Archive for the ‘Company Blog’ Category

Mobile Device Management: Big Scale for Smaller IT Teams

man working on laptop and mobile device

Hybrid work models and the location flexibility they require are rapidly becoming the norm. Whether employees are working from an office cubicle, their kitchen, or a café in a city they are visiting, they will likely be using a mix of devices with a variety of operating systems (OSs) and versions. For small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), this new way of working makes it more important than ever to ensure that the mobile devices connecting to your network are secure and proactively managed.

But when your IT staff (if you are so fortunate to have one) already has its hands full, it’s a daunting task to keep track of the wide range of devices on the network, verify OS and security software versions, and ensure that employees have the right levels of access to company resources.

What is mobile device management (MDM) and how is it related to unified endpoint management (UEM)?

Any tool that better organizes and automates work is a boon to resource-strapped companies, which is why MDM has become an essential part of IT management. MDM provides management of both company-supplied and employee-owned mobile devices and ensures that they are up-to-date, secure, and do not put the company’s network at risk. MDM is a core component of unified endpoint management (UEM), which covers a broader set of endpoints such as printers, ruggedized devices, Internet of Things (IoT) sensors and wearables, as well as mobile application and content management. In addition to saving time, MDM and UEM result in more consistent user experiences and higher productivity for hybrid workers, while avoiding the security risks associated with unprotected, unmonitored devices.

Benefits of Cisco Meraki

Cisco Meraki has always been driven by a mission to simplify the lives of IT professionals with intuitive, easy-to-use tools and products. Meraki Systems Manager (SM) is a great example of how relentless focus can give SMBs powerful unified endpoint management. Using SM, you can securely onboard employee devices and push out VPN configurations, application updates, and a host of other configuration payloads at scale from anywhere. Already used by companies of all sizes around the world, it keeps company-owned and employee BYOD devices running smoothly and securely.

In fact, Cisco Meraki was recently named as a Leader in the IDC MarketScape: Worldwide Unified Endpoint Management Software for SMB 2022 Vendor Assessment. The report states:

Simplification is the overriding strategy and approach for endpoint management, with a specific tie-in to the underlying Meraki network infrastructure. This tight coupling of endpoint management with network connectivity is Cisco’s differentiation with Meraki Systems Manager.

– IDC MarketScape Worldwide Unified Endpoint Management Software for Small and Midsize Businesses 2022 Vendor Assessment (doc #US48325522, May 2022)

How Meraki Systems Manager helps customers

Meraki SM helps businesses be more agile as they implement hybrid and remote work environments with simple and secure device management. 

Here are a few examples of how Meraki SMB customers are saving time and improving levels of service while ensuring the highest levels of security for their devices, applications, and end users:

Swiss cable car company Zermatt Bergbahnen AG provides access to high-elevation destinations in Europe, including the Matterhorn.

  • Integrated mobile device management with Systems Manager allows simple control over company-owned devices, from enabling device restrictions to providing access to critical resources
  • Fine-grained visibility in the dashboard provides information on users, devices, and apps accessing the network, giving insights into usage and visitor numbers

Mike’s Bikes is a growing regional bike store chain with a simple mission—get more people on bikes!

  • One amazing IT manager supports the technology needs of 12 stores across Northern California
  • Systems Manager is used to remotely monitor, update, and troubleshoot in-store kiosks, inventory iPads, and tech department laptops, which are indispensable for the success of the sales and marketing operations teams 

Experience Meraki Systems Manager yourself and see how you can simplify the management of all the devices your employees use for hybrid work.

View the Meraki Systems Manager demo. Request a free trial of Meraki Systems Manager.

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Cloud-Managed Cellular: A WAN-derful Idea

Illustration, MG41 concept

Wide area network (WAN) access has rapidly evolved over the years, with its capabilities reaching heights never before seen. From multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) circuits and local on-premises routing to software-defined wide area networks (SD-WAN) and the proliferation of the cloud, the way we connect has unlocked new innovations. Businesses can now achieve more—with applications hosted in the cloud, connectivity for large numbers of users, and rich services that organizations can use to serve their customers and stakeholders. However, these innovations have also come with increasing demands on bandwidth, uptime, and ease of connectivity. This rings particularly true as businesses enter a mature stage of hybrid work, where the key enablers to getting things done are speed and simplicity. To that end, IT leaders are asking:

  • How quickly can I stand up and connect a new location?
  • How am I supporting my teams in remote or geographically distant locations?
  • What is my time to value in realizing a network deployment sooner?
  • What is my strategy for rapid multi-region expansion?
  • How will I manage productivity loss from disruptions and disconnectedness?

