In adopting digital transformation, businesses increasingly rely on connecting cloud-specific services. The ongoing pandemic has necessitated, and in many cases, speed this adoption. By leveraging technology, businesses are likely to continue looking for ways to improve efficiency, and reduce costs, as they navigate these difficult times.
Cisco Meraki Cellular Gateway (MG) is built to address the growing demand for operational reliability and business continuity across industries. MG allows for better performance, quick provisioning, high availability, and redundancy in providing cellular wireless WAN connectivity to geographically dispersed networks.
As businesses are starting to take advantage of the advancements in cellular technology, we’re empowering them to be scalable. The shift towards the distributed application model, workforces, and software-defined technologies is leading to the increased need for API access to the network. The good news is that MG can be configured and managed using the Meraki Dashboard API!
What can the Meraki API do for your cellular WAN connectivity?
Through automation and integrations, the Meraki Dashboard API for MG enables scale, growth, and future-proofing.
IT teams can add new organizations, administrators, cellular networks, and MG devices across thousands of locations in minutes with an automation script. By automating network provisioning and bulk configurations, IT teams can minimize manual and routine tasks, freeing up time to work on more important things such as optimizing for better performance or developing modern apps. The Meraki Dashboard API also offers flexibility in cloning sites or developing templates to help you get MGs deployed easily.
Much of configuration-related set up such as DHCP, LAN, port forwarding rules, subnet pool, and uplink settings, entails repetitive tasks and is prone to human error. Network administrators spend a lot of time on these repetitive configuration and monitoring tasks that can be automated and made error-free using APIs. With MG, customers can do so via APIs to avoid manual error and service downtime—significantly reducing the management workload.
With the Meraki Dashboard API, one of our retail customers was able to rapidly automate deployment and provisioning at more than 2000 distributed locations nationwide. The resulting streamlined operations reduced overhead and costs for them.
Integration and future-proofing
The potential of the Meraki Dashboard API goes beyond faster, seamless, and cost-effective automation. Meraki API services are easy to use, easy to train staff to program with, and ripe for technology partners to continue to build native integrations on top of. For growing businesses, using these API services can significantly increase speed-to-market.
The Cisco Meraki Dashboard API is a RESTful API that uses HTTPS requests to a URL and JSON as a human-readable format. So, what does this mean for our customers? This higher software programmability using structured network data makes it easier to integrate with business logic systems. When building APIs, they can choose from a larger pool of skilled resources. Businesses can build their dashboard for store managers or specific use cases, allowing them to quickly add new services.
Lack of end-to-end visibility is problematic when troubleshooting network issues such as high latency and jitter. By monitoring the cellular connectivity and signal strength of MG devices through APIs, IT teams can save hours of troubleshooting. Meraki APIs make our platform extensible and allow you to be agile in responding to quickly changing business needs. Meraki offers a comprehensive platform that complements out-of-the-box management and analytics for Wireless WAN deployments with the integrations and solutions powered by Meraki APIs.
Organizations across industries are eager to build their Wireless WAN infrastructure on the Meraki platform and some of them already have a head start with our new product line – MG Cellular Gateway. MG provides a solution for optimal cellular signal strength. It gives our customers the flexibility of pairing MG with any Meraki or Cisco ISR/vEdge router or 3rd party router to provide another uplink for SD-WAN, or as a failover or primary link.
MG was only launched a couple of months ago and we’re already releasing new features. There is no better way to see these features in action than to try it out for yourself.
Quick network diagnosis
We’re always seeking to provide capabilities that truly add value to our customer’s business. For cellular troubleshooting, customers have frequently told us how challenging it can get without any visibility into the signal characteristics at their site. This lack of control leads to them taking a hit on business functions that rely on cellular signals.
MG users can now take advantage of this data within the Meraki platform to quickly diagnose what’s affecting cellular connectivity, or what led to performance degradation, through historical stats— signal strength, latency, and loss—that are visual and easy to interpret. By knowing how cellular connectivity is at certain sites at any given time, it’s simple to get to the root cause of network issues. Easy monitoring of live data along with the signal level, signal quality, and connectivity data could potentially save hours of troubleshooting.
It gets even better with an API-driven architecture. MG can be managed completely through APIs, giving customers the flexibility of custom reporting and integrations that they need. Stay tuned for more updates!
How to access
From your Meraki dashboard, go to Monitor->Cellular gateways; select the MG for which you’d like to get the health data, and then go to Uplink from the menu bar. Scroll below to view the historical and connectivity data as far as 30 days in the past.
