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Your guide to sensors and analytics in Webex Devices

You may already know that Webex Devices provide a great collaboration experience for people working from home or in the office, but did you know they are also equipped with powerful sensors?

Sensors aren’t just for data enthusiasts or those responsible for workplace optimization and safety. They can provide critical and timely information to employees which can drive behavior, build trust and at the end of the day, create an amazing workplace experience.

Have you ever been in a meeting room that felt crowded or stuffy and you just needed a few minutes to break away? Sensors, analytics, and automation solve this issue by giving people the information they need to make informed decisions about where and how they work.

A common argument against sensors is that they are expensive, difficult to install and require a team to track, manage and optimize spaces. That may be true for ad-hoc devices, but Webex Devices come equipped with powerful sensors out of the box, so you can easily gain the insights you need to optimize every workspace at no extra charge. It’s all included in the video conferencing device — no extra installation, no data scientists, just reliable insights.

We recently discussed how sensors and workplace analytics can help deliver a safe return to the office. Now, let’s take a closer look at how various roles can benefit from sensors:

The office worker

For users, the complexity of sensors, data and analytics are always hidden. For example, if there are too many people in a room or the air quality is poor, the sensors in the Webex device will measure the conditions and an alert can be delivered straight to the video conferencing device, a Webex Room Navigator on the table or even a 3rd display.

The messages and warnings are fully customizable so organizations can adapt messages to the characteristic of the room. For example, the alert can notify people in the room to open a window if there is one, use another room and provide direction to the closest available room, or reduce the amount of people if the threshold limit is reached. The possibilities are endless, and it can all be automated, so no one has to sit in front of a screen all day monitoring and manually alerting people.

The HR and facilities representative

If you are in human resources or the facilities department, Webex sensors and analytics enables you to know if workers are staying in a healthy environment and whether the criteria for comfort, safety and energy are met. And historical data and insights are reported directly into the Webex Control Hub Workspace tab so you can have a full view of how environmental factors are trending.

Sensors and analytics in Webex Control Hub
Fig 1: historical environment metrics
historical utilization metrics
Fig 2: historical utilization metrics

Optimizing workspaces with Webex sensors

Webex Devices provide various types of sensors for ensuring safe and productive workspaces. These are the sensors available today:

1) Presence & people count for real estate optimization

Spaces are rarely used to their full potential; they are often overused or underused which can lead to productivity loss. Some rooms could be divided, while others should be augmented. Space optimization has a direct impact on energy and the cost of real estate, but more importantly on employees’ productivity and wellbeing. People count in Webex Devices uses AI to accurately detect humans, whether they are facing the Webex Device or not. This data makes it easy to plan and optimize spaces based on usage trends.

People Count Sensing
Fig 3: People count sensing used to regulate the room density

 

2) Temperature & humidity for reducing the risk of virus transmission 

Temperature and humidity need to be thought of simultaneously because the one affects the other. While temperature is mostly a human preference, maintaining a temperature of 21 to 25 degrees Celsius for a person sitting still is deemed productive.

Research also points at regular burst of cold air to improve productivity. With regards to humidity, we need to be more prescriptive. Usually, humidity levels between 30% and 60% are recommended, as it’s considered most healthy for humans.

Itchy eyes, throat irritations and respiratory symptoms have been associated with unfavorable humidity levels. And more recent studies also show that the level of humidity has a direct impact on the propagation of the Covid-19. They suggest maintaining relative humidity levels between 40% and 60%.

3) Air quality & VOCs for preventing air saturated with pollutants 

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) are present in furniture and carpets, cleaning products, perfumes, when food is cooked and in human breath. When they accumulate in a room, they can cause irritations, headaches, and loss of concentration which results in discomfort, productivity loss or even danger.

Poor air quality can often be circumvented with better ventilation. Tracking people count and air quality simultaneously can also help you find root causes and possible adaptations.

The Webex platform APIs also enable the automation of these processes, so the data can be rendered and acted upon. Both the Webex Desk Pro and Webex Room Navigator are enabled with TVOC sensing. Values reported in the Control Hub follow UBA reference levels and indicate 5 different levels of air quality.

4) Noise measurements for designing comfortable spaces

Noise at work is one of the major causes of dissatisfaction. It can hinder productivity, focus, memory retention and mental arithmetic.