Cloud-managed cellular WAN offers businesses the ability to address all of these. In particular, its rapid transformation has now made it a preferred option for both primary and failover connectivity.

Greater resilience than wired broadband

Although unpredictable, one of the greatest challenges to organizational productivity is WAN disruption. Whether due to construction or deteriorating infrastructure, wired broadband can potentially leave a network without connectivity for days or weeks. Cloud-managed cellular WAN offers a potent way to get back online—dual SIM failover. The Meraki MG cellular gateway offers backup connectivity to another cellular network should the first one go down. This means you can capitalize on the strength of cellular as a primary mode of connectivity. A resilient connection is core to critical, always-on networks. 

Learn more about why the MG41 and MG41E are certified for use by America’s first responders on AT&T Firstnet.

Faster recoverability from connectivity failures

Cloud-managed cellular WAN has greater recoverability from connection failures. For example, during a potential network disruption, the Meraki MG cellular gateway will automatically recover as soon as it connects to an operational tower. Cellular connectivity relies upon multiple towers to transmit data over large distances and is thus less reliant on repairing physical infrastructure, such as underground cabling, than wired-only broadband connections. Additionally, networks can install the MG anywhere, indoor or outdoors, to optimize for cellular performance.

Faster deployability for branch expansions

Opening a new branch with wired broadband requires laying down new cabling, which can take weeks. Adding in the complexity of opening or connecting hundreds (or thousands) of branches at once means lost opportunities from being able to open sooner. 

Fortunately, cellular WAN makes it possible to get connected instantly. With cloud-managed cellular WAN from the Meraki MG, organizations can quite literally open thousands of branches all at once. With true zero-touch provisioning, the Meraki MG cellular gateway will connect immediately upon securing a signal from the closest tower.

What this means for the future

A cloud first platform is tailor-made to enable organizations to deploy and scale cellular WAN faster. With advancements in technology across cellular radios, modems, towers, and more, cloud-managed cellular WAN is now a viable option for primary WAN connectivity. Organizations need not choose between wired or wireless connectivity, but for those that do, cloud-managed cellular WAN provides the greatest opportunity to respond to market changes faster, deploy new edge-device use cases, and craft new experiences untethered to wired connections. Try the MG today.

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Manufacturing on the Edge: Securing IoT Devices

Woman on factory floor working on tablet PC

Securing data and devices has grown more challenging for manufacturers due to the explosion of Internet of Things (IoT) devices. The number of industrial IoT connections is expected to reach 36.8 billion by 2025, with smart manufacturing accounting for 60% of those connections.

Manufacturers utilize IoT throughout the plant floor—from cameras inspecting production lines to sensors monitoring environmental conditions to on-machine devices for predictive maintenance and productivity monitoring. A recent study found that almost half of manufacturing executives expect increases in operational efficiency from investments in IoT that connect machines and automate processes. 

Manufacturing gets SASE

But the benefits of IoT don’t come without drawbacks. With a variety of IoT devices and operational technologies, more computing workloads shift to the network edge where devices connect to the internet. This can create potential security risks.

An AT&T cybersecurity insights report shows that the primary cyberattack concern for manufacturers is attacks against user and endpoint devices—a worry cited by 71% of manufacturers. That worry is well-founded—according to Cisco Umbrella, manufacturing is the leading industry for cybersecurity ransomware attacks on endpoints.

In the past, manufacturers had to rely on home-grown solutions that were scattered throughout production environments to secure IoT devices. They weren’t connected and generally required time-consuming, tedious manual updates to maintain a strong security posture.  

Today, more and more manufacturers are looking at a platform approach, with cloud-based security and networking providing a more unified security strategy. Manufacturing respondents to a recent AT&T survey indicated that 50% are combining cybersecurity and network functions in the cloud, referred to as Secure Access Service Edge (SASE).

A SASE architecture benefits manufacturers by converging security and network connectivity. This centralizes policy and access control, simplifying the challenge of securing devices, protecting data, and continually enhancing threat detection and response.

Building more resilient manufacturing operations

A cloud-native platform with security at its core can help build more resilient manufacturing operations through stronger networks, automated threat intelligence, global scale, and simplicity of management. This platform approach to securing IoT in manufacturing environments should provide:

  • Resilience through visibility: IT and security teams gain a single view of their global networks and security policies, managed in a simple, unified experience, so they can identify anomalies, assess risk, and mitigate threats faster and more consistently.
  • Resilience through scale: With threat data amassed across millions of networks, security teams benefit from a global capacity to detect, adapt, and defend against new cybersecurity threats. These same cloud-management platforms are also battle-tested to handle the volume of data and devices required to effectively run sophisticated manufacturing infrastructure.   
  • Resilience through intelligence: World-class threat intelligence provides the expertise needed across networks, endpoints, cloud environments, virtual systems, and daily web and email traffic to protect against newly identified vulnerabilities.
  • Resilience through simplicity: Complexity is the enemy of security. Simplifying the relationship between data security, network security, and security intelligence can better protect the customer and encourage policy adherence by end users.

