Archive for the ‘Company Blog’ Category

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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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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Road Warrior vs. At-Home Hero

Split image of woman on train speaking on phone and man at home wearing a headset

Enabling remote and hybrid work has become a competitive advantage. Microsoft, Salesforce, SAP, and other tech companies have all created long-term remote and hybrid workforce accommodations, but it’s not just tech companies. A survey of 5,858 U.S. adults in October 2020 found 84% of those in banking, finance, and accounting felt the responsibilities of their job could be done from home, either full time or part time.

In a previous article, we discussed how to support a workforce that is expected to return to the office full time with cloud-managed WAN products, IoT cameras, and sensors. Let’s now consider how an insurer can provide a successful hybrid or remote workforce environment.

Bundle your workforce strategy

Historically, underwriters, claims representatives, and adjustors spent a majority of their time in the field. Yet their experience demands 100% connection to the network to secure sensitive data and protect devices and applications.

While eliminating a long commute or picking a few days to collaborate in person sounds appealing to workers, managers have many questions about creating a secure, yet flexible environment, such as:

  • How do we keep employees productive with cloud security and real-time network monitoring?
  • Can we secure sensitive data and enable employees to comply with industry regulations anywhere they work?
  • What’s the best way to protect users’ devices and computers whether they are in the office or not?
  • Can we resolve issues faster and expedite troubleshooting with end-to-end network intelligence?

Let’s approach these questions with two scenarios: an insurance adjuster who spends part of the time away from the office (hybrid worker) and an underwriter who works from home (remote worker).

On the road again

Our insurance adjuster is always on-the-go and requires the same security and collaboration control inside and outside company headquarters. Cybersecurity risks for hybrid employees are often a concern, since the workforce may be in or around unsecured networks. 

A Meraki MR wireless LAN device with the latest in Wi-Fi 6 compatibility, along with an MS switch and a Z3 teleworker gateway, ensures the adjuster maintains uptime and security. 

Out of range of a reliable internet provider? The Meraki MG21 or MG41 enable a hybrid workforce to connect through secure MPLS, broadband, or cellular networks.

Home is where the office is

An underwriter working remotely faces other challenges. A home office network must often compete with video game consoles, streaming services, or even online classwork. Enabling high-speed teleworking with resilient uplinks using wired and wireless LAN devices allows the workforce to communicate with customers and employees as clearly as if they were standing next to them.

All systems, check

Meraki Systems Manager completes the picture for either the hybrid or remote worker. Devices and data are secured with automated provisioning and policy enforcement. Additionally, the company’s operations gain complete visibility of network and application performance in the Meraki dashboard. Meraki Systems Manager allows for remote troubleshooting and Cisco Duo enforces integrated zero-trust security for all users, devices, and applications.

While Meraki’s platform can address networks of all sizes, financial services providers need to balance the customer experience with compliance rules for both health and safety protocols. To learn more about these and other remote and hybrid workforce experiences for financial services, request a free demonstration.

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See beyond Believing with Smart Cameras

Two women collaborating on desktop computer

As manufacturers large and small look to recover from the disruption of the pandemic, leaders are looking to digitalization to create the agile factory of the future. This trend will uncover new data sources from connected devices that can provide leaders with insights to help align operations more to the needs of customers.

One overlooked source that has emerged is video data captured by smart cameras. The potential applications for smart cameras have exploded with the progression of video analytics and increasingly powerful processors.  

Only recently, though, have manufacturers recognized the unique value that cameras can bring to warehouses, distribution centers, and factory floors. Besides obvious applications like monitoring for the theft of raw materials or perimeter security, here are a few additional ways you can use video intelligence to connect people, processes, and assets to keep your operations moving.

Machinery—friend or foe?  

Everything seems to be working fine until very quickly, it’s not, and production is stopped for 72 hours. There’s only a small window of time to identify if your equipment is working normally or if it’s on a downward spiral. Do you understand what “normal” equipment functioning looks like? How do the rollers on the conveyor belt move when 100% operational? As the functionality deteriorates, do you have a monitoring and measurement system in place, and can you report on it?

Identifying a preventative maintenance need before it is too late is critical. Your cloud-based smart cameras can be paired with third-party or custom software solutions to package video data into reports on a digital dashboard with real-time alerts. 

Health, safety, and compliance

Shockingly, about 150 workers die daily on the job due to hazardous workplace conditions. Most accidents happen due to a lack of guards and safety equipment, inadequate or inconsistent training to employees, or compromised safety. In a factory, keeping first-line workers safe can mean:

  • Identifying spills on the floor for quick cleanup 
  • Monitoring hazardous areas for proper use of protective gear 
  • Having exclusion zones and/or minimum staff for safe machine operations
  • Establishing lone worker safety protocols where an absence of movement is detected and triggers an alarm  

By pairing cloud-based smart cameras with new software applications that can solve for a variety of safety hazards, you can create a safer working environment for you and your team.

To learn more about how Meraki helps manufacturers, check out the Meraki for Manufacturing page.

Thank you to Meraki technology partner EveryAngle for contributing to this article.

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ICYMI—All the Tea from Meraki Network

If you didn’t already know, last week we had our first Meraki Network user conference. It was certainly a blast for the whole team at Meraki, and we hope that those of you who attended were equally engaged.