Webex measures two types of noise, the overall noise produced by people, tools, and the building itself, and the ambient or background noise produced by the HVAC systems, for example. Isolating noises will help better understand the kind of annoyances people are confronted with and how they can be resolved. The WELL Building Institute recommends no more than 35dBA background noise in conference rooms.

5) Good acoustics for improving intelligibility and reducings strain

Bad acoustics in rooms generates reverberance that causes fatigue. Meeting rooms with glass walls are a typical example. The WELL standard recommends reverberation times of less than 0.6 second in conference rooms.

While this is uncomfortable for workers inside the room, it is even more so for people who are on a call and sitting in the far end where it becomes difficult for the brain to process and separate sound sources. We’ve all experienced this “speaker in a box” feeling.

Webex Devices measure the RT60 (reverberation time) on a regular basis without emitting testing sounds.

In addition to these environment sensors, Webex Devices can also report on the activity and status of a room. APIs give access to information such as: ongoing calls, presentation sharing in and out of call and booked rooms., This information can be used to better understand how rooms are used.

The right sensor at the right place

Analytics from Webex Devices come from multiple sensors within our device portfolio. People count is an attribute of the Webex Room and Board series. Usually located against a wall, centered and at bodies’ height, it is the best placement for recognizing and counting people. Air quality, temperature and humidity on the other hand are located inside the new Webex Room Navigator, on the table, and closer to where people are sitting, hence reporting conditions as they are experienced by people themselves.

Sensor Information in Navigator
Fig 4: The sensor information displayed in a Navigator on a custom panel
Sensing capabilities supported in Webex Devices
Fig 5: Sensing capabilities supported in Webex Devices

 

In the past, organizations concerned with environment health and space optimization invested in sensors for the workplace, but for many, the cost of acquisition, integration, licenses, and maintenance was often a deterrent. With Webex Devices, rooms enabled with collaboration technology now double as a smart sensors hub and provide the analytics and insights you need to continuously monitor and optimize spaces.

Webex Devices have sensors built-in, securely reporting on your network and into a dashboard — so don’t wait, get to your Webex Control Hub now and watch those Workspaces in action.

To learn more about sensors and analytics, read The Collaboration How-To Guide for the Hybrid Workplace.

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Innovations from Webex Experts: Making Devices even better

Securing users and devices in Webex

Cleaning shared touch-screen devices

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What would you like to do?

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Learn more about web meetings and video conferencing.

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Webex video conferencing meeting with colleagues using Webex Devices
Innovations from Webex Experts: Making Devices even better

The Webex Ambassadors Program is a global community of Webex loyalists who receive custom Webex learning paths to help further their careers, earn rewards, and influence the future of collaboration. Our Webex Experts are a top-tier group of members who offer thought leadership and act as counsel to our product and customer adoption teams. In this series, we’ll explore their contributions to the Webex ecosystem and hopefully inspire you to do more than you ever imagined possible with Webex. 

Webex Expert Bobby McGonigle makes using Devices easy 

As an introvert, I never expected to be as active in the Webex Community as I am. Once I got involved, I learned so much from other members, but I also enjoyed addressing challenges, building knowledge of new use cases, and practicing developing in the Macro Editor.

Before I became a Webex Expert, I began my career as a video conferencing service technician in 2017 with a mere three months of IT experience. I worked previously at a local grocery store as a deli clerk for seven years but landed a great internship, which landed me my current role.

At the time, we had approximately 200 Cisco endpoints online, half of which were online at the medical school while the other half were scattered throughout campus. Since then, we have added nearly 200 more Room Devices and within Central IT/Admin, I have personally installed nearly 60 percent of those new systems—jumping from 12 to 130 systems. We also have 13 other schools that are implementing their own projects.

As we continued to grow, my team’s ability to support users became less manageable. We were a small but mighty team of three, but we were never able to get our users to get through training. Instead of scheduling further training, I made it so easy for users to use the rooms that absolutely no training would be required.

How? I taught myself how to write JavaScript and how to use the new Macro Editor, which allowed me to fix common issues. This gave my team the freedom to dive into higher priority tasks. When the Macro Editor was first released in CE9.2, I didn’t know how to code, so I self-taught myself on my train commute every morning and evening. This is how I was able to create new and better experiences for our user community.

Perhaps one of the biggest hurdles to overcomes was teaching users the difference between a telephony number and a SIP address in Webex invites. Users thought the call button was for traditional phone numbers (no matter how many times we explained that it was for both). To address this issue, I created a school-wide macro—the Launch Meeting button—that matched the users’ expectations when they entered a room.