With so many devices continuing to join the IoT ranks, manufacturers need to prepare for what’s next with cloud-based network security. Learn how Meraki can help manufacturers future-proof their operations and become more resilient, and discover more about our SASE offering.

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Why Cloud-first Networking is the Future

Woman using mobile device

By now you’re likely familiar with cloud networking and may have even migrated parts of your network infrastructure to the cloud. But it’s time to move beyond experimentation and come to grips with the reality that your enterprise will need to move to cloud-first networking in order to thrive in an increasingly complex world where competition sometimes happens along thin margins. 

You may feel confident that your product is better than your competition and your customers know it. But competing at the margins means it’s not enough to only have the best product. Even the most recognized national brand of coffee shop can lose customers at the local level because the café across the street has better Wi-Fi (and an app to order in advance to boot!).

We’re all familiar with hype cycles in the tech space. Markets go crazy for the latest gadget or solution, expectations become inflated, early adopters become disappointed, and then the pragmatists swoop in to realize tangible benefits.

To those level-headed business and IT leaders who hesitated to jump on the bandwagon—don’t worry—your secure ride up the slope of enlightenment is boarding. Here’s what you need to know.

What do we mean by cloud-first networking?

We defined cloud networking in a previous blog post as a network where management and provisioning of network devices—as well as the storage and handling of most data—is done over third-party servers.  

But what do we mean by cloud-first networking? Simply put, when your organization is cloud-first it means that the majority of your network is cloud-based. This difference matters because many organizations have been taking a piecemeal approach to cloud networking, only migrating certain parts of their network infrastructure rather than making cloud networking the backbone of the entire enterprise.

To be clear, becoming a cloud-first enterprise is a journey where the most sensible way forward for many organizations is to start where they feel comfortable. But leaders should not lose sight of the end goal—a cloud-first network that delivers efficiency, automation, security, and intelligence at scale. 

What are the benefits of a cloud-first network?

Your legacy network and on-site data centers may be giving you warm feelings that come with the perception of control. But the reality is that your dated network is doing less favors for the enterprise than you think. Here are some of the key benefits that you may be missing out on by delaying a cloud-first strategy.

Efficiency and automation

Your IT staff likely manages geographically dispersed network devices, requiring a large distributed team or extensive travel between locations locally, regionally, or even globally. That’s costing you a lot in worker hours that could be better utilized.

With a cloud-first network, your team can manage all network devices from a single location via a cloud-based dashboard. With access to APIs, your team can build in automation so routine updates and maintenance can be done literally while they sleep. Provisioning and setup of new locations can be done remotely via the same tools, you just need one person at the other end to plug everything in. With all that time saved, your IT professionals can focus on innovating toward better experiences for your customers and employees. 

As an aside, cloud-first networks can leverage IoT devices and automation to better regulate energy usage in data centers—directly improving bottom-line costs and helping organizations meet sustainability goals.

Security and reliability

Your on-site network isn’t safe just because there’s a 24/7 security detail. In fact, networks built on old infrastructure have vulnerabilities that can be exploited by hackers, and keeping all of your data at just one or two sites poses inherent risks from physical threats. An outage or breach is only a severe storm or hacker away.

Compare that to the baked-in security and reliability of a cloud network. The best cloud vendors provide redundancies and fail-over across many data centers so that an outage at one site doesn’t impact your operations. They also commit to uptime service level agreements, so if you lose access, they lose money.

When it comes to security, the best vendors protect your data through a variety of means—segregating data by user, providing granular access control, 24/7 automated intrusion protection, IP- and port-based firewalls, etc. They also meet the most stringent security and compliance standards in the world, such as PCI DSS, ISO 27001, SOC 2 Type II, and FIPS. Vendors should also never be able to see your data, only the telemetry data needed to run your network. 

The bottom line is that keeping your network secure in the cloud doesn’t have to be difficult. Similar to financial institutions, cloud vendors are held to higher standards and scrutiny due to service expectations and regulations. You leave your wealth to the experts, so why not your networks?

