Archive for May, 2022

A Smart Spaces Approach to Sustainability

Colleagues collaborating on tablet and mobile phone in conference room

Smart spaces unite networking and IoT sensors—plus AI-driven analytics and insights—to amp up security and automation, but did you know that they also boost sustainability?

Our recent TechValidate survey reveals some of our customers’ top must-haves over the next year. 65% are committed to improving cybersecurity, 50% will automate and streamline business and IT processes, while half of the organizations surveyed plan to dedicate at least 10% of infrastructure spend to sustainability over the next 12 months.

Sustainability is a priority 

At our recent event in Europe, Smart Spaces Powered by Cloud-Based Technologies, Marta Muñoz, Senior Research Director and Lead Technology & Sustainability Practice, IDC EMEA; and Christian Zachriat, Technical Solutions Architect, Cisco Meraki; discussed the role technology plays in achieving sustainability goals.

Muñoz noted that in a recent IDC survey of 700 European organizations, 75% consider sustainability more than a “nice-to-have.”

“Sustainability for them is a priority and a top corporate objective,” she said.

Muñoz added that challenges in moving to sustainability differ between large and small organizations, particularly in where they are in their journey and by regional differences within Europe due to regulatory requirements. 

The role of digital technologies

Muñoz said, according to IDC data:

  • 61% of European organizations see digital infrastructure as a top enabler of sustainability
  • 50% see improving the energy efficiency of their IT assets as a key to considering whether to move forward, as well as renewing hardware and infrastructure to be more energy efficient 
  • 40% of European organizations see a move to cloud-based models as one of the most relevant technologies to invest in to meet sustainability goals

Muñoz differentiated between “the greening of IT,” which includes how an IT department consumes technology in a more sustainable way, and “the greening by IT,” which is the use of IT applications, solutions, and services to transition to sustainability, such as smart sensors and cameras to improve energy efficiency in data centers.

The sustainability road map

Muñoz also described steps that organizations can take toward sustainability:

  1. Define a clear set of sustainability objectives and be sure the processes and people are put in place to meet them. 
  2. Consider specific use cases to implement across the journey.
  3. Dedicate budgets. Sustainability is an investment, not a cost; it has a financial return and may have other impacts like customer satisfaction, employee retention, or brand awareness.
  4. Consider circular vs. linear models in consuming and offering products and services. 
  5. Work with IT partners to enable sustainability throughout the entire journey.

Automated smart spaces are within reach for any organization. Whether you manage an office or a commercial, public, or restricted space, cloud technology helps bridge the gap between digital and physical environments.

Missed the event? Watch the on-demand recordings.

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“Everybody In” on Hybrid Work

Workers in office and on video conference collaborating

Ryan Ansley is Senior Director of Digital Workplace and Information Technology at Cisco Meraki

At Cisco Meraki, whenever we set out to do something our own way, we like to say we’re “Merakifying” it. To us, that means leaning into our values to inform our vision of a solution to a challenge we face. 

When we began shaping our return-to-office strategy, we realized we had an amazing opportunity to lean into our corporate value of “everybody in.” That’s why we built hybrid work experiences that center on our employees no matter where they are.

Enabling hybrid work is a priority for 78% of c-suite executives, according to an IDG Marketpulse Research report conducted for Meraki. The report also suggests that leaders want to enable greater collaboration (52%) while also maintaining or improving productivity (46%) and security (40%). 

Clearly, “everybody in” is a fitting call to action for everyone trying to manage the disruption of hybrid work. To that end, we’ve done our best to leverage technologies that bridge the digital divide and empower our employees to make an impact no matter where they sit. 

A pivot to experiences

After an almost overnight switch from corporate-based hubs of activity to home-based employees, the workplace is now wherever employees want to be. That means our teams within Meraki Digital Workspace and IT must empower productivity collaboration, security, and more anywhere and everywhere. 

Initially, we tried to replicate what we were doing in the co-located office for people working remotely. However, we quickly learned this missed the point of what we were trying to accomplish—create experiences that foster communication, teamwork, and career development. We rapidly shifted our approach and now focus on building solutions in support of those experiences.

Tools for collaboration

Ensuring everyone feels part of the same team is critical, especially when employees are dispersed over geographies and time zones. With some folks in the office and some working remotely, we cannot afford to make anyone feel left out, and that’s why collaboration tools are key to hybrid work success.

