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Room cleaning macro with Cisco Webex Rooms

Cisco Webex Rooms in a new normal

Cisco Webex Rooms are not only fantastic collaboration devices, they enable you to bring intelligence to your meeting rooms, helping you utilize your meeting rooms effectively and safely. You may have read a recent blog from Cisco that discusses how a device can count people in a room and create alerts if the maximum capacity limit of the room is exceeded. The people count mechanism was created with the idea that you could optimize the efficiency of your rooms, but in this new normal it can be repurposed to help keep users aware of capacity limits.

Macros

One way the intelligence in a meeting room equipped with Webex Room devices can be harnessed, is through the use of macros. Macros are created on the device using standard JavaScript, providing access to the Application Programmer Interface (API) of the device, standard JavaScript functionality and even the ability to send or receive arbitrary HTTP(S) requests. This is how the functionality of counting people is transformed into an alert, when an administrator’s defined threshold is exceeded, and a macro performs an action. Taking this macro as inspiration, I asked myself what other functionality could add value to a room for both an administrator and a user?

One thing we know is that we have to adhere to strict cleaning schedules as we journey back into the office. How could a Webex Room device help advise and keep track of this? I thought that a way of helping administrators monitor room cleaning would be a good start. I used the User Interface Extensions Editor available from the web interface of the device and created a new button that appeared on the User Interface (UI).

Room cleaning macro

I created a macro (available here) that knows when the new button is pressed and records the timestamp of the cleaning event. I record this timestamp to a secondary macro so it is not lost if the device is shutdown, but this could easily be extended to send the timestamp via HTTP to a central database for administrators to monitor. Sounds great, but what happens if a user presses the button by mistake? The macro detects the button press and before recording the cleaning event it triggers a PIN dialog, the cleaner must enter a valid PIN before the macro will record the event.

This information on its own is valuable but I decided to extend it further. As discussed earlier, the device knows when people are in the room, meaning it knows when the room is vacated too. Using this information, it is possible to create a message on the screen that informs users how long it has been since the room was last used, of course this can also be sent to a central location too. Now it is possible to inform the administrator or user about how long the room has been vacant, when the room was last cleaned and how many times the room has been used since it was last cleaned.

Room available macro

Taking this approach, administrators are empowered with information to ensure their rooms are safe and users can have access to information that gives them peace of mind. The best part is, this can all be achieved with a Webex Room device and a little custom code. Macros and UI Extensions enable countless opportunities for enhancing the meeting room experience, have a go yourself and see what you can create!

Check out the room cleaning and usage micro

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Returning to work with Intelligent Room Capacity

Intelligent room capacity with people counting technology

I was discussing meeting room design and how to help companies make safe use of them once we go back to the office. One of the things you might want to control is the maximum number of people in a meeting room at any one time, so you need some form of people counting technology. Cisco has you covered!

All Webex Room, Board and Desk series devices come with intelligent people counting sensors directly embedded without any additional cost. These were first designed to help crop the image for video conferencing use cases like “Speaker Tracker” and “Best Overview”. But why stop there? Cisco has exposed these as APIs which can also be used to  track heads within spaces all of which is anonymous and opt in.

Webex Rooms built-in macro editor

At first I thought I would need to run extra systems to get this working and spend  unknown time and effort, then it hit me – Webex Rooms devices have a macro editor directly on the device which can solve many use cases. Every now and again you think to yourself “surely it can’t be this simple?” Well, in this case, it was. I already use the macro editor to control the lighting in my office at home and to make a light door change color whenever I’m on a call. Could it be so simple as to hook in the people counting API and perform some actions depending on the value?

I reached out to Dirk-Jan on Webex Teams, one of my colleagues who is known for his unpronounceable last name and amazing knowledge of Cisco API programming and asked “Is there a way to run a macro when the number of people changes”? Fifteen minutes pass and my screen fills with 20 lines of code “Try this.” Half an hour of testing of which the hardest part was to round up family members in our home to trigger the alert and it was done!