Intelligence

To take the money metaphor further, think about the way that financial institutions are able to leverage your money to grow your wealth. In the same way, cloud vendors provide the tools and resources that enable you to get the most out of your network. Essentially, they make your network intelligent.

There are two main ways that a cloud-first network provides intelligence. First, network administrators are able to use built-in health tools that leverage machine learning (ML) to provide meaningful insights and trusted recommendations. This enables administrators to make informed changes to better optimize a network.

Second, the best cloud-networking vendors include as part of their offering a broad ecosystem of custom applications that provide additional tools, integrations, automation, configuration, monitoring, and reporting capabilities. These applications take the troves of data traversing your network and make them actionable so you can make intelligent decisions that increase revenue, performance, and productivity.

All of the above, at scale

The best cloud networks are easily scalable. The previously mentioned ease of provisioning and automation means adding new locations is a breeze, giving you the flexibility to quickly respond to market demands. That same technology makes it easy to quickly scale globally, add new capabilities, or change directions to meet customer needs. You can even combine IT and IoT to unify experiences across your operations. 

Cloud networks provide the agility needed to thrive in any business environment while also automatically responding to occasional traffic spikes, so your customers and employees can always access the online tools they need no matter where they are in the world.

Whether you’re in the business of selling shoes, making cars, loaning money, or providing healthcare, a cloud-first network provides benefits that can reduce costs and increase efficiencies across the board—giving you a better chance at achieving success.

Cloud networking without the hype

Part of the reason many enterprises have stalled in committing to a cloud-first strategy is because they or someone they know were burned by early vendors who over-promised and under-delivered. Packaged, one-size-fits-all solutions were doomed to fail from the get-go because each enterprise has different needs and is at a different point on their cloud journey. 

The right partner is one that will join you for the long haul. They will be a trusted partner that will meet you where you are and guide you through the incremental changes toward a successful implementation. 
Read our whitepaper to learn how the Meraki platform is the first step toward your cloud-first future—without the hype.

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Keep Healthcare Workers Safe to Help Protect Patients

healthcare worker on tablet PC

By bringing physical security and cybersecurity together, your hospital or pharmacy can strengthen its ability to deter criminal activity. A robust security plan offers a foundation for connecting the physical and cyber worlds through intelligence sharing, visibility, control, and automation. From deterring workplace violence, theft, vandalism, fraud, and accidents to improving medical device security to setting up a new care facility—there are countless scenarios where an integrated approach can reduce your risk of exposure so you can better care for staff and patients.

Healthcare facilities are easy targets

Medical facilities are considered high-density “soft targets” that generally have many physical access points, as well as limited security personnel in place. 

This makes hospitals easy targets for theft of medical equipment or the personal belongings of patients and staff members. In addition, unwanted visitors or other disturbances can cause unneeded stress to vulnerable patients.

Healthcare organizations are also attractive targets for cybercriminals because they historically under-invest in technology in general—security and cybersecurity specifically. Internally, hospitals have lower data encoding levels and smaller investments in security technology, resulting in poor management and protection of patient data. Reselling stolen health records remains lucrative for criminals, further incentivizing them to continue malicious attempts to extract data.

Hospital workplace violence and theft are on the rise

Whether it be between patients or directed at healthcare workers, hospital workplace violence is a continually increasing threat. More than 5,200 nursing personnel were assaulted in the second quarter of 2022, according to newly released data, while another study revealed that 55.6% of nurses reported having been a victim of violence in the workplace.

Theft is another challenge impacting hospitals. According to the Department of Justice, healthcare workers are just as likely as patients to abuse drugs, and hospital employees often steal controlled substances while on shift. Without a proper physical security plan in place, medication theft can cost the industry millions in losses every year. 

To address violence and theft, your converged plan should include taking advantage of cloud-based infrastructure, remote management, automated system processes, and triggered alerts. This enables teams to mitigate theft and violence by proactively monitoring hospital facilities to quickly understand a threat’s origin and identify those responsible. 

A strong cybersecurity strategy is also essential to safeguard physical security components connected to the internet, such as RFID key card door locks, video surveillance cameras, and smartphones—all common targets for criminals.

Cybersecurity breaches reduce quality of care and increase costs

A recent report showed that healthcare saw the costliest data breaches among all industries, with the average reaching $10.1 million per breach. Between 2009 and 2021, 4,419 healthcare data breaches resulted in the loss, theft, exposure, or impermissible disclosure of over 300 million healthcare records. 

Beyond these impacts, cyberattacks at hospitals can cause post-breach delays and interrupt time-sensitive processes for patient care that can endanger lives, according to a recent study. Researchers found that breached hospitals took a few minutes longer to provide EKGs to patients who needed them, increasing risk of death or serious complications.