In fact, 46% of enterprises are prioritizing updates to collaboration tools to support hybrid work, the IDG study said. This is third only to application modernization (54%) and security improvement (49%). 

That’s why everybody at Meraki has access to Webex by Cisco so they can more easily collaborate from any device. We also set up video conference rooms with Webex devices for hybrid collaboration.

The combination of rock-solid video conferencing along with best-in-class hardware bridges the gap between on-site and off-site workers. Pairing that with team best practices to center meetings on the distributed employee’s experience allows us to be productive and collaborate with folks around the world.

Security matters

The world of protection has also changed. In fact, 48% of executives in the IDG survey cited an increase in cybersecurity threats as a “primary obstacle” to improving workforce experiences. 

Enabling hybrid work is becoming table stakes, and it’s incumbent on IT leaders to find secure, seamless ways to deliver it. Borderless access is the future of security—and that future is happening now.

We use a combination of different tools to address security at Meraki. Our laptop stack includes tools that enable secure access from anywhere. The Meraki VPN and Any Connect provide additional security layers where needed, And tools like Thousand Eyes help centralize visibility through cloud-based technology such as the Meraki dashboard. The combination of all these solutions provide maximum security and flexibility.

Supporting a Hybrid Workforce: Tech challenges and solutions - Read now

An eye on safety

Numerous businesses use the same network for physical and cybersecurity, leveraging smart cameras and sensors to give employees the knowledge they need to feel comfortable in their space. 

At Meraki, we use Cisco DNA Spaces to understand proximity and density, plus third-party applications for hot-desking. Coupled with MT sensors and data from MV cameras, these technologies empower folks to make a decision whether to remain on-site with others in the office based on their personal level of comfort.

DNA Spaces also allow employees to see where there’s the most density in the office, informing folks where “the action is happening” and letting them make a decision to join or avoid the situation.

Supporting tech teams

The IDG survey results also revealed ongoing challenges for IT teams. More than one-third (36%) cited skills gaps, while 31% claimed inadequate resources or budget. Additionally, 30% reported an inability to provide consistent IT support across the workforce. 

Ensuring your IT team also has a hybrid workspace can help ease staffing dilemmas and decrease issues around coverage hours for support. 

At Meraki, we leverage technology for mobile device management, network security, upgrades, and configuration changes. This enhances security by eliminating manual, error-prone tasks and improves employee experience by freeing up time for our IT professionals to work on more strategic and creative projects.  

Wrapping it up

Hybrid work would not happen without the cloud. The ability to securely work together across countries and time zones, access and share data or documents, and communicate visually and verbally are foundational. 

Organizations that are adopting hybrid work are embracing solutions that empower employees to work anywhere, adapt to our constantly adjusting world, and harness the power of transformation to benefit their employees, their business, and their ecosystem. That’s what we do at Meraki, and it’s what we do for our employees, customers, and partners, too. 

Join us in building this hybrid world. Everybody in.

Download the IDG MarketPulse research report on hybrid work to learn more.

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Navigating the Sea Change in Urban Technology

St. Petersburg, Florida

State and local agencies have achieved more than most could have expected over the past few years of flux—captaining turbulent waters toward a sea change in technology that’s enabling connected communities to deliver better services for residents and constituents alike. 

Building connected communities requires an all-hands-on-deck approach. By bringing together community stakeholders and passionate government employees, cities can leverage the right technology and chart a course to manage the Internet of Things (IoT), bridge the digital divide, prepare for the future of work, and maintain security.

Navigating changing seas

A recent national survey of state and local government leaders conducted by CDG found that 42% of respondents don’t have a road map for building the connections their constituents increasingly expect. According to CDG Senior Fellow Bob Bennettt, “Too many governments are living in a 21st-century whirlwind and [are] still dealing with 20th-century procedures.”

As governments take a more proactive approach to technological development, they should focus on combining smart (IoT) technology with intelligent networking capabilities. Such a strategy will better equip governments to deliver critical services as they work to achieve more connected communities. 

Smoother sailing for all

2020 validated the need for better connected communities when working and learning from home became mandatory for many and high-speed internet access became a necessity, not a luxury. 

To accommodate these new hybrid/remote work situations, governments made necessary network upgrades. Jibbing their sails, governments moved toward smoother waters by taking a more coordinated approach to technology—making sure investments put constituent experiences top of mind.

