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Facebook, Cisco partner to power Wi-Fi check-in at stores

Restaurants, hotels, retailers, and public locations will be able to get Wi-Fi equipment from Cisco and a check-in experience from Facebook.

Facebook's mobile app.

Facebook just "friended" Cisco Systems.

The two companies are partnering up to provide restaurants, hotels, retailers, and other public locations with an integrated Wi-Fi check-in experience that ties into the Facebook network. Such a service would allow retailers to get more data on its customers, allowing for better targeted advice, advertising, or discounts.

The initiative is called "Cisco Connected Mobile Experience with Facebook Wi-Fi," a long-winded name for a bundle of services and router equipment that's being tested by several businesses, including two restaurants in the Bonefish Grill chain.

The partnership is the latest in a trend to offer services based on a person's location. There are services that target people based on their phones' GPS, as well as check-in services like FourSquare, but this goes a step further. When customers walk into a store, they're able to pick up a Wi-Fi network, which automatically directs them to a Facebook check-in page. The page contains information about the venue or possible discounts and specials.

Facebook, meanwhile, can take large chunks of anonymous data from the check-ins and help businesses analyze the demographics of their customers.

Businesses have a built-in incentive to use this. The Facebook Wi-Fi check-in route will also drive more activity for a brand, and a higher number of check-ins and stories generated means a higher rank in Facebook's Graph Search.

While Cisco and Facebook position this as something helpful to consumers, there is an element of concern on the consumer side regarding having one's location tracked. While the data is collected from large groups of consumers, individuals may worry about having their data used.

The feature appears to be optional; although, it's unclear whether customers may be required to check-in to gain access to Wi-Fi.

Facebook and Cisco are holding an event to discuss the partnership later today. Check back in with CNET for all of the updated details.