While proactive security is necessary to prevent the damages associated with a breach, reactive security is also important. Hospitals cannot anticipate every possible threat. If criminal activity does infiltrate your security measures, data insights from your network and connected devices can enable reactive strategies to prevent repeated incidents. These can include after-breach damage assessments, a thorough investigation of outside attacks, and crisis management.

Create a safe and secure environment for patients, staff, and visitors

Physical security and cybersecurity solutions contribute to a safer environment by ensuring that patients are protected, clinical and administrative staff are safe, and hospitals can get on with doing what they do best—providing medical care to their communities.

Cisco Meraki brings a breadth of healthcare experience, innovative thinking, and technology-driven solutions together on a single cloud-based platform to address these challenges.

The result? By implementing forward-thinking, smart solutions, you can effectively address the inherent security risks associated with healthcare facilities and gain the flexibility to adapt to new challenges and future crises. To learn more, visit our healthcare industry and physical security pages.

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Balancing Privacy and Security

Balancing privacy and security illustration

Cameras serve a vital safety and security need, helping to deter crime, monitor remote spaces, and aid investigations. But they are also invasive by nature, so these benefits come with material privacy concerns. As camera deployments have increased due to new safety and security concerns, as well as new analytics applications, so has the need for privacy and trust.

In order to build trust with employees, customers, and the public, it’s vital for organizations to increase transparency and balance safety and operational needs with privacy concerns. To do this, organizations should consider a variety of factors, including:

  • Where cameras are placed
  • How video and analytics data are used
  • Who has access to the system and how it’s secured

Let’s explore these in more detail.

What do you need to see?

If you’re putting up cameras you’re probably trying to do something specific, like deter crime or figure out how busy an area gets. Understanding what you need to see helps you determine where to place your cameras. 

However, it’s just as important to consider what is adjacent to your area of focus and take steps to avoid capturing anything sensitive or private. When possible, angle the camera or adjust the field of view to capture only what you need to see. If that’s not possible, consider using privacy windows to mask those areas. Privacy windows with MV smart cameras allow admins to easily block sensitive areas in the camera’s field of view so that no video is recorded. 

Privacy window in action

Do you need to “see” it?

When using video analytics, the data is more important than the video itself. In some instances, the video may not matter at all, like when using cameras to understand desk and meeting room usage. Knowing how employees are using a space is valuable. It can enable hot-desking for hybrid work, increase employee productivity, and optimize the use of space, however, this use case relies on analytics, and retaining video raises privacy concerns.

An intelligently designed system can analyze video in real time, eliminating the need to store video and process it somewhere else. When placing cameras for analytics applications, like hot-desking, consider whether or not video needs to be retained. If not, configuring these cameras to not record video and restricting viewing access can protect privacy and minimize potential for abuse. 

Nothing (for you) to see here 

Once you have determined camera placement and video use, the final consideration is system security and video access. Organizations should make sure that video is secure to prevent unauthorized access by managing granular security and permissions policies for authorized users. 

When it comes to access, less is more. Grant users the minimum permissions required to perform their job duties. Which cameras does someone need to see and what do they need to do with the video? A security guard at a front desk may only need live viewing permission to access doorway and exterior cameras, whereas a loss prevention team may need to see all footage from a store’s cameras to conduct investigations. It’s also important to audit video use once the system is up and running. This helps protect against potential abuses by authorized users accessing cameras for unwarranted, casual observation. 

Securing video systems can be hard, but Meraki MV smart cameras make it easy by taking a security-by-default approach. Video is automatically encrypted, and cameras include a Cisco Trust Anchor module (TAm) for hardware security and firmware image signing (firmware is easily kept up-to-date via the Meraki dashboard). Additionally, there are no default usernames and passwords, SAML/SSO support streamlines the configuring of bespoke access at scale, and access logs provide an easy way to audit use. 

Let me tell you what I can see

Cameras are easily recognized by the casual observer. This is often by design, when the mere presence of a camera acts to deter theft because it means people know they are being watched. In some places, this is accepted, expected, or even welcomed, like at entrances, retail stores, or parking lots. But in other places, like workspaces, it may raise concerns, with people feeling rightfully wary about being on camera.  

In these situations it’s important to openly communicate the steps being taken to safeguard access and storage and protect privacy. Openly sharing the policies and security measures in place helps drive trust through transparency. Learn more about how Cisco Meraki is leading the way for security, privacy, and trust in physical security.

