Archive for August, 2021

Return to the Water Cooler with Smart Spaces

Empty chairs next to water cooler

Let’s face it: some of us miss the office water cooler. 

The office and the water cooler miss you too.

After nearly two years of missed face-to-face interactions around the water cooler, the cafe, at deskside chats, and in conference room huddles, we’re all remaining flexible yet are still optimistic about what’s next when it comes to returning to the workplace safely. 

While businesses and employees ponder the next move based on the changing tides of a global pandemic, the water cooler sits lonely in your office, longing to hear about the latest Marvel movie trailer, giggle at Ted Lasso one-liners, and predict what will happen in the next episode of the Bachelor and Bachelorette. 

The return to the office brings mixed emotions

According to a recent Cisco survey, many employees have anxiety about returning to the office, with concerns about touching shared devices, lack of social distancing, and more. Of those surveyed, 95% are uncomfortable about returning given the current health crisis.

Those who worked remotely during the pandemic and have returned on-site reported mixed mental health impacts: 36% of respondents reported negative mental health effects from on-site work, while 37% reported positive effects.

Workers have rolled with the changes

The global workforce has had to adjust to a variety of working scenarios— including remote work and hybrid work—all while balancing the need to maintain safe environments.

As businesses manage their plans to get employees back to the office, they are looking for unique ways to make everyone feel safer in the work environment. Teams need highly secure access and the best collaboration experiences in order to succeed as a hybrid workforce, and customers need to feel comfortable interacting with staff. A majority of CIOs and IT decision-makers (89%) across all industries believe that maintaining security, control, and governance across user devices, networks, clouds, and applications is essential.

Create a plan for a successful return-to-office with smart spaces and the right collaboration technology.

Meraki Network: Tech Yourself to Protect Yourself

Smart spaces can bring us back with ease and flexibility

Smart spaces bridge the gap between physical and digital layers, leveraging connectivity, security, and intelligence—all from a single cloud-first platform. Consider these smart spaces experiences from Meraki and our partners:

  • Using Meraki’s video API, the PenguinIN smart hot-desking platform shows real-time occupancy intelligence 
  • The recently announced Kloudspot platform and KloudVision™ securely integrate safety features such as occupancy monitoring and PPE compliance monitoring
  • With Meraki MV and Cisco DNA Spaces, facility managers can now better monitor footfall and enable proactive alerts to keep everyone safe

These are just a few of the technologies that power smart spaces experiences and work together to boost operational efficiency, increase employee productivity, and ensure happy customers. As Ralph Esquibel, Vice President of IT for the Los Angeles Dodgers, observed at the recent Meraki Network user conference, “A camera, in its simplest form, allows us to track individual movements in and around the ballpark … it’s understanding what our fans want.” Implementing these solutions will enable companies to achieve smarter, secure workspaces via Meraki technologies and intelligence. 

When that happens, the water cooler may not be standing alone for too much longer.

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Meraki Turns 15!

It’s been 15 years since Meraki started as an MIT dissertation project. The founders were looking for a way to provide cheap, wireless internet access to the public that was also easy to manage, and ended up creating Meraki’s very first product—the Meraki access point (AP), or the Meraki Mini.  

Since 2006, our offerings have expanded from the original AP to switches, cameras, sensors, and so much more, all focused on the goal of simple IT that supports our customers through any experience. Meraki has continued to experiment, innovate, and simplify IT, leading the industry through times of discovery and connecting the world with smart and intuitive solutions. It’s no wonder that some of the top global companies choose Meraki.

These milestones are nothing short of amazing, and we have every single customer, partner, and Merakian to thank. Our ability to evolve and deliver on the technology experiences people increasingly expect would not be possible without their close collaboration and trust. Thank you for leaning in with us as we navigate an increasingly complex world.

No doubt the next 15 years will bring about even more change than we saw in the previous 15. We are excited to continue Meraki’s mission and build the high-tech world of the future, today. 

Everybody In,
Denise Thomas

Bolstering Digital Transformation in Banking

Woman holding credit card and iphone

The events of 2020 will leave a lasting impact on the financial sector as institutions accelerated the shift to a digital environment, both for customers and their employees.

Digital transformation has raised the bar for financial services, dictating seamless, personalized interactions during branch visits. The banking industry is making great progress toward transformation and resiliency, however, the work isn’t done until institutions can effectively monitor, measure, and resolve disruptions.