As Meraki users are well aware, one of the benefits of the cloud management is seamless updates. We talked about the security benefits of automatic firmware upgrades in our recent blog post, “Security Starts with Simplicity.” Another advantage is getting new features and functionality without doing any extra work. Starting today, MV smart camera users have access to several new and upgraded features designed to make the solution even easier to use, and offer additional value.
Timeline Navigation Changes
The timeline may not be something people think about as a feature, but it’s a core part of how users interact with video. Our goal has been to make that experience as simple as possible. Natural language processing is one example of this — users can type in “yesterday evening” or “a week ago at noon” to access to the corresponding video. Now, users have new options for fluidly navigating the timeline using the scroll wheel on a mouse or the equivalent controls on a touchpad:
Zoom in and out by scrolling on a mouse.
Move forward or backward in the timeline bar by swiping on a touchpad, or shift+scroll on a mouse.
Finally, in a motion search, slider bars will appear on the timeline to indicate the time range for the results. Search results default to the middle 50% of the current visible timeline bar, and can be adjusted by moving the slider bars or changing the start and end date selectors above the motion search results. Refer to our documentation for more information on timeline navigation.
Motion Alerts 2.0
Motion alerts was one of our most requested features post-launch, and our engineering team granted that wish early last year. Alerts could be scheduled, and configured for the full frame or area of interest. When Motion Recap was released, images were included with motion alert emails to make alerts easier to understand. But our engineering team wasn’t going to stop there. They’ve been working on ways to make motion alerts better by making them more meaningful, and potentially reducing the frequency of false alerts.
Motion alerts 2.0 offers new tools to select motion sensitivity levels and multiple areas of interest, allowing for greater flexibility. The average expected motion alerts per day are now displayed in the dashboard, making it easy to understand the impact of any configurations made. For more information, check out our motion alerts documentation.
With this new release, MV smart cameras are getting a little smarter. In 2018, we announced advanced analytics with people detection. Now, using the same ML/AI capabilities, MV cameras will be able to detect vehicles in the frame of the camera. The vehicle detection model will be enabled on outdoor cameras (MV72), and vehicle count information will be displayed in the dashboard in the same format as people count is today.
The ability for the camera to detect vehicles opens a variety of new applications. In addition to being able to discover motion events with vehicles more quickly, vehicle traffic and trends can be easily monitored in areas like parking lots or garages. Vehicle detection data is also available via the MV Sense API, allowing for custom integrations and applications. Check out our MV Object Detection documentation article for more information on vehicle detection.
Camera Field of View in Maps
Rounding out the list of new features is an enhancement to maps and floorplans. In December 2018, we added cameras to maps and floorplans. Now, the camera field of view (FoV) can be displayed for easy reference. The MV32 (fisheye) camera view is indicated by a circle, while other models will have a directional triangle. Simply use your mouse to position the FoV as needed. You’ll find more information about placing cameras in maps and floorplans in our documentation article, here.
How will you use the new features with your MV camera deployment? Share your plans and let us know what you think in the Meraki Community!
Organizations are rich with information sources, from point-of-sale solutions and IoT sensors to camera systems and wireless access points. This data promises to optimize workplace processes and improve services by offering insights into customer behavior. But to truly take advantage of these benefits and make data-driven business decisions, organizations must find a way to connect their various data sources, presenting a complex challenge that can be difficult to execute in reality.
Miami-Dade Public Library System (MDPLS) is one organization that has figured it out. MDPLS started with an ambitious goal — to provide personalized, relevant, and timely experiences to more than six million annual visitors across their 50 library branches in Miami-Dade County, Florida. To do this, MDPLS needed to understand unique differentiators about each library, such as how many guests they served, when the busiest times were, and what services were the most popular. By using APIs in combination with data and analytics, they were able to collect this valuable information and turn it into actionable insights.
In order to identify the personalized services and content required at each library, MDPLS needed to determine what data sources to pull from. The wired and wireless network was one clear choice to gather insights into how the different libraries were being used. However, with a lean IT team and tight government budgets, a complex networking solution that required additional analytics tools and resources couldn’t be justified. The small team needed a comprehensive, easy-to-manage solution that could provide the reliable connection visitors expected, while also providing data and analytics to improve library experiences. The MDPLS team was able to meet these requirements by implementing Cisco Meraki cloud-managed access points and switches. The browser-based Meraki dashboard enables complete visibility and control with the entire network being managed from one place, simplifying day-to-day maintenance and troubleshooting.