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When Sustainability and Finance Can’t Agree, Ask IT

Illustration, sustainability concept

Scott Wierstra is Senior Manager, Product Management IOT at Cisco Meraki

For many years, prioritizing sustainability initiatives pitted well-meaning environmental, social, and governance (ESG) leaders against their finance counterparts. Return on investment was often the bane of the sustainability manager’s day-to-day—how do you calculate the return when impact is nearly impossible to measure? However, recent innovations—along with increased global ESG risks—mean there are now multiple clear-cut winners when using the right technologies to deliver on sustainability pledges.

While sustainability and finance leaders may have competing priorities, success typically comes down to what’s being measured and how. In our era of data, analytics, and the cloud, there’s good news: quantifying this information and its impact has never been easier.

Look up

The timing has also never been better, given so many organizations’ ongoing and expanding embrace of cloud-first initiatives to power their transition into digital operations. The move away from paper, on-premises, and other manual- and cost-intensive resources complements both cost- and environmentally friendly strategies.

In fact, continued adoption of cloud computing could prevent more than 1 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide being emitted between 2021 and 2024, according to International Data Corp. This is due to the enhanced efficiency of cloud technology, which helps reduce data center emissions by more effectively managing power, cooling, and server usage rates. 

Love air supply

Organizations can decrease their energy consumption and related carbon emissions by 20-50% by using free cooling, hot aisle containment, ASHRAE guidelines, environmental sensors, psychrometric charts, and PUE monitoring.

Most of the energy a data center uses goes to HVAC, which cools the massive servers that otherwise could overheat and malfunction. Using alternatives—like outside air—defrays the cost to budgets and the environment. In fact, combining an economizer and free cooling can cut costs up to 60%, this Cisco Meraki whitepaper explains. 

For example, a global advertising company reduced the annual energy costs of one of its campuses by 27% after it deployed Meraki MT sensors and a free cooling economizer. The ad agency’s costs dropped to $134,000 from $183,000, according to the Total Economic Impact™ report of Meraki MT sensors, conducted by Forrester Consulting. 

Focus on customers

Combining multiple key priority goals can deliver impressive results. In the competitive world of financial services, that was the story at Campus USA Credit Union, which melded together a focus on customer service, a plan to enhance experiences with its upcoming branch expansion, and a decision to leverage technology to deliver these benefits. 

One key component was an environmental monitoring solution to ensure the back of the credit union kept running as smoothly as the front offices. Campus USA deployed the Meraki temperature and humidity sensor, the open and close sensor, and the water leak detection sensor in each branch location. 

Only months after this installation, the air conditioning was unexpectedly shut off on a Saturday. After a sensor sent an alert, the team fixed the issue. Without an alert, the equipment might have overheated and the credit union could have lost about $60,000 worth of hardware and been left unable to serve customers until the outage was remediated. 

Breathe deeply

Measuring and demonstrating air quality is becoming more important as fires, pandemics, and pollution raise public concern about airborne hazards. Businesses and government agencies are using proven technologies to improve transparency with stakeholders.

For example, the town of Opelika, Alabama, incorporated sensors into its smart city plan. The longtime Cisco customer installed dozens of sensors to monitor parking, nitric oxide levels, industrial park gasses, and water quality. 

Hold the rolls

Using smart cameras and sensors with a dashboard view across a cloud platform gives organizations the ability to see without necessarily—or physically—being there. 

This visibility empowers IT departments and managed service providers to monitor Meraki access, WAN, IoT, and Cisco access technologies in one place. This also supports sustainability efforts by better optimizing the need for travel to work on-site. This also frees up time to focus on higher-value activities. 

“As a network consulting service, the Meraki dashboard has saved us time on truck rolls and troubleshooting by providing quick and easy access and visibility into our clients’ networks,” says Brian Martin, Client Network Engineer at MCNC.

Lights on 

In politics, compromise often means a deal gets done but nobody walks away happy. While that may work to get laws passed, it’s not how technology implementations should go—certainly not successful ones. While we all wear many hats these days and have competing priorities, it’s also true that we can care about multiple causes at once. This is certainly true for sustainability. Thankfully, today’s technologies can support these initiatives in a way that delivers on sustainability pledges while making value clearly measurable.

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The Connected Campus and Digital Transformation

Universities and college campuses are moving beyond the emergency response phase of the past few years and onward to a new era of digital transformation. For them, the path of digital progression leads to the creation of the connected campus—one that both engages students with robust digital learning experiences and meets their expectations for flexibility and reliability at every stage of their education. 

The transition to digitalization future-proofs institutions against the ever-amplifying challenges of displaced students, inequity of access to education, stretched budgets, and ongoing closures.