We recently sat down with Jerry Silva, Vice President of Financial Insights at IDC, to discuss this monumental transformation. Jerry is responsible for the global retail banking practice. His research focuses on technology trends as well as customer expectations and behaviors in retail banking worldwide. With over 35 years of experience in the financial services industry his research covers a variety of topics, from the back office to customer channels to technology governance at financial institutions. Listen in to hear a discussion of the role of the branch, including how to make branches more digital, how to drive more digital content, and how interaction plays a role in transformation. Here’s a quick recap.

infographic: advice for transformation

Role of the digital branch

The branch is an important interaction point for consumers and small businesses, and it needs to be agile enough to evolve as the market demands. Banks are looking at technologies that can prevent physical contact, such as handing over identification to authenticate the customer or limiting human interaction where it makes sense by expanding interactive video and digital signage into the physical branch. These technologies have existed for years, but in aggregate, they are now part of a holistic approach to transforming branches into smart spaces.

Role of the cloud

2020 created a shift, with a greater emphasis on leveraging the cloud as a fundamental component of infrastructure for institutions. As companies migrate to a cloud-first approach, this has led to a greater reliance on security and digital infrastructure. This is where technologies such as Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) can play a critical role in enabling consistent service levels; customer and staff experiences; and secure web gateways, cloud access security brokers, and other services.

Advice for transformation

Silva touched on the interplay between human interaction and digital technology touchpoints in the branch. Key takeaways from the discussion included digital transformation best practices, pitfalls to watch out for, security needs to support a digital-first model, and whether financial institutions are prepared for the challenges ahead.

“Customers love choice. There is still a need for an omnichannel engagement strategy. Keep looking at modernizing online and mobile and think about the holistic customer engagement strategy.”

Jerry Silva, Vice President of Financial Insights, IDC

To learn more about IDC’s recommendations–watch the fireside chat now and download the IDC analyst brief.

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Safe Environments To Protect What Matters

various people walking through an office lobby

The recent rise of hybrid workplaces—a convergence of remote work and “in-office” work—has brought more complexities across cybersecurity and physical security. 

Dimensional Research found that 97% of employees want changes made so they feel safer at work, while 94% of companies believe technology would benefit them by providing a safer work environment. 

In your quest to enable a trusted environment, having comprehensive, interconnected technologies and tools can allow you to securely create valuable experiences for employees and customers.

The value of technology convergence 

The early 2000s were a time when telephones, cameras, camcorders, and music devices existed separately.

Then along came smartphones, which conveniently bridged together the functionality of all these things into one platform. The introduction of an ecosystem of third-party app developers extended the smartphone’s utility far beyond its original capabilities. 

IT security tools such as next-generation firewalls prevent cyber attacks. Physical security devices such as cameras protect people, buildings, and assets. As video, data, information, productivity applications, and most business operations move to the cloud, it will become increasingly important to prioritize physical and cybersecurity convergence.

When cybersecurity and physical security collide 

Consider the domino effect when cybersecurity and physical worlds collide: 

  • Attackers exploit code to gain control of transmitters that operate manufacturing machinery, putting assets and lives at risk
  • Hackers shut down a building’s cloud video cameras, letting a heist go undetected and unrecorded
  • Ransomware on a hospital network causes a shut-down of the IT system, delaying digital processes like accessing patient data and conducting scans

Beyond higher risk, cybersecurity and physical security are typically maintained in separate systems by IT and physical security teams, making it harder to tackle threats head-on. 

A Match Made in Heaven: Physical and Cybersecurity

Many security technologies, one platform 

As with the launch of smartphones, our cloud-first Meraki platform pulls IT and IoT technologies into one intuitive dashboard. It features open APIs and a broad ecosystem of apps so you can rapidly address essential security use cases and provide insightful analytics. 

Gain peace of mind from tools that work in harmony. For example, device communication and video is encrypted by default and firmware is updated automatically from the cloud. 

As James Segil, President of Openpath, noted at the 2021 Meraki Network user conference, “IT has more comfort in the cloud … helping eliminate legacy physical security technologies.”

Security for every business need 

So what does convergence look like in practice? Here’s an example of a safe environment through a day in the life of Sam, an IT manager at a hospital. 