However, collecting network data was just the first step. The IT team then needed to decide which other IoT or connected devices they wanted to implement to collect additional data. The MDPLS team started this next phase with Meraki MV smart cameras. Like the rest of their Meraki products, the cameras are managed through the same cloud-based dashboard, streamlining the management of all their IT devices. The added benefit of on-camera storage also eliminated the need for a network video recorder (NVR) and its associated software, greatly simplifying the deployment and ongoing maintenance for the IT and facilities teams.
Above all, the most important element of the smart cameras for MDPLS is the built-in machine learning-based analytics. This enables the cameras to anonymously detect and count people, find incidences faster and with more accuracy, and understand where people are moving throughout specific areas, without additional software, servers, or complex configurations. By setting up a camera at each library entrance, the MDPLS team can better understand the number of people entering and exiting throughout the day and learn the overall number of library visitors. Additional cameras throughout the libraries help MDPLS understand what library services are being used and what content is the most popular based on where people are moving and congregating.
In addition to their Meraki access points, switches, and cameras, MDPLS had additional data sources to consider, including book checkout machines, library-owned computers, and more. In order to take advantage of these different data sources, they needed to find a way to collect the data in a digestible format. Using the Meraki API, the team pulls relevant data from the access points, switches, cameras, along with library data, into a cohesive, custom-built dashboard that shows important information about the library system. By having insight into this data, including how many people are visiting each library, the number of people that are using the Wi-Fi on their personal devices versus the library computers, what types of books are being checked out, and what other library resources are being used, the MDPLS leadership is able to determine what additional services and resources their visitors may need. This, in turn, helps to inform them where budget adjustments or additions are needed. With 50 different libraries spread across a very diverse area, being able to ensure the needs of each branch are being met is key to the library system’s success.
To learn more about theMDPLS Meraki deployment and how they are using data and analytics to make decisions, watch the webinar recording with Julio Campa, Systems Support Manager for MDPLS. You will see a live demo of their Meraki dashboard and hear some great insights into their deployment. Watch now.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Now imagine along with each motion alert you receive from the Meraki dashboard, you simultaneously obtain a snapshot image from the camera feed to validate the cause of the trigger. Or perhaps you just want to call up a snapshot from your camera because you got word of pesky gnomes drinking tea in your coffee bar… again.
While you may not be trying to catch gnomes sharing a cup of tea together, the power of a picture extends into multiple situations and use cases. You can improve site visibility by accessing a snapshot of your camera feed on-demand from a simple text message, improve video analytics capabilities with third-party API integrations (click here for a cool example), or validate a motion alert with an attached image of the trigger event in your email notification. All of this and more is possible with the new Meraki MV Snapshot API.
The Snapshot API is a new RESTful API endpoint available through the Meraki dashboard that allow you access to a screenshot from your live or historical video. Once enabled, your application can find your camera through an HTTP POST request specifying a unique network ID and serial number. The camera will respond with a snapshot and expiration date after which the image will no longer be available.
Setting up the Snapshot API
How do you get started? Like otherMeraki dashboard APIs, API integrations begin by enabling your organization’s Meraki dashboard API access. If you haven’t already, do this by navigating to Organization > Settings, and clicking the checkbox to enable access to the dashboard API. Now, navigate to your profile page by clicking on your account name in the top right corner and selecting My profile. Find the section labeled API access and generate a new API key.
Once generated, you can use the API key in your application and submit an HTTP POST request to generate the snapshot of your choosing.
The Snapshot API has many applications, opening a huge array of cool use cases restricted only by your imagination. Get started by accessing MV API documentation and let us know how you plan on using this new API in the Meraki Community pages.
A little over a year ago, Cisco Meraki launched a brand new product category and expanded its portfolio to include security cameras. The introduction of MV brought a revolutionary architecture to the physical security world, placing video storage and processing onboard each camera. Today we are announcing MV12, representing the next leap forward in security cameras and advanced video analytics.
Unlike many other video analytics solutions that require bulky servers, expensive software, and oftentimes dedicated camera hardware to operate, MV12 stays true to Meraki’s core values by offering an all-in-one solution. By taking advantage of the same hardware that powers many of the world’s smartphones, and placing one on every single camera, the heavy lifting of analyzing video happens at the edge–not in the cloud or on a server.