Read on to discover how innovative technology solutions can address these and other challenges for the campus.

Future-proof campuses with a combination of IT and IoT technologies

The 2022 EDUCAUSE Horizon Report highlights technology as one of the key areas institutions should focus their efforts to facilitate successful, meaningful hybrid learning experiences. Sharing links, assignments, and feedback online has become the new norm—as is expecting a fast, secure, and reliable campus network

Beyond the network, faculty are being called upon to redefine instructional modalities using novel hardware like AR/VR and video tools to engage a dispersed student body. The classroom of the future incorporates creative ways to blend physical environments with virtual experiences, requiring the implementation of new hardware and an ecosystem of IoT devices.

IT teams are challenged to keep up as the number of devices—and the amount of bandwidth needed to support them—increases exponentially. 

Institutions like Virginia Commonwealth University, Albany State University, and Butler University are turning to cloud-based wireless solutions to meet their needs, in and outside of the classroom.

“If a student is happy in their dorm room and on campus, able to collaborate and speak with family and friends remotely, and don’t have connection challenges, they will have a better experience and get to their goal of graduating and earning a degree.”

Noore Ghunaym, Director of Infrastructure at Albany State University

Physical security and cybersecurity remain top concerns

Ensuring a safe, secure learning environment also means ensuring visibility on school grounds and an ability to resolve issues quickly.

Agile, intuitive smart cameras provide actionable insights with on-device storage and remote access, while environmental sensors monitor door activity in restricted areas and report on health metrics like air quality, temperature, and classroom capacity. 

Keeping in line with the now inextricable combination of in-person and virtual solutions, security in the cyber world is another concern. Education is by far one of the most affected industries when it comes to cybersecurity threats and susceptibility to malware.

Keep devices protected and data encrypted while enabling IT to spend more time on proactive security projects and less time and budget managing and troubleshooting security solutions.

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Overcoming the enrollment cliff

Institutions are attempting to get ahead of the impending enrollment cliff by enticing a digital-centric incoming cohort with creative recruitment tactics, attractive new technology programs, and flexible learning. 

One such example: colleges are launching esports programs at an increasing rate. Indicative of growing interest, the Google search term for “esports” has seen a constant uptick over the past decade as the “esports adolescence” is coming to college age. 

Hosting esports requires a high-density, reliable, and secure network to avoid latency issues or a maxed-out client limit. Using a full-stack solution with access points, switches, and security appliances supports a competitive student gaming center, as Cisco Meraki deployed at Illinois College.

The future of learning is cloud-based

Higher education has proven itself resilient by moving from pandemic-reactive technology implementations to proactive solutions. Digital transformation is at the core of maintaining a full classroom and an engaged student body. Using the Meraki dashboard, lean IT teams can gain complete visibility and control, valuable insight into network usage, and remote troubleshooting tools without increasing costs or hiring additional IT staff. 

Above all, university IT departments are looking to empower students in a safe environment. As you work on your IT strategy for the upcoming year, learn how federal relief and ARPA funding can help secure Meraki solutions for your team and ensure an exceptional, equitable, and sustainable student experience.

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Four Ways Technology Enables Retail Personalization

Retail worker swiping card at register

Despite record inflation and other economic pressures, consumers are heading back to stores ready to spend. According to Deloitte, online back-to-school shopping saw its numbers dip to 35% compared to 39% in 2021, with in-store shares increasing to 49% versus 43% in 2021. The approximately $661 spent per child this year—both online and in-store—is 8% higher than last year and 27% higher than 2019.

That return to in-person shopping is expected to carry over to the holiday season. Consumers and retailers alike are gearing up for the sales and the crowds, harkening back to the pre-pandemic days.

Personalization – the great differentiator

Personalization holds the key to delighting holiday shoppers with tailored experiences and enticing them to open their wallets. Research from Boston Consulting Group shows that personalization has the potential to increase transaction size by as much as 40%, a dramatic difference at a time when every penny counts. 

Retailers often use personalization with online offers, suggesting products or discounts that appear when a customer abandons their virtual shopping cart, for example. As in-store technology also continues to evolve, retailers can better understand their customers and mirror online experiences. 

In-store, retailers can leverage advances in Wi-Fi access points, smart cameras, and sensors to up-level brick-and-mortar experiences, simplifying store operations and making shopping more personal. From optimizing staffing levels to improving customer flow through the store, technology provides the assistance retailers need. And it can’t come at a better time, with more than one million retail jobs unfilled across the U.S.

Here are four effective ways innovative technology can help retailers personalize the in-store shopping experience.