  • 8:00 am: Sam checks the Meraki platform dashboard at home for security anomalies from the MX security and SD-WAN devices  
  • 8:30 am: Sam arrives at the hospital parking lot, where the MV smart cameras detect vehicles and people in order to identify intruders 
  • 10:00 am: In waiting rooms, the MV integration with Everyangle lets them verify face mask compliance 
  • 1:00 pm: Sam gets a dashboard alert that a fridge stocking vaccines has dipped below 0°C; the MT temperature probe sensor triggered a real-time snapshot from the MV camera showing the door ajar 
  • 5:00 pm: Sam wraps up by aggregating daily people count and people’s journeys inside the hospital via the V-App integration to optimize staffing and wayfinding 

These are just some of the ways Meraki can help create a safe environment experience to protect what matters to your business.

For more details, visit the Meraki workplace safety homepage.

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Is Your On-Premises Access Control a Dinosaur?

Green toy dinosaur pushing shopping cart containing hand sanitizer and face mask

This article was contributed by Meraki technology partner Genea.

A door opens. You walk in. Server towers loom, cables are criss-crossing inside. Through the darkness, blinking green-yellow “eyes” are glowing. Could it be? Is this a dinosaur? Yes. You’ve found a dinosaur—your on-premises access control system. Was it powerful? Sure, back in the prehistoric age (i.e., the 1990s), but nowadays, on-premises systems are the next archaic creature facing extinction. Their predecessor, cloud-based access control, provides exponentially quicker integrations and credentialing flexibility. But why are healthcare providers only migrating to the cloud now?

The cloud rolls in

During COVID-19, healthcare IT and security teams faced a two-front battle. On-site, teams had to meticulously monitor their building ingress and egress. Robust security integrations became pivotal in ensuring only essential personnel entered the premises. On the other front, telehealth required security tools to protect patient identity and allow healthcare staff working from home to access the hospital server remotely. While the teams managing dated access control quickly realized their vulnerability, those using cloud-based systems had a significant advantage.

Fast integrations

In March 2021, Ray Gerwitz, Deputy Chief Security Officer at Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, spoke about the role of access control during the pandemic.   

“You would think that when you limit your access to far fewer entry points, it would be easier,” Gerwitz said. “But in some ways, it’s proven to be more difficult because now you have to understand how you configure your systems to allow continuity of operations but still maintain the appropriate protection measures on the exterior of your buildings.”

Problems like Gerwitz’s are common, but on-premises manufacturers simply can’t deploy solutions fast enough. Cloud-based companies like Genea do. The Emergency Door Plans feature, for example, gives administrators the capability to preprogram the opening and closing of multiple access points with one click. A “pandemic response plan” might lock all doors except the primary entrances, whereas an “unauthorized breach” may only lock a specific hospital wing.

Additionally, the wide variety of cloud-based access control integrations is something to consider. For example, Cisco Meraki cameras integrate with Genea Access Control by typing an API number into the admin dashboard. When a security event occurs, the Meraki camera transmits a GIF and event preview to Access Control. In turn, Access Control could alert another software program. With a web of solutions, security teams can efficiently address alerts.

Future forecast

By 2025, cloud computing within the healthcare industry is expected to grow to $55 billion, while the healthcare cloud adoption rate currently sits at a staggering 74%. This indicates a long-term shift toward cloud-based access control within the industry.

Beyond access control, cloud computing provides additional opportunities to innovate. For example, maintaining on-premises data centers is costly for providers. Ever-expanding databases of patient information and staff credentials require a flexible, secure solution that is not reliant on physical hardware. Cloud-based innovations provide just that. Don’t get stuck on the ground, waiting to join the cloud.Learn more about technology partner integrations via the Meraki Marketplace and visit our website to learn more about Meraki for physical security.

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Combating Security Threats in Healthcare

Pharmacy worker checking drug inventory on ipad

Healthcare facilities are vulnerable to many physical risks, including theft and robbery, incidents involving police and hospital security, false legal claims, and vandalism. Physical security in healthcare also includes protection of medical devices, machines, and even paper documents. In fact, more than 5.5M health records were breached in the month of September 2020 alone, illustrating the difficulties in meeting the responsibility to maintain a safe and secure environment for staff, patients, and visitors.  

Part of the issue may be siloed teams. Until recently, organizations have kept their physical security teams under the facilities department, while network and information security naturally fell under IT. This separation, however, can unintentionally create vulnerability for healthcare organizations. 

A unified approach could be part of the solution 

According to a 2019 report by Accenture, “Converging physical and cyber identity is an example of how organizations can better prepare for security threats through digitizing physical spaces and allowing digital security tools to extend to the physical space.” This type of practice allows for faster understanding of a threat’s origin and identification of those responsible. For example, if an intrusive device is found on premises, following digital footprints can quickly uncover how it got there.

