Archive for July, 2021

Video Intelligence and the Factory of the Future

Two workers on factory floor in hard hats

This article was contributed by David Owens, CEO of Meraki technology partner EveryAngle

Manufacturers are seeking a recovery path from the disruption of the pandemic that creates a foundation for the agile factory of the future and operates closer to customer needs. The digitization of factories will be built and adopted incrementally, driving changes to workflows, transforming departmental responsibilities, uncovering new data sources to power insights, and requiring a new workforce with a digital-first skill set.

One overlooked source of operational insights is video data captured by smart cameras. Traditionally, smart cameras have been used primarily to protect against theft and keep an eye out for suspicious behavior, but the potential applications have exploded with the progression of video analytics and increasingly more powerful processors. 

How can manufacturers leverage smart cameras and computer vision to address their varied challenges? While many potential applications exist, here are three use cases to consider.

Predictive maintenance

When unplanned downtime occurs, no value is being produced while the cost of overhead operations continues to grow—directly impacting a company’s bottom line. Approximately 82% of companies have experienced unplanned downtime over the past three years. Furthermore, the average manufacturer deals with 800 hours of downtime per year, or more than 15 hours per week. Consider that just one minute of downtime in an automotive factory can cost as much as $20,000

While downtime is a part of doing business, scalable and timely preventive maintenance can help. Computer vision and smart camera-powered predictive maintenance can gather data points across fleets of machinery and components to identify problems and recommend solutions before assets break down.

Improving safety

Every year, more than 4,500 preventable workplace deaths and 4.6 million preventable workplace injuries occur in the U.S. Of these, some 11% occur within the manufacturing sector alone.

Aside from the human cost, the economic cost of these events is more than $18 billion annually in the manufacturing sector. What is most striking is that the rate of serious injury is increasing—by more than 17% since 2010.

Clearly, the manufacturing industry needs better workplace safety systems and practices. Applications for computer vision to improve human safety include automated compliance with personal protective equipment requirements, lone worker monitoring, and machine-to-human interaction safety tracking.

Track and trace

Track and trace capabilities provide the data, insight, and intelligence manufacturers need to be more competitive. The speed at which a manufacturer gains insights and takes action on quality issues can mean the difference between winning new customers and irreparable brand damage. Consider that product recalls for food manufacturers cost an average of $10 million.

Best practice track and trace embeds the right technologies into the stage and gate process, giving every physical asset a digital profile, and every action a measurable and manageable value. Smart cameras and computer vision can be used to improve operational traceability using applications such as optical character recognition at distance (OCRaD). Images of labels, codes, and other identifying markers are collected at manufacturing process gates, autonomously converted to machine readable text, then made available for requirements such as real-time presence look-up or location audit trail compliance. 

How to get started

Computer vision can help better protect your people, reduce unplanned downtime, and improve operational traceability. Thanks to our free trial program, Meraki and EveryAngle make it simple to get started. Contact us to learn more. 

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Invest in Tech with the American Rescue Plan

Family of tourists interacting with digital transit map

Over the past year, as state and local government agencies have met the challenges brought on by the pandemic, there’s been an increased focus on cloud migration, cybersecurity, the digital divide, and smart city initiatives. While initial investments in these areas by agencies have greatly benefited citizens, there is still more that can be accomplished with the right funding. Fortunately, that help has arrived. 

In addition to the earlier funding from the CARES act, the recent passing of the American Rescue Plan Act has set aside roughly $350B to be utilized directly for state and local governments. This funding is making it possible for agencies to provide safe environments and efficient services for their citizens. The funds cover multiple use cases, including broadband infrastructure, making now the time to invest in robust and secure IT solutions.

Meraki is dedicated to supporting agencies no matter where they sit in their current digital transformation journey. We provide a unique, intuitive approach to technology, delivering transformational experiences that result in empowered employees, safe and protected citizens, and secure physical and digital assets. Delivering on that promise, the Meraki platform offers unrivaled performance, security, and scale—allowing simplicity from anywhere.

Whether it’s a hybrid workforce or safe environment, Meraki is here to support these experiences with our easy-to-use platform that allows agencies to deploy faster, manage anywhere, and scale reliably. By bringing products, insights, operations, and ecosystem partners together, we allow you to focus on the projects improving your citizens’ lives instead of worrying about your network management.

Furthermore, with Meraki SASE (Secure Access Service Edge) solutions, the transition to multi-cloud and hybrid work has been turbo-charged, bringing into sharp focus the challenges agencies face in maintaining consistent security and experience for users. SASE benefits include reducing complexity and cost, enabling new digital scenarios, improving security, boosting productivity, and simplifying user experience. 

Visit our Public Funding Office for more information related to ARPA and other federal grants, or contact your account manager for more information.  

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Reality Check: 5 IoT Security Myths Debunked

Man pointing to TV monitor holding iPad

This article was contributed by Meraki technology partner Openpath.

The prevalence of cloud-based solutions is hugely beneficial to businesses that want to be more scalable and flexible. However, many organizations are still slow to adopt these newer systems, likely due to misconceptions around the security and benefits of cloud-based IoT technologies.

