Archive for July, 2022

A Dedicated Cellular Lane, When Every Second Matters

Firefighters working on tablet pc

Public safety organizations—from fire, police, and campus safety to emergency response and disaster management—have historically faced four key connectivity limitations:

  • Bandwidth bottlenecks restricting information sharing
  • Long lead times to establish data at emergency locations
  • Infrastructure vulnerability in larger-scale disasters
  • Tight windows for response times in temporary locations

These organizations can unlock more capacity to serve and protect with new options for fast, robust, reliable remote access on dedicated public safety networks. 

Along with services like AT&T’s FirstNet, a nationwide cellular network dedicated to America’s first responders and public safety community, Cisco Meraki customers are transforming how they deploy infrastructure in times of need.

Robust emergency response with performance in mind

At any given moment, first responders face immediate life-saving decisions, and robust, dedicated connectivity is key. With LTE Advanced Pro cellular technology combined with a cellular band (band 14) dedicated to emergency response, agencies can share increasingly larger amounts of data. 

Combining those innovations with the Meraki MG41 cellular gateway—with Cat18 connectivity and a maximum download speed of 1.2 Gbps—ensures access to critical information such as dimensional data, exit paths, and established lines of sight.

The data can then be leveraged within augmented and mixed reality applications that improve response between command and dispatch centers to first responders in the field.

Built for IT professionals with robust automation and simplicity

Network infrastructure can be incredibly complex, but deploying and managing it doesn’t have to be. With the MG41 and the Meraki platform, emergency response organizations can stand up network infrastructure at scale without complexity or friction, letting teams focus on the critical tasks at hand. 

Even better, the Meraki dashboard can quickly provision devices in a matter of minutes and configure devices to give your first responders critical connectivity right away.

Provide primary, secondary, and failover connectivity to boost uptime

We live in a golden age of connectivity, but outages still occur due to construction, network congestion, faulty equipment, or damage to underlying infrastructure. According to one estimate, there are over 400 911 calls made every minute, making the need for uptime even more critical to ensure successful hazard response. 

The MG41 cellular gateway provides crucial WAN access to a dedicated network for emergency responders—FirstNet. Further, an MG41 can be deployed as a persistent secondary connection in the event that wired broadband fails. Combined with dual-SIM support for multi-network failover capabilities, emergency management offices can minimize their risk of exposure to downed infrastructure.

Empower first responders in the field with remote connectivity

First responders rely on accurate, up-to-date information, and there is often an element of uncertainty that can disrupt disaster responses. With a persistent cellular connection, emergency teams can stand up temporary locations to power information updates to specific applications such as communications or 3D mapping. 

Further, disaster response professionals on rescue missions can correspond with remote emergency response sites to communicate information via mission-critical SaaS applications, ensuring that providers have the right information at the right place and at the right time.

Build for the future in a secure manner

With Meraki MG41 devices now certified to run on AT&T FirstNet, response teams can transform the way they serve the public. And as SD-WAN trends evolve, combining the MG41 with SASE can unlock new possibilities for performance, resiliency, and security across these critical networks. 

Looking to accelerate your response and better support teams in the field? Try the Meraki MG41 today.

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Top Tech Trends Driving Retail Customer Experiences

two co-workers working on tablet PC in cafe

As consumer preferences evolve, retailers must adapt to the latest trends in buying behavior and adopt technology to meet customer expectations. Ignoring either could lead to empty stores, overflowing stockrooms, and low profits. 

How can retailers blend e-commerce convenience with in-person experiences to entice customers to open their wallets? Let’s explore three tech trends that are driving retail customer experiences and inspiring them to shop. 

1. Power better experiences for both shoppers and associates with Wi-Fi 6E. 

The arrival of Wi-Fi 6E has opened exciting possibilities for wireless connectivity for both shoppers and associates alike. Here are three benefits Wi-Fi 6E delivers in retail environments.

  • More bandwidth: Wi-Fi 6E enables retailers to deploy a wider range of consumer experiences that rely on network connectivity—think touch-free shopping and Internet of Things (IoT) solutions. Stores can also connect point-of-sale (POS), inventory, and other administrative solutions to the same infrastructure.
  • Faster speeds: Wi-Fi 6E devices can transmit data using the 6 GHz band, which has a higher capacity than its predecessors. So, there might be more traffic on the network, but it’s an upgrade from a two-lane road to a multi-lane freeway to accommodate it.
  • Improved security: With both consumer and store devices connecting to the network, security and data privacy is vital. Wi-Fi 6E makes this possible by mandating that all devices adhere to the latest cybersecurity protocols.

2. Deliver new experiences and insights with  IoT technologies.

With the benefits of Wi-Fi 6E comes the promise of the IoT and “smart stores.” A smart store uses pervasive Wi-Fi, smart cameras, sensors, and other IoT technologies to meet the demands of both consumers and employees, as well as improve the bottom line. 

These foundational technologies enable new experiences and insights across various facets of retail operations, such as electronic shelf labeling (ESL). ESL provides retailers with highly automated, data-driven, digital assets connected in real time to brands and consumers via Wi-Fi 6E and IoT technologies.

