Hybrid work, automation, artificial intelligence (AI) and digital workspaces are increasingly commonplace characteristics of a post-pandemic workforce. Throw sustainability into the mix and organisations are left with a daunting task to transform and equip work environments fit for new employee demands while communicating and collaborating efficiently to uphold green practices.
At the recent Meraki Fast-Forward: Smart Spaces Innovation Day in Singapore, Cisco Meraki doubled down on its commitment to deliver "business and human outcomes" along with a sustainability mandate through the re-imagination of smart spaces using a combination of IT and Internet of Things (IoT) solutions.
The event’s keynote speaker, Charles Reed Anderson -- principal at design services firm Eight Inc -- pointed out that global interest in sustainability is due to push factors such as government regulations in terms of carbon taxes and green building requirements.
This is in addition to the modern-day workforce, particularly the younger demographic, embracing sustainability, with employees and job-seekers now “wanting to work for companies that have purpose and not just for profit”.
Green investments as a business priority
In an opening address, Karrie Ilagan -- head of sales across Asia Pacific, Japan and China (APJC) at Cisco Meraki -- identified that physical spaces are being reimagined because “people’s expectations are changing”.
Ilagan reflected how the pandemic has changed the way we “look at productivity and how individual productivity can be achieved in a new world of hybrid work".
“Also, this gives a different perspective of how spaces need to be reimagined and redesigned,” added Ilagan, while referencing how end-users are demanding more “immersive experiences” and that customer experience has now become a “strategic priority” for IT leaders post-pandemic.
Ilagan highlighted that sustainability is another key strategic priority for businesses. Within Cisco Meraki specifically, the industry executive outlined two approaches to this -- the “greening of technology” and “greening by technology”.
In terms of how Cisco Meraki is “greening” their technology, Ilagan shared that strategies include increasing the energy efficiency of products, accelerating internal use of renewable energy, embracing hybrid work, investing in carbon removal solutions and embedding sustainability and circular economy principles across the entire business.
In particular, Ilagan elaborated that their circular economy principle extends from how they “design, build and deliver products” to how they manage products for “multiple lifecycles and deploy new as-a-service business models to facilitate a circular model”.
Such efforts are supported by partnerships with suppliers to manufacture products at “zero-waste factories” and sourcing for recycled materials.
Cisco Meraki has also implemented programs that “repair and replace equipment in the field, take back equipment from the customer side after the end of their use, and sell certified remanufactured equipment through Cisco Refresh” to meet ongoing sustainability ambitions.
Meanwhile, the other approach of “greening by technology” is defined by three pillars: energy savings, waste reduction, and travel reduction. Ilagan touted that Cisco Meraki’s platform, sensors, cameras, network monitors and other devices would help deliver such outcomes.
The vendor’s methods to energy savings include moving workloads to the cloud to decrease on-premises carbon footprint, using sensors to determine heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) efficiency, and tapping on its MS switch port schedules to achieve savings from assets that are likely unused at night or on a weekend.
On waste reduction, Ilagan explained that Cisco Meraki’s sensors can monitor perishable goods to prevent spoilage and waste, as well as examine IT infrastructure environments to detect hardware failure that can result in waste.
Lastly, Cisco Meraki seeks to help customers reduce unnecessary travel to manage their organisation’s physical environment by leveraging the cloud, zero-touch deployment and, again, through its cameras and sensors.
Ecosystem use cases
The event also featured use cases from some of Cisco Meraki’s ecosystem partners -- meldCX, PlaceOS, and SES-imagotag -- who shared how they are integrating the IoT-provider’s suite of technologies with their solutions with the aim of helping businesses optimise workplaces to "achieve sustainability, accelerate productivity, maximise ROI and improve user experience".
For example, Joy Chua, executive vice president of Strategy and Development at meldCX -- an AI-powered customer experience platform provider -- showcased a face-mapping and detection product, Viana and outlined how the business is incorporating the Meraki platform and its smart cameras to help organisations “maximise” their physical spaces by tracking the data of how the space is used and enabling “actionable insights”.
Also aiding organisations develop smart spaces is Sabrina Venish, COO at PlaceOS, which provides an integration platform that powers user experiences through automation. PlaceOS has utilised Meraki’s switching, wireless LAN and smart camera products in a bid to improve employee and customer experience levels, as well as operational efficiency and instilling sustainability for organisations across various market verticals.
Meanwhile, Steven Largent, who heads up innovation and business development in Asia Pacific for SES-imagotag -- a provider of electronic tags and other digital solutions for the retail sector -- outlined how Cisco Meraki’s platform and devices have influenced the digitisation of physical retail stores in three ways.
The first outcome is the provision of quality data through digitised shelves. Real-time product information or inventory statuses can be sent from the shelves to retail staff without the need to physically be there. With the technology, SES-imagotag seeks to “increase store efficiency” and ultimately “increase store revenue”.
Additionally, by digitising the shelf edges, it is set to expand marketing opportunities for retails stores. Largent dubbed it as “bringing emotion to the shelf” and this is necessitated by e-commerce which has “raised shoppers’ expectations”. Interactive, creative shelves that communicate product and sales information may better influence a shopper’s buying decision or simply “increase shoppers’ satisfaction” and hence is an area of growth to be leveraged.
The third outcome is enabling store automation. Largent explained that electronic shelves and the use of a “fully cloud-based” solution can reduce in-store labour which leads to greater efficiency and sustainability.
All in all, Largent described the integration of these technologies for retailers as enabling “high performance at minimum cost”.
Finally, Vipula Manukularatne, product sales specialist for Cisco DNA Spaces -- which offers a cloud-based location services platform -- illustrated that their technology utilises data derived from Meraki’s devices.
Some of the specific benefits of the technology listed by Manukularatne include detecting air quality and thereby improving safety, enhancing employee experience with an intelligent workplace, increasing productivity by tracking the availability of meeting rooms in offices efficiently, and ensuring space utilisation from a facilities management point of view.
Fuelling a sustainable-first future
Coming together in a panel moderated by Ilagan, Cisco Meraki and its ecosystem partners advised that it is important for customers to define what a successful business outcome looks like for them, and they have made it their mission to help identify what their customers want to achieve.
The confluence of IoT and AI will be the basis for developing modern smart spaces and in the journey towards sustainability and creating smart spaces, James McKee, product sales specialist for IoT and Edge Intelligence in APJC at Cisco Meraki, also urged organisations to “be prepared for requirements to change”.
Above all, Ilagan summed up that organisations should think about “sustainability first” when building up smart spaces, underscoring the growing demand and necessity for reimagining physical environments in Asia Pacific.