Archive for April, 2022

Edge AI: Building Scalable Computer Vision

Workers collaborating in an office

Last month, Cisco Meraki introduced a new way to bring additional intelligence to the Meraki portfolio of smart cameras. We launched MV Sense custom CV that allows our partners and customers to build their own machine learning (ML) model to run directly on our cameras. This opens endless possibilities to solve new customer problems, as MV cameras can now be used to detect virtually any type of object.

A variety of use cases

As a result of this, there have been a myriad of new and exciting use cases for video analytics coming from both partners, customers, and our internal colleagues. These include counting food items at packing lines, detecting proper use of protective gear, and identifying quality defects in production lines or empty space in logistics centers.

Camera analytics can also provide organizations with information about their environment so they can create smart spaces to automate and improve productivity. We are very excited about the interest and are now working with several partners to start exploring the business value that can be generated. 

Meraki building blocks

There are a few core building blocks that have enabled this evolution: 

  • The Meraki way of building secure cloud-managed solutions that are simple to use is a fundamental enabler 
  • With our cloud-based smart camera solution, we can deploy and configure MV cameras at scale 
  • MV smart camera hardware was designed from the start to work as a powerful stand-alone device 
  • The Meraki platform enables users to leverage their own computer vision models on MV smart cameras via open APIs, or use off-the-shelf applications from ecosystem partners 
  • The Meraki cloud architecture eliminates the complexity of deploying, maintaining, and scaling analytics solutions, thereby reducing barriers to implementation and speeding time-to-value

A recipe for AI at the edge 

At Meraki, we have an effective recipe to execute AI at the edge. The combination of a cloud-managed solution with edge-based processing is making operations for our partners and customers easier as they enjoy the benefits of advanced computer vision technologies.

We are happy to share more details about how our solution is built, our experiences getting there, and how our partners are contributing to customer solutions. Register now for our virtual event on May 11, 2022, at 9:00 am PT, “Edge AI Tech Talk: Computer Vision in Practice” to learn more. 

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Modernizing your Manufacturing

Man wearing hardhat working on ipad

Prior to the pandemic, manufacturing as an industry was in the process of adopting Industry 4.0 technologies such as robotics, automation, augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR), additive manufacturing (3D printing), and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). This trend has accelerated due to recent market shocks impacting supply chains, and manufacturers that can adapt quickly will have a competitive advantage. With that in mind, let’s take a look at three ways the Meraki platform helps facilitate digital transformation in manufacturing.

Harness Wi-Fi 6 and 6E for IIoT

With more factories embracing IIoT, everything from robots to forklifts to tooling carts are being connected to networks. This connectivity centralizes control, increases visibility, and leverages analytics to improve efficiency, reduce downtime, and make smarter predictions. 

With so many wireless devices requiring network access, providing a strong Wi-Fi 6 foundation is critical to ensuring consistent and high-performance IIoT deployments. Wi-Fi 6 has the potential to increase average throughput per user by a factor of four, enabling manufacturers to fully harness the promise of IIoT. 

Manufacturers can get even more power out of their networks with Wi-Fi 6E, which expands Wi-Fi into the 6 GHz spectrum. Wi-Fi 6E provides more connections, more efficient traffic management, and enhanced security with WPA3, among other benefits.

Monitor smart factories with environmental sensors

Sensor technologies have allowed manufacturers to take advantage of big data to improve processes, predict failure, and ultimately improve the efficiency of modern smart factories. Environmental sensors (indoor temperature/humidity, indoor leak, door open/close) can provide real-time remote visibility and monitoring to help protect assets and facilities 24/7. 

Beyond the factory floor, sensors can ensure that critical IT infrastructure uptime is maintained and can help regulate temperature to reduce energy costs and lower an organization’s carbon footprint to meet sustainability targets. 

Secure, protect, and monitor key assets with smart cameras

Manufacturers need visibility into production to ensure quality control, mitigate product loss, and enforce workplace safety. Smart cameras securely provide useful insights into on-site processes, decreasing costs and improving operational efficiencies.  

Paired with third-party apps, smart cameras can inspect production lines for quality control, monitor warehouses for inventory loss, assure workers have correct PPE, and read license plates for fleet control. Smart cameras provide manufacturers with the tools they need to help manage their workspace.  