3. Deploy new technologies to elevate contactless retail experiences.

Wi-Fi 6E and IoT are also combining forces in another meaningful way—contactless shopping, the biggest trend to emerge in the past three years. Contactless shopping includes payment methods, curbside delivery, and virtual shopper assistants, among other experiences. A necessity during the pandemic, contactless retail is here to stay. 

A recent survey shows that 75% of consumers completed an in-store or curbside pickup in the past six months. As the demand for curbside delivery remains steady, retailers are deploying technologies such as smart cameras, computer vision, sensors, and automated license plate recognition to elevate the consumer experience. 

Get the scoop on all the trends shaping retail experiences.

Knowing the ins and outs of technology trends can help retailers stay ahead of fluctuations in consumer sentiment and deliver on future innovation, as well as deliver optimal customer experiences today.

For insight into additional trends shaping retail experiences, download our e-book, “Top Tech Trends in Retail.” You’ll get the inside scoop on how to make every customer interaction a five-star experience.

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Introducing a New Dashboard Landing Experience

illustration - simplifying complexity concept

Simple, not basic

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

– Albert Einstein

On its surface, simplification sounds, well, simple. As it turns out, simplifying complex technology is hard work that requires careful calibration. Build a management interface that’s too complex and it becomes difficult to use; build one that’s oversimplified and it fails to deliver meaningful insight or actionability. 

Sometimes, people associate simplicity with lack of capability. In reality, the pursuit of simplicity is a response to the growing complexity that customers are facing in their hybrid environments. As deployments become larger, more distributed, and increasingly complex, the value of simplifying the management and administration of that complexity multiplies.

Enter the new landing experience

rockets landing gif

The Meraki dashboard is changing—if you opted in to early access of the new dashboard experience, you’ve already gotten a glimpse into the exciting future of Meraki cloud management. The first place on the dashboard you’ll notice it is right after logging in—the new organization summary page. This page will help you identify which networks require immediate attention at a glance, which devices might be offline, and how to optimize your networks for best performance. It’s the fastest way to focus on what’s important.

Device health

Next up: device health. How many times have you had an important switch go offline? Or needed to verify that all your network devices are performing as expected? The dashboard’s new device health rollups allow you to quickly inspect alerting devices grouped by the networks they’re in. From here, an admin can quickly navigate to the network or directly to that device to troubleshoot.

Meraki Dashboard - device health

Top alerts

As we all know, there are plenty of other things that can go wrong with a network, like clients unable to connect, security events, or suboptimal performance. Prioritized alerts and guided troubleshooting flows will also help your teams resolve issues faster. In turn, you’ll free up time for more important things like optimizing network performance or planning for expansion as your business grows.

Meraki dashboard - top alerts

Help us help you

We want to hear from you. Tell us what’s working and what needs improvement. Share your utopian vision of network management. You might just get to see it come to life. 

  • Opt in! The Early Access page is available to admins in the navigation menu by going to Organization > Configure > Early Access 
  • Tell us what you think—provide feedback using the feedback tool, which can be found on the right side of the screen once you opt in.

If you don’t currently run Meraki, you can always check out the new UI on our instant demo.

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C-Suite Wants to Enable Next-Gen Hybrid Work

Elon Musk may not be a fan, but most executive leaders are embracing hybrid work.

Despite a handful of vocal high-level detractors, C-level executives at organizations large and small prioritize hybrid work almost as much as employees, according to an IDG Market Pulse research report conducted for Cisco Meraki.

Overall, the C-suite is perceived as placing a high priority on enabling hybrid work at 78% of organizations, the report found. 

To accomplish this, organizations are relying heavily on CIOs and IT teams. Top focus areas to support hybrid workers include enabling collaboration (52%), improving productivity (46%), and closing security gaps (40%).

Enterprises also are prioritizing application modernization (54%), security improvement (49%), and upgrades to collaboration tools (46%) to support employees wherever they work. 

Bumpy roads

Despite recognizing the value and importance of a hybrid workforce, 72% agree it’s “highly challenging” to empower workers to autonomously make process/workflow changes using current technology. And 65% said it’s extremely or very challenging to equip team members to work how they want, when they want, while also ensuring security and compliance.

More than half—or 57%—said it’s highly challenging to deliver consistent, seamless, and location-agnostic support for employees. 

It’s also most challenging to ensure parity for on-site and remote employees regarding technology access, according to 51% of respondents. Network security (47%), IT support (46%), and access to colleagues (44%) rounded out the top issues in this category of concerns. 

“Ensuring everyone feels part of the same team is critical, especially when employees are dispersed over geographies and time zones,” wrote Ryan Ansley, Senior Director of Digital Workplace and Information Technology at Meraki.

“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.”

Operational worries

Delivering high-quality employee experiences demands secure, reliable, and robust infrastructure. That worries many IT leaders.

For example, an increase in cybersecurity threats has been a primary obstacle to improving workforce experiences, according to 48% of respondents. IT skills and knowledge gaps (36%), lack of IT resources/budget (31%), and an inability to provide consistent IT support across the workforce (30%) were other major considerations.