Myth 1: On-premises systems are more secure

One of the key benefits of a cloud-managed commercial security platform is flexibility. Remote access and over-the-air (OTA) software updates minimize disruption to operations, eliminate in-person maintenance costs, and ensure systems are always running the latest software versions. Outdated on-premises commercial technology limits distributed teams from sharing important security information automatically, making it more difficult to scale security practices to other buildings and sites. Because physical and IT security convergence is dependent on collaboration between both people and systems, modernizing to cloud-based commercial access control technology helps improve security posturing.

Myth 2: All-in-one systems are better

Not all systems are designed to “play nice” with each other in the cloud. Unlike all-in-one systems, cloud-based IoT technology allows organizations to build a more custom security solution. For interoperable IoT security, look for best-in-class providers that utilize open standards. A truly open platform makes it seamless to connect your cloud-based security products so they function as a single entity, rather than disparate systems. This eliminates operational redundancies and saves time. 

Myth 3: SaaS systems are more expensive

While the initial investment in hardware and installation varies depending on the system, cloud-based provider subscription fees actually offer greater returns over time. These recurring fees cover many of the out-of-pocket expenses associated with running an on-premises server and system, such as ongoing server setup and maintenance, system monitoring, licensing fees, and training costs. By selecting future-proof cloud technology, organizations often get more value out of their security investment in the long run compared to a legacy on-site system.

Myth 4: Cybersecurity is the only way to protect data in the cloud

Employing cybersecurity practices isn’t the only way to protect data. In today’s landscape, cybersecurity and physical security need to be addressed together. While strong passwords, encryption, two-factor authentication, and vulnerability testing are essential practices, physical access control cannot be overlooked. Human error is a leading cause of data breaches, so it’s vital to limit and monitor who has access to physical spaces such as server rooms or anywhere computers are left unattended. By combining cybersecurity with physical security practices, security convergence addresses the possible ways data can be compromised.

Myth 5: Physical access control doesn’t need to be integrated

Remote work and distributed teams have highlighted the need for fully remote and integrated security systems. By integrating physical access control with cloud-based video surveillance, identity providers, and visitor management, plus employing a security convergence strategy to address IT and cybersecurity concerns, organizations have a more complete picture of their space and are better equipped to triage security incidents with greater speed and accuracy.To learn more about how cloud-based technology impacts security, join us on July 27 for part two of our three-part webinar series featuring expert-led discussions on emerging security strategies. If you missed it, watch part one on demand here.

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Remote Working That Goes the Distance

Man working outside on laptop and holding ipad

On-site IT teams have historically been critical to any successful business. Most equipment had to be managed in person by accessing the physical device to make necessary updates. Even with the widespread adoption of remote working, many IT teams are still required to be on site. Nowadays, with cloud-based networking, your IT staff can be regionally distributed, managing devices across your network no matter where they are. While supporting a remote workforce can be a challenge, creating the right experience can help you boost engagement and attract the right talent from anywhere.

Hire who you need, wherever they are

If you run a business, you expect problems that impact operations and revenue to be resolved immediately. Achieving that is complicated by the fact that IT professionals are becoming more and more difficult to hire and retain. Some sectors are able to mitigate that challenge by offering increased wages and benefits, while others may be hamstrung by limited budgets and competing priorities. What has been common practice with many job types, especially during the pandemic, is to take advantage of the shift to remote working and hire IT professionals regardless of their location—IT support included. By providing flexible work options, businesses can be more competitive in the market for IT talent. 

Keep your heroes happy

At the recent Meraki Network user conference, John Gallant from IDG noted that, “IT were the heroes in the past 12 months, and now they are being looked at to improve [general] employee experience.” IT staff had to put on their capes to address the sudden pivot to remote work. And while they’ve been asked to help buttress the remote work experience for their colleagues, it’s important to likewise do the same for them. After all, it’s important to keep your heroes happy.  

This process must include updating to cloud-based networking and security solutions for centralized visibility and control. In addition, IT teams need tools to help them sort through notifications and alarms to ensure that important issues rise to the top. 

Your remote work tool box

Meraki provides the technology solutions you need to support your remote team. The Meraki platform, with its super-friendly dashboard and machine-learning derived metrics, gives IT teams the ability to quickly spin up new locations and manage network settings from anywhere. Enable remote workers to securely connect to the corporate network and provide cellular backup with the Z3 teleworker gateway. Shape traffic over Auto VPN, prioritize critical and business-impacting applications across the network, And secure apps and data with Umbrella cloud security. In addition, Meraki Systems Manager gives full access and control to connected devices, making it much easier to set up and troubleshoot remote worker issues. 

The Meraki marketplace offers third-party apps that give businesses complete choice on designing their workforce experience. For example, PagerDuty integrates Meraki to surface alerts to relevant teams based on a customer-defined schedule and prioritization. Choose from over 170 applications or develop your own to meet your specific needs.

The remote workforce experience has matured significantly. With cloud-based network visibility and control, coupled with apps to escalate business-impacting issues to the right teams, organizations can hire the right IT staff for their needs, wherever they may be.

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