What does this mean in terms of functionality? At launch, MV12 will already be implementing machine-learning-based computer vision, which are just fancy words describing the cameras’ ability to detect people (not to be confused with “facial recognition,” which ties images to unique identities) and get more accurate over time. MV12 uses this functionality as the foundation for tools like people counting. But best of all, this is just the starting point for a multitude of functionalities that can be implemented on the MV12 platform.
Plus, the same standard license introduced with MV21 and MV71 gives users access to every part of the dashboard, providing not just the analytics piece but also the ability to configure, manage, and monitor a global deployment of cameras from anywhere in the world. This makes MV12 extraordinarily scalable, efficient, and cost effective for a multitude of deployments.
The new product family also brings an exciting laundry list of additional hardware features and enhancements:
Security cameras can serve a multitude of different functions, from providing live footage to a security guard, to analyzing customer behavior in a retail location, to supplying evidence in a liability claim. With each of these use cases comes a different retention policy. Scheduled recording and motion-based retention, both available in public beta now, allow users to customize their camera settings to match their specific retention needs.
Hot on the heels of some otherproductimprovements in just the last couple of months, the engineering team has worked tirelessly to produce features that would help accommodate the most commonly received request from MV customers.
Scheduled recording minimizes extraneous recording for customers who only use cameras during certain hours—think process controls in a factory—with the potential to greatly extend storage duration. Plus, scheduled recording can be used to disable historical footage altogether in instances where only live footage is needed and/or permissible.
Motion-based retention works differently than other motion-based recording solutions on the market. Instead of triggering a camera to record only when it senses motion, which can often result in false negatives and lost footage, MV uses a hybrid cloud processing approach to give a more reliable result. MV will record all footage and then, using the same motion indexing engine as the Motion Search tool, will gradually and intelligently trim segments of footage which contain no motion. This gives users the flexibility to retain the most recent 72 continuous hours for extra security before trimming out the motionless video. This approach also means that motion-containing video segments can be better padded to ensure no valuable footage is lost.
Based on the motion data from all cameras that have been deployed since launch in October, 95% of MVs are expected to record 30 days or more at Standard image quality.
To enable schedules and motion-based retention, simply choose a camera and go to its settings page. Select the “Quality and Retention” tab. To create a new schedule, select “Scheduled” and “Change Schedules.” Select an already-created schedule te mplate, or “New schedule.” Then, just drag the time sliders to adjust when cameras are recording. Click on any timeline to create multiple recording segments in one day.
Motion-based retention can also be enabled on this page. The chart on this page shows how much motion that specific camera actually captured in the past week. Based on an average of the same time period, the dashboard will provide an estimate of the total retention capacity for the selected camera. Adjusting the image quality from Standard to Enhanced will also affect this value. Use scheduled recording in conjunction with motion-based retention to build the retention plan that works best for you.
Finally, video exports now feature timestamps embedded as watermarks. This small-but-mighty feature update will help provide users a more robust experience, should video need to be shared as evidence with law enforcement. Timestamps include the camera name, date, time, and timezone to ensure absolute clarity when reviewing footage.
Optimized retention is now available in beta. To take advantage of this functionality in your network, go to Network-wide, then click General. At the bottom of the page, select “Yes” in the dropdown menu next to ‘Try beta firmware.’ Please proceed with caution, however, if your cameras are housed in a combined network, as enabling this setting will apply to all device types in that network, not just cameras.
If you still haven’t gotten your hands on an MV trial, be sure to contact us to learn more.
If you noticed a new tab that says “Analytics” pop up in your Cisco Meraki MV dashboard last week, you weren’t dreaming. MV has officially taken its first step into the video analytics world.
Specifically, the MV team is delighted to announce the launch of heat maps, which will give customers valuable insights into customer behavior, school safety, and more. Staying true to one of the team’s core principles which drive product decision making—business value through intelligence—developing heat maps is just the first step in delivering advanced analytics tools to our customers.
Heat maps show an overview of the last week’s worth of motion data, on a per-day basis, giving insight into how a space is being used by students—are they using the playground equipment on the weekends?—or how customers are moving through a retail store location.
Most importantly, as with all Meraki products, cloud management means that every existing MV user will now automatically have this heat map tool available to them (as a public beta): no software installation, payments, or configuration required. Simply log in to your dashboard account to try it out for yourself.