The network has always been about providing connectivity. Without a strong foundation of connectivity, manufacturers will be slow to adopt Industry 4.0 technologies to support factory modernization.

Learn more

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Contact us and talk to a Cisco Meraki specialist.

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Our Customers’ Favorite Easter Eggs

Easter egg basket and ipad

What is an Easter egg?

For years, companies have been embedding secret videos, cryptic messages, and in some cases, sprawling, multi-century riddles into their products. When you were a kid, you probably came across these “Easter eggs” in the form of hidden treasures and funny references that you stumbled on while playing video games. 

We thought we’d let you in on some of the hidden absurdity buried into the Meraki dashboard. The following are some of our customers’ favorite Easter eggs.

Bears. Beets. Battlestar Galactica.

Sorry if you don’t get the reference

One of the first areas you’ll find an Easter egg on the Meraki dashboard is when you create a new network. The default network name is “Scranton Branch Office,” an homage to the infinitely rewatchable American sitcom, The Office.

Network name: Scranton Branch Office

Spin cycle

If you’re feeling a little loopy, you can always initiate a dashboard barrel roll. In the bottom-right corner of the dashboard, you’ll find a button that says, “Give Your Feedback.” Enter “do a barrel roll” and click submit and watch the dashboard spin like a top. This is actually a reference to one of Google’s first Easter eggs.

On a serious note, this is also a place where you can provide the Meraki engineering team with constructive, relevant feedback on how to improve the dashboard experience (the Easter egg commands will not be forwarded to Meraki). Having said that, all feedback is greatly appreciated.

The mother of all cheat codes

If you grew up playing video games in the ‘80s and ‘90s, you probably encountered the ubiquitous Konami code at one point or another. By inputting the simple ten-button sequence, you could unlock cheat codes and game secrets in dozens of games. 

While we don’t force you to enter the actual Konami code, you can type “konami code” into the “Give Your Feedback” form to unlock a Meraki-themed platformer starring our since-retired mascot Miles Meraki. 

We’ve yet to beat the second level—it may just be unbeatable by design. Feel free to prove us wrong.

What’s your favorite?

What’s your favorite Easter egg? We’re fans of:

Let us know on social (Twitter: @Meraki), and as always, if you want to get started with Meraki, you can initiate a free demo or a free trial of Meraki hardware.

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Simplify the Restructuring of Your Networks

This article was contributed by Boundless Digital, a Cisco Meraki technology partner.

Some people say that architecture is meant to be permanent, but is it really? When it comes to networking, the truth is that it’s not. Modern network architectures are meant to be reliable, agile, and resilient. Rather than being permanent, they should be adaptable to change.

The last few years have taught us that change can happen quickly. And for businesses lacking the ability to rapidly adapt their infrastructure to new conditions, change can come at a high cost. 

Break, build, migrate … what drives organizational change in IT?

Organizations will typically reach a moment when they realize their current network architecture no longer meets their business needs.

This realization can be triggered by technical constraints, but may also be caused by business events such as a new acquisition, merger, or market expansion.

To address one of these events, a business may be tempted to migrate devices into a different network or a new organization. But doing so without first considering the associated risks—and without planning accordingly—could lead to costly and time-consuming restructuring and reconfiguring.

The implications of restructuring a network infrastructure

Altering the organizational structure of a large network infrastructure is a complex operation. When done manually, it requires extensive planning and implementation, and can have critical implications:

Network downtime: When unclaimed from a network, devices lose their configuration, generating a downtime that could last from one to three hours per device.

Time loss: The common steps to restructure an organization include creating a new organization and provisioning new networks, migrating devices, and reconfiguring parameters.

New errors: Manual configuration entails a risk of human error. If not identified on time, these errors can end up generating bigger problems down the line.

High costs: Migrating devices often requires having a support team on-site to reconfigure the devices. If the devices are distributed across different locations, this operation can quickly become costly.

Simplify organizational change with automation powered by APIs

Migration by Boundless Digital enables users to alter the organizational structure of their Meraki network infrastructure seamlessly, quickly, and reliably. 

This solution leverages the dashboard API to integrate with Meraki and seamlessly split an organization into multiple ones, or merge them under a single organization. Features include:

Configuration cloning: This feature allows you to copy the configuration parameters of an existing site and use them to create new networks under the same organization or a different one.

