Designing the Office of the Future with Portfolio-Wide Location-Based Services and Space Optimization


Whether you’re an employer or an employee—office design matters. For employees, it's a quality that makes you proud to come to work. It might have even factored into your decision to join the company in the first place. For employers, enabling your employees through thoughtful, high-functioning office design has a huge impact on the company’s bottom line.

As one of the world's leading providers of reinsurance and insurance, Swiss Re is dedicated to making the world more resilient—and that begins right here at our headquarters. We want to offer fresh perspectives, knowledge, and capital to help businesses of all types better anticipate and manage risk.

Thoughtful, high-functioning office design benefits employees—and employers.

But how are we supposed to accomplish that if our employees don't have a supportive office design? Simply put, we can't. This is why this project quickly took on an extra special significance for all of us. It had the potential to be the differentiating factor that could make us a trusted business partner and employer of choice in the market.

This was part of our Smart Building and Service Solution initiative, which is embedded in our Global Digital Enterprise strategy and is a key enabler to becoming a digital enterprise. The initiative intended to generate high added value in terms of operational efficiency and customer satisfaction.

Turning to a Partner

Swiss Re knew we needed a strong partner to help make this dream a reality, so we turned to Netcloud. Netcloud’s reputation of being the leading experts in planning, implementing, and managing ICT solutions made them the obvious choice. 

Find technology partners who help bring focus and pragmatism to your grand visions.

As you can imagine, we had a lot of ideas around what the office of the future might look like. We had grand visions, but the people at Netcloud made an immediate impact by helping us narrow those concepts down into a series of smaller, more manageable, and more practical initiatives. Out of 15 ideas, we narrowed our scale down to the three that made the most impact.

Once our scope was defined, Netcloud acted as our “general contractor,” and based on our requirements, brought in Cisco and Locatee.

Empowering Collaboration with Location-Based Data

Our first initiative involved creating location-based services for employees. We thought it would be beneficial to have a location-based app that would allow people to easily find their colleagues in the office. The first version of this app was built by Swiss Re Programmers in conjunction with Netcloud. We utilized Cisco’s DNA Spaces technology, and the app allowed us to find our colleagues wherever they were in the building. In a space as large as ours, that provided major benefits.

This is especially critical in large offices where people from all over the world might be visiting. If I'm based in Zurich but I walk into the New York office, the app will show me that three people from my team also happen to be in New York right now. Employees can also easily find colleagues they may have never met in person before. 

The location-based app meant our staff could connect in person better than ever before. No time was wasted if they tried to pin people down for a meeting or just needed a quick chat with a colleague. 

The base technology we had in place was amazing, but we thought we could take it even further. That’s when things got interesting. 

Real-Time Insight Requires Real-Time Data

With the underlying data we had from Cisco CMX, Netcloud suggested we could build on top with a solution like Locatee. This would allow us to not just collect location-based information, but extract genuine insight from it. This had the potential to impact the entire company if executed properly.

We required a solution that provided scalable insights, regardless of the size of our real estate portfolio. Moreover, it had to be future-proof, meaning we needed to add new use cases for whatever the future holds. Locatee met all of those requirements. 

Locatee, for those unfamiliar, has developed a smart building platform. It's designed to collect data from an IT network and other systems and provide real-time workspace insights to Corporate Real Estate teams. Netcloud helped us realize that by allowing Cisco to team up with Locatee, we could leverage the existing IT infrastructure to get even more accurate information from our staff and the worldwide distributed office spaces than the solution was already designed to provide.

Empowered by Cisco infrastructure located strategically throughout the entire real estate portfolio, we can use the Locatee smart building platform to see genuine insights without adding any additional hardware. Based on information obtained via device connections, we can now see whether or not (and how) a space is being utilized. All of this data is anonymized and complies with the privacy guidelines, as well as local and international data protection regulations.

