The Future Workplace Is Smart, Flexible, and Already Here
As vaccines roll out around the world, companies have begun to test the waters of re-opening offices. Taking into account new methods of communication and collaboration that have evolved over the past year, the new office is going to be a lot more dynamic, with a fluctuating number of people physically present on any given day. How do you create a smart, safe environment that accommodates an increase in hybrid work?
Founded in 2013, MazeMap is an innovative digital platform that melds wayfinding solutions with space booking, visualization tools, and indoor positioning, all accessed via the user’s Wi-Fi connected device and the MazeMap app. Initially, MazeMap focused on sharing our wayfinding capabilities with a small audience, however, within a year our solution was being shared with a much larger audience through our partnership with Cisco. Both parties have continued to see the potential in integrating our solutions to provide holistic answers for our joint customers, as MazeMap’s relationship with Cisco has only continued to strengthen.
Part of that potential has centered around making workplaces smarter and more efficient. While Cisco and MazeMap had been having conversations on just that topic for some time, the pandemic not only accelerated that discussion, it also made us reconfigure our solutions to adapt to an entirely new world of work. We know, for example, that real estate requirements are going to change as more workplaces move to a hybrid office/remote model, requiring a smaller footprint than before.
Navigating and maximizing large spaces harkens back to MazeMap’s beginnings on university campuses. MazeMap got its start after the founders followed a student and discovered she had 50 different locations to get to in a week. Multiply that by the 80 million students globally who have to find their way around campuses each semester, locating new buildings, labs, professors’ offices, and meeting spaces. Today, universities are still our largest customer base and provide the best example of space utilization. One of our university clients using the room release function has increased their room utilization by 22%.
At the same time, a post-pandemic hybrid workplace has to be more flexible. As a business leader, how do you manage that? If a meeting gets booked in a room with an in-person capacity of five, and seven people show up, what do you do? Our joint solution is now building up for that question.
The Power of Cisco DNA Spaces
MazeMap features visualization layers on top of our mapping platform. We leverage the Firehose API within Cisco DNA Spaces to take all the data and analytics from our platform and make it more accessible and visible to end users.
We use heat maps so users can see where people are distributed within a space, and whether a space needs to be reconfigured to adhere to local social distancing protocols. If a visitor or new employee isn’t familiar with your office, that person can use MazeMap’s GPS feature, which allows them to follow an interactive map to their destination. It’s like an indoor version of Google Maps.
Through Cisco DNA Spaces we also provide asset tracking by combining data from DNA Spaces and tracking tags that utilize either BLE, RFID, or GPS. This feature has had a big impact during the pandemic, especially for hospitals. Doctors and nurses need to know where the closest wheelchair, free bed, or ventilator is located at any given time. Using MazeMap’s asset tracking capabilities, anyone connected to the hospital’s Wi-Fi can pull up a map within the app, select “ventilators,” for example, and see where the assets are located within a facility. In a hospital setting, those minutes or seconds saved can be precious, and can make all the difference in saving a life.
Similar to asset tracking, Find My Friends allows you to locate colleagues in a building. A nurse might want to reach a particular doctor, then look at a map and notice another doctor is much closer. This feature is entirely consent-based, and by invitation only. Users must be logged on to the MazeMap app and the building’s Wi-Fi, and as soon as a user is no longer on the building’s Wi-Fi, their location is no longer accessible via the app.
I’ve used the example of a hospital because it’s so timely, but many offices these days also have applications for asset tracking and Find My Friends. How often is it time for a meeting to start, but a key person is missing? Do you start the meeting, or wait? With Find My Friends, you can see whether that person is down the hall and will enter the room within 30 seconds or still stuck in their office on another floor.
Integration with Collaborative Tools
These are useful tools, but we’ve developed a next-level solution with the Cisco Collaboration team to maximize meeting room utilization. With MazeMap, you can book meeting rooms and see on the map which rooms are available. Then, through our integration with Cisco Webex room devices, sensors can detect whether or not people are in the room. If a meeting is cancelled and someone forgot to release the booking, sensors on the Webex devices determine that the room is empty and MazeMap will automatically release the room for someone else to use.
Now let’s take a look at what happens in the case of meeting overflow in a physically distancing workspace. Let’s say you planned a meeting for 10 people, five in the office and five working remotely. You book a meeting room with a safe capacity of five, but two additional people get roped into the meeting. Now you have to find another room and link it to the current meeting room as well as to the people who are joining remotely. All of this eats into valuable collaboration time.
MazeMap’s Webex integration and new split room function will take care of everything automatically if the room is equipped with Room Kit, Webex Board, or Desk Pro. The moment someone enters a meeting room and takes it over capacity, a message will appear on the Webex screen with an alert, notifying everyone that an overflow room has been booked. A pop-up will then provide a QR code with directions to the overflow room, where a bridge will have been created between Webex devices. All an additional attendee will have to do is go to the new room, say, “Webex, please start my meeting,” and they’ll be ready to continue the meeting with very little disruption.
MazeMap Puts Your Best Resource to Better Use
Obviously, maximizing the use of a workspace translates to energy and resource savings. The bigger impact, and the piece that a lot of people miss, is how much more productive employees are with a smart solution in place. MazeMap does everything for them. With the split room feature, people won’t have to waste time finding another room, rebooking a space, or setting up equipment. All those wasted minutes can add up for a business. And when employees trust their workplace, it creates an environment where they can think, work, and collaborate faster.
The real challenge wasn’t in creating the solution but scaling it to fit a large number of clients, all of whom have different types of buildings, facilities, IT architectures, and pre-existing solutions. Different clients have different needs in terms of how to group and distribute employees, as well as who has access to what. Our goal is not only to provide a great solution, but to make implementation as labor-light as possible. Anthem Health was one of our first clients to sign up for our new solution. They said that implementation was extremely easy, and their workplace is much more efficient because of the Cisco collaboration.
Technology People Have Come to Expect
Everyone shares the pain point of having to navigate new spaces, but we’ve accepted it as the norm. It’s common practice to arrive early to scope out the location if you have an important appointment in an unfamiliar place. But what if you had the security of knowing you wouldn’t get lost? What if you could see the route from the front door to your destination, and you knew exactly how long it would take to get there? What would you do with all of those extra moments in your life?
By using Webex devices equipped with MazeMap as kiosks at building entrances, we can eliminate stress and time when arriving at an unfamiliar place. Just like people find it hard to go back to their old ways after using a smartphone, this is going to become the technology people will come to expect.
The smart workplace of tomorrow isn’t a far-off reality. It’s viable, and it’s viable today. Organizations that utilize trusted workplace technologies will take the frustration and uncertainty out of returning to the office. They can provide their employees, clients, and users with security and safety as they ease into the new world of work.