When users selected the Launch Meeting button, they were greeted with an option that only required the meeting ID. The @so&so.com was added automatically. Students either had a Webex link or an invite from a different solution, but they were all able to join meetings without issue. After implementing this solution, I shared it with Webex Experts and published my work on Github so anyone could use my code. I even made one that works on 80+ Sx10’s, even though the Macro Editor doesn’t exist on those systems.

Computer set up with devices
Enrico’s USB lab

Another project I worked on, and one of my favorites, is my Tic Tac Toe game. It shows how you can use macros to change the user interface dynamically to help streamline the user experience. All collaboration doesn’t need to be solely work-related; building relationships with colleagues is just as important, so I wanted to create a game for coworkers to enjoy together in a conference room.

Now that I have a few projects under my belt, I have started working with Cisco’s very own Enrico Condedera on his Project USB. We have learned from fellow experts like Jordan Eliason and his USB Dante project for the Room Kit Mini and John Austin, which has led us to make a few revisions to our own project. I have also been asked by Dustin Baker of the Webex Devices team to contribute a Join Zoom example to Cisco’s Devnet.

I have learned so much as a Webex Expert, but what I really value is the ability to give back. I have been able to do so not only in my professional role, but also in the community I have built with fellow experts, Webex product teams, and everyone else using Webex Devices. It has been such a fulfilling and fun experience.

Enrico Conedera, Webex TME, partners with Bobby to improve products at scale

I couldn’t help but laugh when I learned that Bobby’s work experience was primarily as a deli clerk. My first real job was as a Pest Control Field Representative, also known as an exterminator. I single-handedly fought off all the cockroaches of Santa Monica. Once I got sick of the cockroaches, I began working with Cisco. I came in from the audiovisual side, sneaking in with the Tandberg acquisition. With so many smart network people around, I had to up my game.

As a technical marketing engineer (TME), a big part of my job revolves around ensuring that our products are usable in the field. When COVID-19 hit, video collaboration changed seemingly overnight. Suddenly, every conferencing provider was busy, and everyone needed to collaborate visually. The result? Rapid growth of island technologies that don’t actually talk to each other. For example, Zoom users can’t talk to Microsoft Teams users or BlueJeans users. Pexip and others like it had already specialized in acting as gateways between these islands, but with COVID, Cisco Webex users were getting invited to meetings on other conference services and couldn’t attend.

Until very recently, we existed primarily in a world where we could interoperate with other video conferencing manufacturers like Poly or Lifesize, using standards from the ITU-T and IEEE. The need to be able to meet with customers, partners, and supply chain organizations, became even more critical. Our solutions needed to be easy to meet regardless of the conferencing solution.

To solve for this, Eivind Fiane Christensen and other product managers brought together people from many different disciplines within Cisco to design a new product, the Room Kit Mini. The ability to join any other conferencing provider while using the Room Kit Mini’s intelligent camera and beam-forming mic array was a major requirement for launch. This feature, known as USB Passthrough, was a big step in the right direction.

Existing Room Kits didn’t have the hardware capability for the USB Passthrough, so I looked into the Vaddio AV Bridge product set. I wasn’t too familiar with it, but I was somewhat certain that I could hook it up to a Room Kit Pro and have that same feature: the ability to use your laptop to connect to Zoom while using SpeakerTrack, PresenterTrack, all the microphones and loudspeakers, and the screens that were already part of the Room Kit Pro installation. I then realized that I could do this with all of the Room Kit endpoints. That was a cool moment.

While it took me a while to figure out how to do this, I got it working manually by running API commands one by one to reconfigure the systems to work while I needed it for the USB Passthrough. All I needed was a macro to automate everything. But how? I don’t know how to write macros.

I reached out in a Webex Teams space that I had created to see if anyone could help me write the macro and that’s how I met Bobby. I knew what the macro needed to do, and he knew how to write the macro to do everything required. JavaScript is fussy, but Bobby made it look so easy.

It didn’t take long for us to release a V1 of the macro. It worked remarkably well and has enabled ease of use for third-party USB capture devices for our catalog of video endpoints. This technology even works with some of Cisco’s older products, like the MX700, MX800, and SX80. In our V2, it will include more options for third-party USB capture devices and more documentation on setup and usage.

The most difficult part of the whole process was configuring the software application to use the correct USB camera and microphones but knowing that I have Webex Experts like Bobby eases my mind. Our experts help us solve problems like this so much faster.

