Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Location™ for the modern workplace
December 20, 2018 by Peter Thornycroft, Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company
In the modern workplace, workers are becoming increasingly mobile, untethered from fixed seating positions. Open floor plans, with intentional variety through a mix of unassigned seating, collaboration rooms, quiet rooms and huddle areas, enable higher productivity and improved employee wellness. As people and things become mobile, the need for location services is growing rapidly. Often, services such as those described below, are presented to the user as corporate smartphone apps, and wall-mounted information screens.
Campus and building navigation
The most basic location-driven function is navigation within a campus or building. This requires first locating the user, then identifying where the user wants to go… the app then builds a route over a floorplan and presents turn-by-turn directions. Navigation apps help mobile workers and guests get to their destination, whether a conference room, cafeteria, or even finding the nearest printer—even if the worker has never previously visited that corporate location. ‘Blue-dot’ turn-by-turn navigation is challenging for location services because users require meter-level accuracy and sub-second updates for a satisfactory experience, metrics that can now be met by devices with Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Location™.
Mobile colleague location
Sometimes the ‘destination’ is mobile: for example, even in today’s flexible workplace, it can be important to meet a colleague face-to-face. Without assigned workspaces, ‘find my friend’ apps, driven by wireless location services become essential. ‘Find my friend’ is usually a mutual agreement where two employees reveal their location to each other via the corporate navigation app, allowing them to be located by the same app used for enterprise navigation.
Meeting space availability
Recent advances in simplifying and humanizing enterprise meeting spaces and conference rooms are driven in large part by location services. Location-aware infrastructure can identify whether rooms are occupied or vacant in real-time, and dynamically direct employees to nearby, empty conference rooms of a suitable size for ad-hoc meeting reservations. Then, when they enter the room, they can be automatically logged-onto the conference bridge and their computers or smartphones linked to the display screen with no need for complex booking systems.
Corporate asset tracking
Other location services include corporate asset tracking. Wheeled equipment tends to move and is sometimes difficult to locate when needed: attaching a wireless asset tracking tag, with an infrastructure-anchored location service lets people find these scarce assets quickly.
Employees, contractors and guests are often the primary users of wireless location services, presented via smartphone apps, but information collected by infrastructure – within privacy constraints and anonymization schemes – can be equally valuable to managers and enterprise planners. The asset tags described above are equally useful for corporate functions such as inventory management and even real-time accounting audits.
Meanwhile, real estate occupancy, a significant expense for most enterprises, can be optimized by using accurate figures for the number of people in a given room, or area of the building at different hours of the day. Facilities planners who previously had to rely on eyesight and estimates to identify under-utilized spaces now have access to accurate, objective data, thanks to wireless location services.
Workplace architects take this analysis a step further. They tap into databases that track the movement of work-teams and groups, allowing migration patterns to be analyzed. This can reveal surprising collaboration patterns and activities, where employees from different parts of the organization are found to meet regularly for collaboration or travel frequently to distant corners of the corporate campus. Plotting these relationships allows facilities planners to move interacting groups closer together, fostering teamwork.
We should not forget the needs of the corporate IT group and network engineers: with increased mobility, they need ever-more powerful tools for location. When all the users and devices at the network edge are mobile, helpdesk engineers must identify the location of a caller and what is going on in her immediate surroundings. A floorplan-view of the network and its components in the caller’s immediate proximity is a requirement for effective troubleshooting.
In the modern, mobile enterprise, even safety can be improved with timely, accurate location services. This can range from generating alarms if an employee enters a restricted or dangerous area, to identifying the location of an emergency caller and confirming that a building is empty in the event of a fire – or assisting people trapped or disoriented after an incident occurs.
Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Location gives a boost to all these functions by delivering employees, guests, employers and the IT infrastructure team timely and accurate location information, based on the existing enterprise WLAN infrastructure.
Peter Thornycroft is an engineer in the CTO’s office at Aruba Networks with interests in wireless technology, voice-over-WLAN, Wi-Fi location and converged 5G architectures. He represents Aruba at a number of standards groups including Wi-Fi Alliance and Wireless Broadband Alliance. He has interests in mobile devices and apps, and his ‘Aruba Utilities’ Android Wi-Fi diagnostic app counts in excess of 15,000 users.
Peter has worked with a variety of wireless, carrier and voice technologies in technical and leadership positions at Cisco Systems, StrataCom, and Northern Telecom. He has experience with Wi-Fi Alliance, the Wireless Broadband Alliance and the IEEE 802.11 working group. Mr. Thornycroft holds an MA in electrical sciences from Cambridge University, and an MBA from Santa Clara University.