Device migration: Use this tool to move devices from one network or organization to another and reconfigure them using API-based automation.

Using Migration by Boundless Digital to support the restructuring of your network architecture can help your business accelerate operations, reduce the need for on-site support, and minimize the risk of human error.

Find Migration by Boundless Digital on the Meraki Marketplace and/or request a demo. Learn more about the Boundless Digital apps.

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All the Details on Smart Workplace Technology

Two people looking at digital display board

Whether you’re looking to scale your business or improve operations, smart workplace technology can help. In today’s world, businesses face risks and challenges that can, at times, feel existential. From the Great Resignation to sustainability targets, doing business has become much more complicated than just pleasing customers. But by leveraging a smart-spaces approach at your workplace, you can address the needs of stakeholders and still put smiles on your customers’ faces—all by plugging in a few handy devices.

What is a smart workplace?

You probably work hard to make sure you hire smart people who can deliver value and impact to your business. What if their work environment was equally smart—augmenting their activities to the greatest effect?

You’ve likely heard about a type of technology called the internet of things (IoT). It describes objects with sensors, software, and other technologies that are able to talk to each other over the internet by exchanging data with other devices and systems.

A smart space combines IoT with action within a physical environment. In the context of smart workplace technology, this means leveraging cameras and sensors to collect actionable data that can help drive meaningful decision-making within the workplace. 

Why do I need to make my workplace smart?

When it comes to the types of meaningful decisions you can make, there are many ways smart workplace technology can make a big impact. These include:

  • Identifying inefficiencies to help reduce waste and costs 
  • Triggering automation to optimize processes
  • Empowering employees with data-driven tools  
  • Meeting and exceeding self-imposed or mandated sustainability goals
  • Attracting and keeping talent by improving workplace experiences
  • Improving safety and security

Which types of devices make up a smart workplace?

There are three main types of devices that make up the smart workplace. These include smart cameras, environmental sensors, and wireless access points.

Smart cameras

Connected cameras can help monitor and optimize occupancy, visualize the flow of foot traffic, and verify who is accessing restricted areas. Augmenting cameras with machine-learning capabilities can enable automation and enhanced analytics

Environmental sensors

Connected sensors can detect when a door opens or closes and senses changes in temperature, humidity, and air quality. You can even connect a smart button to your network. When sensing a push, the button can trigger a range of actions or automations.

Wireless access points

To get the most out of those high-tech cameras and sensors, you’ll want to make sure that your network can handle high-density transfers to support the data that will traverse the network from smart devices. Wireless access points are the backbone of smart office technologies. 

Smart Spaces Experience Guide: Read Now

What you can do with smart workplace technology 

There are three main categories of environments where smart workplace technology can be applied—offices, commercial and public spaces, and restricted spaces.

In the office 

Smart workplace technology can help deliver the hybrid work experiences employees increasingly expect. Many people now work fully remote, and those who do wish to come into the office aren’t necessarily doing so daily. It no longer makes sense to assign everyone a desk.

Smart cameras can monitor usage in real time, enabling you to optimize desk space based on demand. You can even connect the cameras to hot-desk booking applications so workers can reserve their desk in advance.

Aside from desk space, smart devices can also be leveraged in data centers and IT closets. Environmental sensors keep track of temperature to optimize heating and cooling—potentially leading to significant energy savings while also helping to meet sustainability targets. Devices can also be set to shut off automatically depending on the time of day for additional savings.

Commercial and public spaces

From shopping malls to public libraries, smart devices can be leveraged for a wide range of uses. In physical retail stores, electronic shelf labels can be connected to wireless access points to display and update prices, quickly apply markdowns, and even display ads. Smart cameras can be used to gain insight into how shoppers move about a space to optimize visual merchandising. 

In libraries, museums, and galleries, environmental sensors can be deployed to protect valuable archival materials or collections. For example, humidity and air quality sensors can ensure the optimal environment for preservation.

Restricted spaces

While some work environments should only be accessed by certain people, having a security guard manning the door of every restricted space is neither efficient nor practical. At the same time, badge access on its own can be difficult to verify. 

Combining smart cameras with environmental sensors can increase the robustness of security. For example, a door sensor can trigger a camera to take a snapshot when a person is accessing a room, therefore verifying that the person using the badge is the same person entering the room. Such methods can also deter would-be piggy-backers.