But it's about more than just learning who is sitting where, or how many people are present. It's about making sure that our resources are always optimized to make the best use of our space. When we have conversations about consolidating or expanding a space, for example, we're no longer operating solely on intuition. We have real-time, actionable portfolio-wide data that we can turn to and analyze to maximize space utilization across the company.

To sum up, the rolled out smart building platform allows the analysis of workspace utilisation and enables Swiss Re’s Corporate Real Estate team to make fact-based decisions. It also shapes the way our employees interact with our buildings.

Real-time, portfolio-wide and actionable insights about your workspace mean decisions are no longer made on gut instinct.

In the future, we can also think about space utilization within the context of adjusting HVAC systems depending on the number of people within a building. This in turn reduces costs for not only space, but also energy. You'd be surprised by how many positive changes you can make once you know how many people are in a particular location. The Cisco and Locatee solution managed by Netcloud even shows the occupancy rate in the whole building down to individual office buildings, floor areas, or even rooms. At the same time we’re reducing costs, we’re also ensuring employees needs are being met—just in a more efficient manner than ever before. 

At the beginning of this project, we were still thinking exclusively in terms of our headquarters. However, because Netcloud’s implementation of the Cisco and Locatee solution was so successful—and the solutions so scalable—we moved onto pilot programs in Munich and Bratislava. We were so pleased with their success that it was quickly decided to roll out the solution worldwide.

To put that into perspective, Swiss Re has 43 different buildings in over 20 countries: Amongst other iconic office buildings such as Swiss Re Next in Zurich, 30 St Mary Axe in London, and further office buildings in New York, Beijing, Sydney, Mumbai, Cape Town, and Paris. These buildings contain data that any business of our size is constantly collecting, but we've never been in a position to use it before. Thanks to Netcloud, Cisco, and Locatee, we can now extract valuable insights out of it. Plus, because there are Cisco access points spread throughout all of our offices, it means Locatee's solution is built on top of flawless infrastructure. Locatee’s platform is a sophisticated solution, but it's also only as good as the data it's pulling in. Having something reliable like Cisco access points everywhere, and a partner like Netcloud managing the entire operation, makes Locatee a true force of nature.

All of this requires no physical interventions or hardware installations, as Cisco’s infrastructure provides detailed and valuable data. The highly scalable and therefore cost-efficient software-as-a-service (SaaS) approach allows the analysis of workspace utilisation across our entire real estate portfolio, individual buildings, floors, and departments. This approach helps to reduce maintenance to a minimum while providing continuous and real-time data.

An Investment in Your Employees

Our implementation was deployed remotely by Netcloud and Locatee, and has been incredibly smooth. We've now total visibility into our entire portfolio, we're be able to optimize our resources everywhere for maximum impact from both a design and financial perspective. 

We'll be able to see which buildings are underutilized and why. We'll take a granular look at the data, down to specific floors in various offices. Key stakeholders such as Corporate Real Estate and Facilities Management will have real-time access to the best data, paving the way for better and more innovative offices on not one, but six continents.

As an example of the power of our new insights, let’s look at our Munich office. Our lease was coming up for renewal and had to decide how we wanted to proceed. Based on our insights from Locatee, we decided to decrease our space by 10%. But that didn’t come at the detriment of our employees. Our insights showed us that the space wasn’t utilized. The reduced space includes workplaces, shared offices, meeting rooms, and think tanks. The reduction will save us €290,000 per year.

Insights to Power Our Future

The financial benefits to Swiss Re are obvious. It will now be easier to see where our time, money, and attention should be directed to have the biggest impact on our long-term goals. It will be possible to capitalize on opportunities for optimization as quickly as possible, rather than letting them pass us by because we were totally unaware they existed in the first place.

In addition, it will also put us in an ideal position to generate the most positive outcome of all: enabling our employees to work smarter on a daily basis. If you know what the office of the future looks like, you know how to bring that vision into reality. The insights we're now privy to will enable us to create higher functioning, more productive, and more collaborative offices for our employees. The leading companies of tomorrow invest in their employees today.