contact Meraki support as there is likely a problem with the ESL functionality on your MR.

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