What should I look for in a vendor?

While it’s pretty straightforward to install a few devices around your workplace, that simplicity is underpinned by robust technology. Smart devices need to relay huge amounts of data in real time, and the software applications moving, organizing, and displaying that data need to be able to keep up as well. Compatibility is crucial. Here’s a checklist of items you should look for with a potential vendor:

Business vs. consumer—look for solutions that are built for enterprise. Cameras and sensors sold in the consumer market may have lower price points, but they also have limited functionality for business use cases.

Cloud management—the ability to deploy and manage devices from the cloud will save a lot of walking back and forth. It also means you can troubleshoot devices without being on-site.

Integrated platform—when lots of devices are talking to each other, it helps when they all speak the same language. Be sure to choose a vendor that can set you up on one platform where all the devices are built for compatibility.

Scalability—look for a vendor that makes it easy to add on devices when needed. 

Application ecosystem—you wouldn’t buy a smartphone that can’t use apps. Likewise, to get the most power from your smart workplace, make sure the vendor you choose has a robust ecosystem of available applications. 

What’s the financial benefit of a smart workplace?

Naturally, you want to know how much all of this is going to cost you. But it’s important to consider the principle of opportunity cost when deciding whether or not to make your workspace smart. While there will be an up-front cost, there’s an upside in the amount of savings you’ll see from increased efficiencies.

Forrester estimates a 43% ROI after three years for Meraki MV smart cameras. After investing in Meraki sensors in their data center, a large digital marketing firm saw a 27% ($49.6k) reduction in energy costs. Additionally, advancements in technology means that setup and provisioning can be done in minutes, further reducing costs.

Ready to get started on your journey toward a smarter workplace? Read the Smart Spaces Experience Guide for a quick overview or check out our webinar for a deeper dive.

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Deliver a Safe, Secure, and Positive Election Experience

Woman holding American flag

No matter the candidate, voters want a positive, equitable, and secure (physical and cyber) experience when they head to the polls. Whether it’s the upcoming midterms, local primaries, special municipal elections, or national presidential referendums—now is the time for governments to build and prepare intelligent, safe, and secure drop-off locations and polling stations for a smooth election. Here are three ways IT can power your next election and help you do just that.

Uninterrupted, secure election operations

The safety of elections is paramount. From physical monitoring to polling device security to the prevention of malicious activities across the network—governments must ensure that every touchpoint is secure. Moreover, by avoiding network and device downtime, election delays can be minimized.

A smooth voting experience for all

The goal of every government is to provide positive experiences for citizens accessing government services—and voting is no different. This is true for both voters themselves and the poll workers who volunteer to make our elections possible. By utilizing technology such as IoT devices, advanced analytics, and endpoint management software, governments can deliver for both.

These technologies allow workers to have dedicated and secure device applications and access to safe and secure Wi-Fi for voters waiting to fill out their ballots while moving as quickly as possible through the line.

With network cameras, spatial recognition, and out-of-the box app development, localities can even choose to deliver wait times and updates on voting locations to their citizens before they arrive.

A deeper knowledge of voter trends and behaviors

Polling stations aren’t just a location where citizens cast their votes. They are also sources of data. A secure and private network gives states and localities access to insights (both real-time and post-election), such as comparisons of voter trends between sites.

This ultimately gives governments the ability to identify challenges, monitor and remedy wait times, and plan for the future in hopes of garnering increased turnout and a more positive citizen experience.

Meraki: the technology for elections

The Meraki portfolio is completely cloud-based, allowing you to deploy an entire network in minutes with an easy-to-use interface (accessible through any web browser or through the mobile application) to monitor, troubleshoot, and configure settings.

Additionally, the Meraki cloud infrastructure removes the need for network controllers and additional servers. All you need is the dashboard and the device hardware. With this intuitive dashboard, Meraki is the perfect solution for those who want enterprise-grade security and efficiency but may not be as tech savvy.

Meraki solutions are developed with simplicity in mind, ensuring that technology is not a hindrance but rather an enabler to let you focus on the greater mission—voter turnout and election peace of mind.

For more details, download our Elections Solution Guide or visit the Meraki for state and local government page.

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