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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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See all the Webex RoomOS releases

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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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Unpacking the power of huddle space to enhance team collaboration
Unpacking the power of huddle space to enhance team collaboration

The 24×7 digital economy we operate in today requires us to do things better and faster. Hence, we often hear that “agility is the new currency of business.” As companies look for ways to be nimbler and derive a sharper competitive edge, one of things that gets overlooked is the way they enable their smallest teams. Enter the age of the huddle.

In our upcoming webinar, Unpacking the Power Behind Huddle Spaces, we’ll talk about the popularity of open workspace environments, and the keen need for more spaces that facilitate small team collaboration. In response, we’ll also find out how companies are evolving physical spaces to foster agile teamwork, and how the huddle space is a driving force behind this trend. But those spaces are only as powerful as the team collaboration tools in them. A recent study shows that 78% of users are frustrated with their current huddle space meeting technology, and nearly half don’t have basic audio and video conference tool (Dimensional Research 2018). Getting the right conference equipment to support the needs of your huddle spaces is key.

But beyond agility, well-equipped huddle spaces can have even more influence. Alan McGinty, senior director of Cisco’s Global Workplace Innovation Group, believes in the magnetic power of the huddle: “With the right collaboration technologies in huddle spaces, these spontaneous-use spaces for 2-5 people can attract and retain the best talent, and give them the agility they need to be successful.”

On Feb. 14, Alan will be sharing some great insights about how he has built a workplace strategy that leverages the power of the huddle space, especially with new technologies that Cisco has recently introduced specifically for huddling. Register for the webinar here.

In recent months, Cisco has done a lot to help companies huddle better. We just announced a whole solution set to empower the huddle space. Cisco Webex Huddle Space solutions are specifically designed to help users share, communicate and co-create with their small teams. We showcased these at Cisco Live Barcelona last week, to illustrate just how creative you can be with these Webex huddle space solutions.

With huddle spaces, the possibilities are endless for optimizing your small team collaboration. Tune into the upcoming webinar to learn more about what they can do for your organization.

Webinar: Unpacking the Power Behind Huddle Spaces
Feb. 14, 2019
10 a.m. PST or on-demand
Register today!

 

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video conferencing work remotely
Cloudlock: Making team collaboration secure both within your business and outside

Today people are working with peers from different locations more than ever before. I work from a home office just outside London, with multiple teams that span the globe. And I understand first-hand how important it is to be able to easily and effectively meet and collaborate remotely. I rely on video conferencing and team collaboration daily, and I’m confident that many of you do, too.

Video Conferencing and team collaboration that help you work your way

Last month, Cisco transformed the way people meet with Webex Share™, Webex Room Kit Mini™, Webex Board 55™ as well as the Webex Board 85™, all of which enable remote workers to connect with team members in huddle spaces. The new products give us the meeting experiences that we all expect of Webex collaboration tools: high-quality video, audio, and content sharing capabilities, as well as the ability to sketch out ideas on a whiteboard. With these devices, we really can meet as if we were in the same room.

I join remote meetings many times a day, and I find it very important to feel like I am there with my team. I want to see everyone’s expressions, which helps me to be sure that I have really understood the nuances of our discussions. And the ability to share presentations and documents quickly helps me be sure that the discussion flows easily.

To make the best use of our time in the meeting, I like to be able to set aside, in one place, things like documents, links, and images that we need to move work forward. With the Cisco Webex Teams collaboration platform, all the information shared before, during and after a Webex meeting is kept in one space, which is available to all my team members. This means that coming back to that information after a meeting is easy and the follow up goes smoothly.

Security and compliance for remote team collaboration

Chief Information Security Officers and IT need to consider more than just the ease of use and breadth of functionality. Security and compliance in collaboration — making sure that the information that we share is safe, and complies with company data loss prevention policies — is critically important. Collaboration applications and platforms must keep employees and the information that they share safe.

In his recent blog, Jono Luk talked about the security and compliance features of the Webex Teams collaboration platform. He described how data is protected by end to end encryption in Webex Teams  — using a single encryption key for each customer. Companies also want to know that information is not shared in ways that break their compliance policies, which is particularly important when people work with others outside their company. Nemertes illustrates that over 55% of team collaboration use cases include people working with others outside their company.

Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB) applications and Data Loss Prevention (DLP) applications can be deployed in order to protect shared information. The Webex Teams collaboration platform allows companies to use their existing CASB and DLP applications to protect information that is shared by their own employees with people outside the company, and to implement automated policy-based remediation actions. This means that any information that is shared by a company employee in a Webex Teams space, whether internal or external, is protected by the DLP or CASB application of their own company.  Many other collaboration platforms do not provide this ability to have oversight of a user’s behaviour in spaces owned by external organizations.

Keeping shared information safe

Now, why is this important?  And what does it mean in practice? As an example, think of a manufacturing company that needs to actively collaborate with a large number of third-party suppliers. While they have to share some detailed information with these vendors, it’s critical not to share too much, and accidentally provide information that would be valuable to competitors. And that’s where CASB and DLP integrations with collaboration applications can help.

The Webex Teams collaboration platform integrates seamlessly with the Cisco Cloudlock CASB, which allows customers to create custom policies to protect information without overwhelming administrators with too many alerts. Cloudlock also offers a wide variety of prebuilt policies to protect against the sharing of Personally Identifiable Information (PII), Payment Card Information (PCI), or HIPAA related data.

The integration between the Webex Teams platform and Cloudlock makes it easy for you to protect sensitive data with multiple levels of policy enforcement for both internal and external collaboration. As well, we all understand that the retention and oversight of content is a key requirement for many regulated industries. For added compliance, monitoring and e-discovery functionality, we partner with third parties including Smarsh, an industry leading archiving provider, which services many of the largest banking customers worldwide.

With these capabilities, you can take advantage of the strength of Cisco’s Collaboration and Security expertise. Your users can work together easily and effectively, with people inside and outside your organization, while keeping the information shared in Webex Teams spaces safe and secure.

 Check out how Webex Teams can help teams work together effectively, and visit Cloudlock to see how you can better protect sensitive data and collaborate with confidence!

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