Working together: An integrated security architecture centralizes visibility
Working together: An integrated security architecture centralizes visibility

A digitized physical space in practice

Combining your cloud-based keyless entry system controls and video surveillance data is another example of how you can take a step forward in leveraging cyber skills in a physical environment. Imagine that a medical technician or nurse enters the labor and delivery wing and uses a physical badge to access the area. Their identity is captured with a visual snapshot as a second form of verification. As the technician or nurse moves through the department, IoT sensors and devices collect additional intelligence in real time, tracking movement and activity. This information provides the benefits of:

  • Asset and patient protection: view video footage of real-time access activity for enhanced physical security monitoring and faster response times
  • Emergency lockdown: reduce emergency and issue response time with employee/visitor alerts, with the ability to automate lockdown activations
  • Compliance auditing: create detailed audit logs and export custom reports with visual snapshots of activity

Working together: an integrated security architecture

IT and security leaders must work together to establish immediate priorities for protecting vulnerable data like patient health records, managing drug theft, and delivering trust in their communities. Embracing cross-departmental collaboration is necessary to develop (and refine) robust safety measures while sharing responsibilities to keep watch for signs of trouble.  Learn more on our physical security page.

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The Soft Side of Hybrid Work…Is Hard

Woman on virtual call with colleagues

Your employees expect to have a choice of where to work—some may choose a workspace at home while others may choose the interactions of an office. Some may also choose both— Gartner states that by 2022, 45% of workers will be working from home a few days per week. Your challenge will be to facilitate both while creating a seamless and productive hybrid working experience.  

The soft side of hybrid work

Does it make sense to recreate the “in-office” experience when working from home? From a technology perspective, probably. From a culture perspective, probably not. Tools and technology should be consistent regardless of working in the office or at home, but to maintain your company culture will require even more flexibility and effort. As Jonathan MacFarlane, CEO of PlaceOS, noted at the Meraki Network user conference, “You will need to rethink what communication changes are required to maintain and enhance your company culture.”

What impact does distance—physical, emotional, and operational—have on a hybrid work environment? One potential consequence is a widening of affinity distance—defined as emotional separation between virtual team members who have no personal relationships. It refers to the trust, compassion, connection, and accountability that successful teams build and has a direct impact on performance, innovation, and employee retention. Although affinity distance can exist with any work environment, it’s amplified by a hybrid work model. 

Overcoming affinity distance

Technology can help resolve some of the issues created by affinity distance, but you will need to be aware of the emotional and mental impact hybrid work has on your teams. Look to proactively implement new ways to interact to ensure the well being of your employees, improve their collaboration, and drive consistent performance. Teams function best when there’s trust, communication, and a shared context for work. Research from Dr. Karen Sobel Lojeski shows a 90% difference in innovation between highly functioning remote teams and those that suffer from virtual distance. To close the virtual distance gap, you must overcome three components:

  • Physical distance—two or more locations that have to work together
  • Operational distance—processes and the way teams work and collaborate
  • Affinity distance—how teammates connect emotionally and mentally 
Meraki Network: The office reunion

How to succeed with a hybrid workforce

Matt Cain of Gartner states, “Hybrid teams need to establish ground rules around unity and empathetic communication, flexibility on how and when work gets done, and a consistent set of tools, regardless of where you work.”

You’re looking to provide flexibility for employees to move seamlessly between on-site and off-site experiences, increased organizational agility and resilience, and greater productivity and employee engagement. To do this you need simple, seamless, cloud network connectivity to provide an “in-office” experience with secure and easy access to all resources, workloads, and applications, regardless of location.

Intuitive solutions

Meraki empowers IT departments to overcome hybrid work challenges by reducing the complexity of networking, security, and IoT through technology solutions such as SASE that scale to meet the needs of your business. Starting from an intuitive cloud-based platform, users can access a comprehensive portfolio of easily deployable products, effortlessly integrate via open APIs, and deliver exceptional experiences at scale—anywhere.

While technology can help with the infrastructure, collaboration, agility, and trust are increasingly important skills that need to be developed for your employees to thrive in a hybrid work experience. For greater affinity, create opportunities for a shared purpose, deeper connections, brainstorming, and a consistent, seamless transition between the office and working at home.

For more details visit: – Make Working Anywhere Work

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