What are the top drivers of connected communities in your jurisdiction?

A focus on experiences

The CDG survey emphasizes a focus on experiences, with 43% of respondents identifying “improving constituent services” as the top driver for a connected community

One example of experience-focused technology is deploying Wi-Fi in public places, which is a key factor in connecting communities. During the pandemic, governments deployed wireless connectivity for residents in need of reliable internet access. 

Another example is the city of Opelika, which began installing smart streetlights that dim during periods of low activity—reducing burnout and cutting energy costs by 50% all while increasing public safety. 

Read the local government leader's guide to connected communities

Funding for the next adventure

Of course, making any technology investment requires funding. With the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), organizations have access to funding to support and scale up the integration of IoT devices. When done at scale, both utilizing federal funds and implementing IoT devices can lead to increased agency agility and resilience while also driving greater productivity and employee engagement—all factors that assist in creating better community experiences. 

A ship needs its crew

With direction and dollars secured, local governments need to refine their strategy and captain their agencies to a connected community. This requires having all hands on deck. 

IT leaders should consider the goals identified by elected officials and budget directors—communication across organizations is key. Then, think about how technology can be used to help achieve those goals and build a digital strategy that aligns to set priorities. Next,  forging strong private/public partnerships helps navigate the sea of funding dollars and orchestrates new opportunities. 

Together with trusted partnerships, IT teams, and employees, governments can remain at the center of communities and be at the helm of delivering transformational experiences. After all, a more connected community is a more agile one, better prepared for the future and even the choppiest of seas.

Download the Local Government Leader’s Guide to Connected Communities to understand best practices for bridging the digital divide, preparing for the future of work, and ensuring community connections remain safe and secure.

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How to Amp Up Guest Experiences—and Profits

Guest checking in at hotel

Guest Wi-Fi is just the beginning of how an enterprise-grade system can transform the experiences hotel guests and staff can benefit from.

Robust, secure Wi-Fi helps build greater brand and customer loyalty, increasing revenue, improving safety, and delivering new financial benefits. It maximizes technology investments, which is good news at any time, but especially today—and especially when 82% of Americans believe hotel Wi-Fi should be free.

As the hospitality industry addresses money lost during the pandemic, staffing challenges, and nontraditional competitors, the pressure to deliver is higher. About 50% of travelers expect hotel Wi-Fi to be better than it was pre-pandemic.

That’s partly because guests think hotel Wi-Fi will be as fast and reliable as it is at home. Meeting expectations and leveraging this infrastructure to create safe environments, smart spaces, and hybrid workspaces is a win for all. Consistent service across hotel sites also helps hospitality businesses compete against competitors like Airbnb, as individual homeowners may not provide the same services as hotel brands.

In addition to empowering guests to work and play, Wi-Fi supports the devices and APIs hotels can use to serve, protect, and delight guests and employees.

Setting the scene

IT leaders help visitors feel at home by ensuring Wi-Fi technologies support popular amenities like smart TVs and streaming services, so guests can easily access content via smartphone or tablet. 

Using an app over Wi-Fi, guests can also control in-room technologies like thermostats and blinds and communicate directly with the front desk and restaurant. These capabilities enrich the guest experience, streamline communication, and augment staffing. 

Similarly, hotels can replace the paper fire-route information traditionally placed on room doors with digital signage. In addition to providing current emergency routes, hotels can feature ads from nearby attractions.

Keep it clean

Cleanliness and safety are guests’ priorities in choosing a hotel, topped only by price. Wi-Fi can eliminate some manual housekeeping tasks, which can help hotels address staffing shortfalls.

For example, hotels can use sensors to notify management when rooms have been cleaned. Sensors also monitor population density in conference rooms so organizers will meet fire rules or social distancing protocols. 

Likewise, sensors give real-time visibility into temperature, humidity, leaks, and more to help protect laundry and boiler rooms and areas prone to water damage. 

Rather than installing a separate system for staff safety, hotels can triangulate employees’ locations with a Bluetooth® beacon on employee badges, which then use Wi-Fi and access points to communicate. 


Hotels can roll out the virtual red carpet early for premiere guests. 

Smart cameras deployed for security can include license plate-reading software that alerts management when a high-value guest enters the grounds. Managers can greet these individuals by name to underscore their appreciation.