But, we know that to-do lists and calendar invites can get the best of us, so here’s a quick one-minute recap if you weren’t able to make it. 

So now you know that digital transformation is top-of-mind for everyone and IoT devices are about to flood the market. If you’re hungry for more, never fear! All of the content is available free on demand (yep, free!).

If you’re still not convinced, here’s what people in the Twitter-verse are saying. Feeling that FOMO yet? 

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The Midas Touch for Your Security Strategy

overhead view of three call center workers at their computers

This article was contributed by Meraki technology partner Openpath.

Security systems are an important investment, yet it’s often difficult to make the case for new technology until after a costly breach. By merging cybersecurity and physical security, your teams will be better equipped to navigate the emerging security landscape, adding significant value for your business.

Improve team and system efficiency

Efficiency in any department affects your bottom line, and the same holds true for security. When physical security and cybersecurity systems and teams work together, operations are more efficient and effective. Converging cyber and physical systems reduces duplicative efforts between teams by streamlining operations. Security convergence also results in faster incident response, which mitigates risk and prevents threats as they are happening. 

Streamline processes with remote access

Remote access to keyless entry system controls and video surveillance data saves time, reduces IT burden, and improves the user experience. Management teams having access from anywhere results in fewer calls to IT for time-consuming tasks such as provisioning, addressing lockouts, and configuring credentials. In addition, it eliminates the need for property and IT managers to visit the building to resolve minor incidents. 

Reduce costly training

While security training is essential for every business, it’s often time consuming and expensive. The right tools and strategies decrease the costs associated with training administrators and end users for new features or security updates. Intuitive cloud-based software requires less onboarding and recurring training. It’s also easier to scale, making the deployment of security systems and strategies to new locations faster, and simplifying onboarding through streamlining changes to staffing and headcount. 

Scalable, future-proof technology

Your technology is only as secure as the latest update. Bringing physical security and cybersecurity together makes it easier to identify and mitigate evolving vulnerabilities. Over-the-air software updates eliminate expensive upgrades and maintenance and ensure you have the latest features and security updates. 

Future-proof security technology scales more easily than on-premise models, which adds inherent value. A flexible strategy that keeps buildings and data secure through transitions is well worth the investment. With 81% of companies recently surveyed by PwC expecting to change their real estate strategy in the next 12 months, the value of a future-proofed system that effortlessly grows or shrinks to meet changing needs is clear. 

Cybersecurity and physical security that employs full-system automation has a measurable impact. As IoT devices continue to flood the market, fully integrated building systems and AI-powered intelligence tools allow organizations to analyze data and apply learnings quickly, with increasing accuracy to inform decisions. Automation frees up time and IT resources while strengthening sustainability, building experiences, and security posturing.
For a more detailed look at the impact of security convergence strategies, join our webinar on June 29 for a three-part discussion on emerging security strategies.

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Smarter Safety and Security

Overhead view of workers in an office

Safety and security is constantly changing, and it’s become even more apparent over the past year. Many customers turned to Meraki to help navigate various disruptions—everything from remote patient monitoring and vaccine distribution to detecting face masks and PPE and managing occupancy. Today, we’re introducing new tools and products to make it even easier for customers to create safer and more secure environments. 

The Meraki Vision portal puts video front and center

Fast, reliable video access is a core physical security need. In addition to general monitoring, users need an intuitive way to view camera video in order to respond to and investigate incidents quickly. The users who access video are typically not the same administrators who configure cameras and manage the rest of the network. To meet the unique needs of this user, we designed the Meraki Vision portal. 

The Meraki vision portal
The Meraki Vision portal

The Vision portal has the same benefits as the Meraki dashboard—browser-based, no software or plugins to install, and accessibility from anywhere—but it is designed specifically for the video user. The layout is optimized for video, with a collapsible left navigation pane that contains the camera floor plan and camera list, complete with thumbnails. This makes it easy to conduct cross-camera investigations and resolve incidents quickly. 

MV2 makes physical security and analytics easier

The Vision portal simplifies video access, and the new MV2 flex camera simplifies installation. The MV2 combines a compact, flexible, and easy-to-deploy design with enterprise-grade security and analytics, making it more accessible to small business customers. Wireless mobile onboarding and USB-C power speeds up deployments so customers can get smart physical security where it’s needed, fast. This simplicity also makes the MV2 ideal for organizations that are looking to expand coverage areas for ecosystem applications, like safe occupancy in the workplace or providing retail insights. Whether you need powerful physical security, smart analytics, or both, MV2 has you covered.

Continuing to add more value

In addition to the Vision portal and MV2, we recently announced new audio and occupancy analytics features in the existing MV smart camera portfolio. Audio analytics enable MV cameras to detect sirens and alarms and integrate with alarm systems, providing additional insight into the environment, enhancing security, and speeding response times. Occupancy analytics, available on the MV32, provide visibility into how workspaces are being used—including desk and meeting room-level data—to help organizations safely navigate their return to the office. 

The simplicity of Meraki smart camera architecture and the power of the Meraki platform offer the flexibility and future-proofing required to meet the needs of organizations, both now and for whatever comes next. Our robust partner ecosystem, with a variety of apps in the Marketplace, helps businesses get more from their investment. Visit our microsite to learn more about how MV cameras make your business safer and smarter, or check out the MV smart camera page to learn more about the MV2, the Vision portal, and new analytics capabilities. 

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