Enrico's science project for a passive USB gateway
Enrico’s science project for a passive USB gateway

In closing

Some of our very best ideas come directly from the Webex Community. We evangelize our Webex Ambassadors to crowdsource solutions to common problems and to share use cases and challenges. We cannot overstate the value our Webex Experts (like Bobby McGonigle) provide by creating integrations and co-creating solutions alongside Cisco. Join the USB project with Enrico and Bobby here

If you love finding solutions to problems and want to join an incredible group of talented Webex fanatics, enroll early in our Webex Ambassadors Program. Level up your knowledge. Your network. Your voice.

About the authors 

Enrico Conedera

Enrico is a senior engineer in the CTG Business Unit at Cisco Systems.
He has worked in the audio-visual field for over 30 years, for companies such as Electronic Arts, PictureTel, Polycom, MCI, and Tandberg. Having been with Cisco for fifteen years, he concentrates on Cisco Best Practices for Audio Visual Integration.
A former professional musician, he is a singer / songwriter, plays piano, and runs sound for live concerts.

Bobby McGonigle

Bobby McGonigle

Bobby McGonigle: Bobby has been a Webex Expert since 2019. Find out more about his accomplishments, his experience with the Webex Ambassadors, or his areas of expertise in the Webex Ambassadors directory.

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Webex technology ecosystem – The gold standard for video conference experiences with Webex devices

Securing users and devices in Webex

Cleaning shared touch-screen devices

Still need help?

What would you like to do?

Join a Webex online meeting.

Learn more about web meetings and video conferencing.

Explore daily product demonstrations

Sign up for Webex.

Visit our home page or contact us directly for assistance.

Read more
Webex technology ecosystem – The gold standard for video conference experiences with Webex Devices

Overview 

With so many 3rd party integration options in the video conference marketit can be hard to know at a glance what the best product integration is. What are the best room booking applications out there? What is the best LCD display that works well with Webex Devices? 

Here in Oslo, Norway, not only do we have Red Dot award-winning devices, we are also building the best meeting experiences through our new Webex Technology Ecosystem program – technically certifying partner integrations for Webex Devices. Our open platform allows our technology partners to create integrations to the Webex Platform to best solve customer use-cases. In order to provide the highest levels of security and best end-user experiences, the Webex Technology Ecosystem Program was created to validate third parties that their integration is adhering to our security, user experience, and supported API methods. In addition, the benefits of certifications include an online community and Cisco product team support, validated tests done by a 3rd party firm, AVDR, and overall helping drive down integration costs. 

We launched two logo tier designations to certifications:    

  • Webex Certified  A third party solution that has achieved the most stringent of all testing by the Webex Device Business Unit. 
  • Webex Compatible – A third party solution that meets the minimum requirements for integration.

Moving forward, there will also be a third-tier for certification which will be a self-supported knowledge base community that will soon launch on the Cisco Webex Communities portal.   

Cisco approved products & vendors 

Below you will find the solutions that have achieved certification status. Currently, there are only two Certified categories: Displays and Intelligent Workplaces. The other categories will only have Compatible logo status. As we progress, we aim at adding more categories and technology partner solutions to the Certified logo. 

Webex Device certified and compatible categories 

  • Cameras 
  • Content Experiences 
  • Collaborative Workplace 
  • Displays* 
  • Easy Join Services 
  • Intelligent Workplace* 
  • Room Booking 
  • Team Communications 
  • Workplace Analytics 

*Webex Certified logo categories 

Some of the partner solutions shown are also part of the Cisco Solutions Plus partnership program.  If you want to know more details of the certified partner solutions and categories, please visit: http://cs.co/certifiedvendors 

Certification process 

Below is the certification application journey for the Webex Technology Ecosystem for Webex Devices. As you can see it is a multi-step process to onboard. 

If you are a vendor seeking to join the Webex Technology Ecosystem program, please visit this link. 


Additional Resources 

For Customers:
Cisco Webex Integration Partners
https://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/solutions/collaboration/webex-rooms-integrations.html
Webex Devices Certification Vendor List
https://cs.co/certifiedvendors

For 3rd Party Vendors:
Webex Devices Certification Application
http://cs.co/webexcertapplication
Webex for Startups Program
http://cs.co/webexforstartups
Developer Resources
https://developer.cisco.com/site/roomdevices
https://developer.webex.com 

Resources

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