1. Analyze customer behaviors

Using cameras within retail environments is nothing new—they’re basic tenets of loss prevention. But today’s smart cameras with on-device processing can provide deeper insights into customer behaviors to enable retailers to refine store layouts, adjust displays for optimal customer interactions, and predict—and reduce—wait times for checkout.

2. Gather demographic information

Smart cameras with advanced AI can help retailers gain valuable insights. Basic information like accurate customer counts can help ensure adequate staffing throughout the day. Retailers can also gather details to help shape customer experiences. Insights, such as learning that a certain subset of customers frequents the store at the same time each day, allow retailers to further personalize the shopping experience with special displays or events.

3. Improve signage accuracy

With electronic shelf labels (ESL), retailers can quickly and easily send details about items to digital sign displays via Wi-Fi, reflecting the latest pricing and product information. ESLs include colorful, eye-catching images, backgrounds, and logos, and eliminate the need for spending valuable time updating analog labels.

4. Manage on-hand inventory

Combining sensors, smart cameras, and Wi-Fi  helps retailers optimize inventory to ensure they always have what customers want to buy in stock and nothing is languishing in the stockroom. For those slow moving items, stores can push special offers directly to the customer’s mobile device to help reduce on-hand inventory and related costs

As recent statistics show, in-store shopping is poised for a return to pre-pandemic levels. Welcome customers back to your store with personalized shopping experiences, made real with cutting-edge technology, just in time for the holiday season. 

Want to learn more about other trends leading the way in retail? Download our Top Tech Trends in Retail ebook. Learn more about Meraki smart cameras with the new MV series.

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How Smart Spaces Power Better Banking

Woman at ATM while using mobile phone

In a world where customers expect 24/7 access to their financial accounts and services, you can’t take chances with your network. A single second can make all the difference between a successful transaction or a lost opportunity.

To remain competitive, financial institutions need the connectivity, intelligence, and security required to support multiple ways to get transactions to their destinations in the fastest, most secure way possible. 

One solution is to build smart spaces to help the business run as efficiently as it can. A smart space combines IoT with action within a physical environment. This means leveraging cameras and sensors to collect actionable data that can help drive meaningful decision-making to ensure a safe and secure environment

Smart spaces deliver secure technology that is flexible enough to address customer needs on-demand while operating on a sustainable, cloud-enabled infrastructure. 

Smart banks are built on the cloud 

A cloud-based network and management platform provides the best foundation to build smart spaces.

Underpinned by Wi-Fi 6, the most advanced and robust network protocol, IoT devices can be managed from one location—eliminating the complexity of integrating networks, sensors, and analytics for your enterprise, whether you’re an insurer, bank, or other financial institution.

Additional benefits include:

  • Teams can work more cohesively by utilizing connected data 
  • Deeper insights and analytics 
  • Enhanced collaboration through dashboards 
  • Increase decision speed at bank branches and on multiple devices 
  • Increased response times to outages and other disruptions

These benefits help maintain connectivity and security in an environment where most transactions are conducted digitally. With your cloud-based platform in place, you’re ready to leverage the full power of smart spaces.  

Actionable intelligence for future branches 

Adopting the smart spaces foundation makes it possible to leverage intelligence gathered from connected devices, helping to meet customers’ rising expectations and streamline operations.

With AI and machine learning built in to connected IoT devices, every touchpoint on the network creates rich, useful data that powers new tools and capabilities. For example, smart tellers can guide customer interactions and services while regional hubs can better optimize branch distribution and resource allocation. 

Early adopters can compete by upleveling their service offerings, creating  experiences that are intelligent, personalized and omnichannel. This ensures a consistent customer-focused experience that blends banking capabilities with relevant products and services beyond banking. 

Transform experiences with safety and security built in

Smart spaces help organizations bridge the gap between physical and digital worlds. This ultimately allows financial services organizations to deliver impactful experiences that exceed both customer and employee expectations, while fulfilling  promises of safety and security. Some examples include: 

  • Smart sensors monitoring and adjusting environmental conditions for a safer and more comfortable experience for customers, while boosting management and operational efficiency
  • Smart cameras providing actionable monitoring of movement and capacity across locations for a more secure workspace

These capabilities have the potential to increase revenue, cut costs, make operations more consistent, and improve worker retention, all while meeting constantly changing customer needs and maintaining the security of the network. 

By leveraging IoT to continuously monitor, measure, and proactively take action, organizations can turn any ordinary location into a smart space. Capitalize on smart spaces technology and be prepared for what’s ahead. 

To learn more, visit the smart spaces section of the experiences page or the financial services industry page.

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