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Cisco Meraki

SES-imagotag Electronic Shelf Labels (ESL) Integration with MRs

Overview

Electronic shelf labels (ESL) are digital displays of various sizes and shapes 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 is an example of the electronic shelf label from a Meraki partner, SES-imagotag.

Note: Ensure that your V:Cloud stores use the token-based (JWT) connection. Direct connection type is no longer supported for new ESL deployments.

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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, retail customers had to deploy two parallel infrastructures: ESL “gateways: to serve ESL tags and regular Wi-Fi access points to serve wireless clients.

Sometimes an on-prem price update server needs to be set up as well. In addition, 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 in such scenarios. Supported MR access points can act as ESL “gateways” for ESL labels and serve regular wireless clients.

SES/Meraki ESL Architecture

Traditional ESL deployment looks like this:

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Customers must run ESL and wireless infrastructures in parallel and maintain hardware and software for both, increasing 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 to provide connectivity between ESL tags and SES-imagotag V:Cloud.

Note: MR access points communicate with V:Cloud directly and not through the Meraki Dashboard. Therefore, data 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 instead use a proprietary protocol developed by SES-imagotag that allows extended 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

Note: Only MR models explicitly listed in the table below are supported. "Support pending" means that ESL support will be added shortly.

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

MR Model Name

MR Family

SES ESL Integration Status SES ESL Specifications

MR30H

WiFi-5 Wave 2 Indoor

Supported Link
MR33 WiFi-5 Wave 2 Indoor Supported Link

MR74

WiFi-5 Wave 2 Outdoor

Supported Link

MR74

WiFi-5 Wave 2 Outdoor

Supported Link

MR45

WiFi-6 (Compatible) Indoor

Supported Link
MR55 WiFi-6 (Compatible) Indoor Supported Link
MR36 Wi-Fi 6 Indoor Supported Link
MR36H Wi-Fi 6 Indoor Supported Link
MR44 Wi-Fi 6 Indoor Supported Link
MR46 Wi-Fi 6 Indoor Supported Link
MR56 Wi-Fi 6 Indoor Supported Link
MR76 Wi-Fi 6 Outdoor Supported Link

MR86

WiFi-6 Outdoor

Supported Link
MR28 WiFi-6 Indoor Support Pending -
MR78 WiFi-6 Outdoor Support Pending -
MR57 Wi-Fi 6E Indoor Supported Pending
CW9162 Wi-Fi 6E Indoor Support Pending -
CW9164 Wi-Fi 6 Indoor Support Pending -
CW9166 Wi-Fi Indoor Support Pending -

Prerequisites

  • Access to SES V:Cloud. Please work with the SES-imagotag Sales team to get access. Direct connection type is not supported for new ESL deployments. Please refer to Meraki Dashboard Configuration and V:Cloud Connection Types for more details about token-based vs. direct connection types.

  • 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 latest firmware on the IoT radio. Therefore, 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 following destinations and ports:

Screenshot at Nov 23 13-24-33.png

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 and V:Cloud Connection Types

SES V:Cloud might use one of two SES backends: 1) direct legacy connection and 2) new token-based connection (also known as JWT).

Note: Only token-based (JWT) V:Cloud connection is supported for new deployments. 

If you would like to enable the ESL in your Meraki network(s), please follow these steps to determine which backend your V:Cloud store is using:

  1. Log into V:Manager

  2. Navigate to your Retail Chain

  3. Navigate to your Retail Store

  4. Click on the Infrastructure tab and scroll all the way down

  5. Check the URL listed under “Network Information.”

  6. XXXXXXX.cloudapp.azure.com means that your V:Cloud store is using the direct connection

  7. ap-auth.vusion.io means that  your V:Cloud store is using the token-based connection

  8. If your store uses the direct connection, please contact SES Support to schedule your V:Cloud store migration to the token-based connection.

  9. Enable the ESL functionality in the Dashboard.

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

Note: The V:Cloud URL field is no longer required if your V:Cloud stores use the token-based connection. In this case, this field will not be present in the Meraki Dashboard. However, if you need to use the direct connection instead, please let the Meraki Support team know, and we will enable the V:Cloud URL field in the Dashboard.

SES_1.png

Select desired APs 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 by using the "Add an AP" button.

SES_2.png

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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Basic and Smart ESL and Wi-Fi Coexistence

Wi-Fi 5 Wave 2 APs support basic co-existence with 2.4 Wi-Fi. Therefore, we recommend using 5GHz for Wi-Fi and 2.4GHz for ESL for these APs. However, if this is impossible, manually configure ESL channels on Wi-Fi 5 Wave to prevent interference with the Wi-Fi 2.4GHz channels (see “Recommended ESL Channels” section for details).

In addition, SSID(s) broadcasted on 2.4GHz channel(s) can be bandwidth-limited to reduce consumed air time.

Wi-Fi 6 and newer APs support smart co-existence and automatically manage 2.4GHz Wi-Fi and ESL transmissions on the same AP to minimize interference.

Note: 2.4GHz Wi-Fi Co-existence requires MR 28.6+ firmware.

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 Status

AP details page can be used to determine the ESL status. A green dot indicates that the AP is successfully connected to V:Cloud and a grey dot indicates a connectivity issue. 

Note: This feature is available on MR 28.6 and newer firmware

ESL_GREEN.png

ESL_GREY.png

Please use the ESL status column on the Wireless > Access points page to view the ESL status of all ESL-enabled MRs in the network.

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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 > Configure > IoT radio settings page within the template.

Screenshot at Jul 01 08-37-03.png

Once the ESL functionality is enabled, you can click on the link to the network(s) bound to this template and enable ESL on specific APs in that network. Save changes once you are done.

Screenshot at Jul 01 08-41-37.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 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 Steps11.png

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 configuration is 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 cannot 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 will likely not complete if ICMP is blocked on the V:Cloud side for security reasons, however, the traceroute will resolve the URL to the public IP of V:Cloud.

 

Note: For token-based (JWT) connection, V:Cloud URL can be found in the V:Manager.

Screenshot at Jan 10 09-08-44.png

  • If the MR cannot resolve the V:Cloud URL to a public IP address. Please check the DNS settings on your MR, and 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 resolve 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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