Meraki’s CMX presence API enables organizations to extend the functionality offered by Meraki location analytics. In this mini-series of blog posts, we explore the capabilities of some of our technology partners that integrate with the API. In our previous spotlight we covered Euclid Analytics and their capabilities with Meraki WLAN devices. In this blog post we take a look at Turnstyle.
Turnstyle’s WiFi marketing platform offers customer engagement, loyalty, and analytics capabilities that enable retailers to learn actionable insights about on-premise customers. This can be used to send real-time messages, coupons, and rewards directly to customers’ smartphones, without the need for a mobile app; thereby increasing customer engagement and loyalty.
Customer case study
A restaurant chain deployed Meraki with Turnstyle integration in 54 locations to learn about customer trends, to generate marketing lists, and to create a location-based marketing platform. This was then used to reward customers for their loyalty in an effort to increase visit frequency, and to re-engage with customers who had not visited for over a month.
Over four months, the restaurant chain generated over 12,000 customer opt-ins for marketing communications via email, SMS, and Facebook. Over 30% of the client’s marketing communications were read by its customers, and ~18% of all coupons delivered through the Turnstyle platform were redeemed. The contextual messaging had a dramatic impact on customer loyalty and visit frequency, which increased by 70% and resulted in an ROI of over 15x.
The Turnstyle platform
Turnstyle’s platform consists of three components that integrate into a Meraki WLAN network:
Audience Insights uses Meraki wireless APs to passively monitor customer foot traffic and trends. This information can be used to make operational decisions on things such as staffing schedules, marketing strategies, and customer rewards.
Social WiFi gives business owners the ability to offer customers a gated WiFi network, eliminating the need for cumbersome passwords. Meraki offers extremely simple out of the box integration with Facebook WiFi, but for customers needing Facebook, Google, Twitter, and email simultaneously, Turnstyle Social WiFi offers a solution.
Engagement provides business owners with the ability to set up location-based messaging to interact with customers in hyper-contextual ways. Turnstyle makes it easy to reward customers for their loyalty by enabling coupons to be sent based on visit frequency, or to help businesses re-engage with customers who haven’t visited a venue within a defined time-period. With all Meraki WLAN devices connected to a single cloud infrastructure, this engagement can stretch globally wherever you have a Meraki device.
Meraki wireless customers can sign up for Turnstyle by visiting this page. No additional hardware is required, and you can be up and running in less than 10 minutes. Cisco Meraki’s CMX location analytics is available today for all customers, with bespoke functionality enabled by the API and our technology partners. Visit our documentation portal for further information on CMX analytics and our API.
All Meraki wireless products offer out–of–the–box, easy to use location features as part of Cisco’s location analytics technology, Connected Mobile Experiences (CMX). With CMX location analytics it’s possible to determine important business metrics such as how many people enter your location, how long they stay, and how frequently they visit.
Adding no additional cost, thanks to the Meraki all-inclusive licensing model, this data has become available to many organizations that could not typically justify deploying when there was an additional cost. This has led to innovative uses of the location data that has enabled smart city initiatives, and allowed educators to understand student movements.
An important component of empowering this creative use of CMX location analytics was the release of an Application Programming Interface (API). This lets organizations have access to the raw data used by the Meraki dashboard. With access to the raw data there are some major benefits. The first is that no data is summarized and full device identities are included, facilitating lookup by other applications, like CRM. The second is that the data is provided offered with only a short delay between it being created and presented to the API.
Thus the API allows for highly advanced software systems to be developed that are location and identity aware. User identity can be linked to devices, location awareness becomes bound only by the geographical dispersion of your access points (AP), and software systems can make decisions within a time span that is relevant to a device’s location.
One of the downsides of providing raw data is that it can be complex to manipulate for the application developer. For this reason, the engineering team at Meraki developed a second generation API and open source example code. The version two CMX API can be selected in the Meraki dashboard and offers X,Y coordinates and latitude and longitude values. With the first API, radio signal strength values are provided for trilateration of a devices location. Further details on what is available in the API can be found in the documentation here.
To hear more about the development of the location API, and possible uses of the source code, then you can do so by listening to the above podcast with George Bentinck (Solutions Architect) and Nathan (Member of Meraki technical staff).
If you are interested in building an application with Meraki location information, then it is worth checking out our example code on GitHub here. This provides a great way of getting started with the CMX API and can form the base of your future projects. You can try an application based on this code, with live data from the Meraki offices in San Francisco, by following this link, or by viewing example output data here.