Using Bluetooth® Low Energy with mobile application integration, hotel staff use mobile devices to connect to technologies like:

  • Reservation and property management software
  • Guest keyless entry systems
  • Point-of-sale systems

Hotels with multiple Wi-Fi connectivity speeds and services can offer the fastest speeds at discounted or complementary rates to highest-tier members, while charging fees to lower-tier or nonmembers. Virgin Hotels Chicago, for example, uses a branded Wi-Fi portal to give fast access and collect guest data.

There are novel opportunities, too. Some hotels target a new category, “bleisure” customers, who are encouraged to lengthen stays or start stays mid-week. Indeed, 77% of remote workers would consider a work-from-hotel subscription. 

Security conscious

Wi-Fi security is critical if hotels want to target remote or hybrid employees. 

In 2020, 86% of organizations suffered at least one user trying to connect to a phishing site and 70% had at least one user served malicious browser ads. A future-proof Wi-Fi infrastructure addresses security by instantly detecting interference, vulnerabilities, and attacks across all channels. 

Smart spaces

Hotels can use the smart cameras and sensors installed for security to get insight into how people use facilities and spaces.

As sensors analyze traffic flow for efficiency and maximization of resources, data improves personalization and customization of everything from greetings to services. 

Take IT outside

Extending Wi-Fi into the grounds also extends the ability to serve guests. Some hotels have grown outside events, equipping servers with tablets that connect to the point-of-sale system.

Live large

It is a challenging time of great opportunity for the hospitality industry. High-speed, secure Wi-Fi empowers hotels to surpass guests’ expectations and delight them with experiences. Wi-Fi infrastructure does more than connect guests to work and home: it connects hospitality businesses to new opportunities for increased loyalty, incremental services, and profits.

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Manufacturers Have Spoken: They Want Smarter Spaces

Man and woman in factory working on laptop

Manufacturers have been focused on becoming more resilient as pandemic-related issues continue to disrupt production and supply chains. But moving forward, manufacturers cannot simply focus on a return to?the pre-pandemic normal. Digitalization and modernization of facilities is fostering a renaissance in industrial companies.  

To that end, Meraki collaborated with IndustryWeek, a U.S.-based publication specializing in manufacturing, to assess how this modernization is tracking. We sponsored a global survey with a focus on digitalizing physical spaces, which included nearly 160 respondents at the manager level in information technology and operational and customer support roles.  

Drivers for modernizing spaces

What is driving manufacturers to focus on spaces? Creating a more productive, safe, and healthy manufacturing industry has been an ongoing leadership priority for years. Additionally, the pandemic and its lasting effects have only stressed the importance of modernizing workplaces and accelerated progress. 

These priorities were reflected in our survey results. Providing safe environments for their workforce is a primary driver of manufacturers’ smart space journey. More than one-third indicated that protecting employees and spaces, monitoring compliance, and securely connecting from anywhere matters most. 

How can manufacturers create smarter and safer spaces?

As many manufacturers work to update their legacy architectures, they recognize an opportunity to future-proof their organizations. By combining Internet of Things (IoT) devices, advanced networking, and analytics within physical spaces, manufacturers can modernize to gain a competitive advantage. 

Here are a few ways manufacturers can make their spaces smarter:

  • Environmental sensors and smart cameras can help automate security enforcement so only the right people and devices are allowed access to restricted areas. They can also automate alerts when workers and staff are not complying with personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements, such as masks or hard hats, or occupancy requirements.
  • Wi-Fi 6, smart cameras, and sensors can help manage inventory levels, track assets, monitor contractors, and locate tools and mobile equipment to keep production moving.
  • Smart cameras enable smart mustering or worker–down alerts, enabling safer emergency evacuations, and can detect the impact of falls in hazardous zones.
  • Environmental sensors and smart cameras can help facility operators achieve sustainability targets by better managing energy, protecting critical equipment and assets, and creating a more comfortable environment for the workforce.

Why act now

Manufacturers must incorporate more automation and reduce complexity to better manage networks across distributed sites, address labor shortages, and ensure greater agility as environmental conditions change—in short, to remain competitive.

Digitalization and modernization mean more devices are connected to the factory network, creating an opportunity for manufacturers to leverage IoT technologies and data in new ways to reduce downtime, costs, and uncertainty.

To learn more about how manufacturers are approaching their smart spaces journey, please join us for a sponsored webinar with IndustryWeek. We’ll discuss the results of our recent research study and real-world smart space applications in manufacturing environments.

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