Webex Rooms devices: Bringing new dimensions to the workspace

It was almost too simple to be true – the Webex Room device can activate a macro every time the number of detected people in room changes, compare this to the maximum room capacity which can be set directly at the top of the Javascript file, and take an action accordingly. In the past, the device would only count people that were looking directly at the camera, but recent optimisations mean it will now also detect people regardless of which way they are facing. This truly unlocks a new dimension of how to use the device to add value within the workspace.

In less than an hour, I built an AI-powered application in a system that is already present in meeting rooms without requiring any additional equipment or licenses.

I reached out to the the Webex Rooms R&D team and we decided this was just too good to keep underwraps. So we have decided to release this code today on Code Exchange for free to use and modify. Allowing all administrators to easily provision and adopt to their needs without the need to go and find a developer.

Download the macro.

This is just one of many ways Webex Room devices can do way more than video calls. Check out device programming  and the great sample library on DevNet.

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New collaboration technologies and nomad-style workers have changed the office environment. Huddle-spaces and hot desking are taking over the traditional stationary office set-ups.
Working at the intersection of design, function and technology: Salamander Designs and Cisco Webex Rooms

Technology alone is not enough

Work spaces should be a source of inspiration. But they can also be a source of stress, frustration and can put a damper on productivity if they are poorly designed. Ever had a “work from home” day impacted by clutter, outdated furniture and half-painted walls? Yeah, me too.

The same thing goes for the office. You want an office environment that inspires productivity. Stepping and almost stumbling across a set of wires to get to your next meeting, only to find that the set-up is all wrong and you can’t even get everyone on camera does not set you up for a great start.

A company that knows a thing or two about aesthetically pleasing, functional furniture is Salamander Designs. They offer huddle stations, mobile stands/carts, videoconferencing all-in-one solutions, and more. Founded in Connecticut more than 25 years ago, Salamander provides furniture that effortlessly integrates with technology – and fully Cisco compatible! Today’s workforce requires more from their employers; not only do they want flexible working arrangements and collaboration technologies that allow them to connect with those who matter, when it matters, but they also want to be in an office that is beautiful and functional. We met up with folks from Salamander for a little chat about all things design, collaboration technology and changing employee expectations.

Working at the Intersection of Design, Function and Technology: Salamander Designs and Cisco Webex Rooms

“Most often,  our clients have two priorities. One  is all about function and another one is all about design, and we want to get it right and completely satisfy both concerns.” – Scott Srolis, Sr. VP Sales and Marketing, Salamander Designs.

Preparing for the unpredictable

New collaboration technologies and nomad-style workers have changed the office environment. Huddle-spaces and hot desking are taking over the traditional stationary office set-ups. These changes are often cumulative or unpredictable – and it can get very expensive. Chris Discotto, Director of Sales for Salamander Designs, sees their furniture as a labor-saving piece, creating flexible solutions that save money in the long run: “When offices get redesigned, you can simply and easily reposition the cabinet, which is much more affordable  and faster than traditional construction solutions. If you redesign the office, you just change the location of the furniture, and we can also change the design.” 

Work-life compatibility

In this day and age, the discourse is no longer on work-life balance, but work-life compatibility. One’s work and private lives are no longer seen as two separate entities where if one holds more weight than the other the balance is off, but rather as something intertwined. Salamander Designs have seen this shift in the demand for a more domestic aesthetic in commercial places. As Chris mentioned: “We have seen a reinvention of market and meeting spaces. Things used to be very grey, there was only a focus on function, not form. But we have seen that employers want their employees to be more comfortable, everyone is working differently right now with different technologies, so there is a need for furniture to reflect and accommodate that.”

There are many things to take into account for organizations that are redesigning their spaces, starting to employ room systems or are at the beginning of their workplace transformation journey. Webex Rooms are designed with the end-user in mind and has fewer points of pain compared to other meeting and endpoint vendors. Don’t just take our word for it, 23 Red Dot awards speak for themselves. The same goes for Salamander Designs’ furniture solutions. They are intuitive, practical and integrate effortlessly with technology and decor. This frees up precious time, so you can focus on what really matters – getting stuff done.

Or, you know, spend your time actually painting the full wall.

Click here to learn more the Webex Room Series can meet you video-conferencing needs

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