Visibility across infrastructure and assets is also vital, IT executives said. The vast majority (95%) consider it highly important to have real-time intelligence regarding the technology environment as part of their strategy to improve workforce experiences.

Despite this, more than 40% reported it’s difficult to gather intelligence regarding networks, endpoints and devices, and cloud environments.

Perhaps this is complicated by their use of multiple, fragmented systems, as 94% placed high value on the prospect of teaming up with a single technology partner to compile intelligence regarding their entire technology stack.

Another reason to reduce infrastructure complexity is because many IT organizations continue to struggle with recruitment and retention. In fact, 77% saw increased employee churn over the past 12 months versus two years ago.

Comparative states

In general, higher-level executives (vice presidents and above) perceive their industry and organization to be ahead of others in pace-setting workforce and technology trends. 

Among those who responded, 29% saw their industry as significantly ahead of other industries, versus 41% slightly ahead, 23% on pace, and 7% lagging slightly.

Finding answers

CIOs are working in closer conjunction with the C-suite, boards of directors, and line-of-business heads, according to Gartner.

In part, that’s because 74% of technology purchases are at least partly funded by business units outside IT; only 26% of technology investments were completely IT funded. 

That’s not to say CIOs don’t oversee a lot of budget. This year, worldwide IT spending through technology departments could reach $4.4 trillion, up 4% from 2021, Gartner predicted.

Business units often team up with IT departments to make the most of their technology investment: for example, they may leverage one network deployment for physical and cybersecurity or upgrade to Wi-Fi 6E in order to leverage smart sensors and tags for a manufacturing, retail, or logistics business.

Technology budgets are spreading throughout organizations because technology itself is infused into almost everything people do. In tandem with their C-suite colleagues, CIOs and their teams ensure that the same capabilities securely extend to workers throughout the organization, regardless of location.

Most executives and employees agree on the need for and benefit of this more flexible workplace. The technologies to make the office of the future real are here, and IT professionals are the ones to make it happen.

CIOs at these hybrid workplaces encompass the basics of connectivity and cybersecurity, and extend into experiences that matter—experiences that welcome and nurture employees. They create environments where professionals want to work each day—wherever they choose that workplace to be.

Get a copy of the report here.

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An Insider’s Look at Cisco Live

When I went to Cisco Live in Las Vegas a few weeks ago, as a first-time attendee and a new member of the Cisco Meraki team, I discovered I enjoy my job and colleagues even more than I thought—a good thing, given we staffed a booth together for the entire week.

Beyond these initial face-to-face meetings with the great people I work with, I finally got to interact with some of the many Meraki customers I frequently speak to via Webex and email. Excitingly, I also shared a big announcement on the second day of the event. 

Cisco Live saw the debut of Cisco Meraki Insiders, a program for the most engaged Meraki customers. This invitation-only program rewards enthusiastic Meraki customers who earn  points for completing challenges. Not only can they trade those points for some pretty sweet Meraki swag, they can also expand their professional networks by meeting other Meraki customers around the world.

For the previous six months I had been getting this program ready to launch, and the day was finally here. 

About a week before I left for Vegas, I figured out a way to wear my passion for Meraki on my sleeve. Literally. I hand-embroidered a one-of-a-kind “Cisco Meraki Insiders” jacket that acted both as an icebreaker and advertisement for the Customer Advocacy Program.

In fact, it even caught the eye of company executives like Todd Nightingale, Executive Vice President and General Manager at Cisco, who had a pretty hectic schedule at the event. (Todd, if you’re reading this, I have more green embroidery thread: let me know what size jacket you wear.)

Sharing the love

As Head of Customer Stories for Meraki, I get to hear about some of the amazing ways businesses, government agencies, and educators use the technology Meraki and our partners develop. I frequently leave these conversations awestruck. 

Most recently I spoke with technology leaders from Clarks, a hugely popular shoe manufacturer and retailer that uses Meraki technology to power its brick-and-mortar retail locations and pop-up shops around the UK. I also spoke with educators at Langley School, a private K-12 educational institution that revolutionized in-person and virtual learning with Meraki Wi-Fi by reaching every inch of its 100-acre campus with wireless connectivity. 

And there are many, many more stories like this. 

Meraki customers are doing incredible things with technologies like the Meraki dashboard that allow them to simplify everything so they can spend more time focused on what matters the most: helping their own customers and community members.  

Saving the world

The final highlight of my first Cisco Live was the opportunity to lead a session on sustainability with customers and partners. They spoke about how Meraki empowers them to live their conservation goals.

As I opened the session on Thursday morning, something magical happened (or rather, #MerakiMagic happened). All 150 or so people at the presentation acknowledged how it would truly take all of us and our companies to come together to advocate for a more sustainable future. 

The mood turned reverent, and I realized that despite it being my first time at Cisco Live, and being new to Meraki, I belong here. I belong with these people who want to use our technology for better, who want to simplify the way they work, and who want to partner with Cisco to create a better future for generations to come. 

I had become an insider. We’d love you to become one, too.

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