An eye in the sky – how to use technology to audit & enable gathering IRL

November 8, 2021

This one has some moral implications to consider because we’re going to address how you can use technology (like indoor security cameras) to relate data that informs your work by gathering that data from your workspace.

Data is important because it enables your team to stay small and agile whilst informing decision making based on space usage which might not always be observable in person.

Cameras can help keep track of who is where at offices or coworking spaces
What data is useful to gather?

Here’s a short list of some types of data you can use with simple examples of how that data can make your workplace better if acted on:

Indoor Security Cameras

Cloud based indoor security camera solutions will give you a ton of flexibility for remote management and sharing interfaces between multiple staffers & computers. We recommend using Cisco Meraki meshed cameras which can let you:

  • View footage live without being on-premises & set notification rules. Imagine automatically being able to audit when a team leaves a meeting room – enabling post-booking billing or on-the-fly requisitioning of cleaning services. Additionally, staff can easily tell where your community is gathering (even better with heat mapping technologies) to be able to ‘move the party to where the crowd is at’ – enabling on-the-fly socials and building experiences around spontaneity.
  • Review past footage on demand – easily bring new staff up to speed on managing certain situations which have already occurred. Download video clips to use for training situations anytime in the future.
  • Stream indoor security cameras to 3rd party broadcasting tools via RTMP (e.g. using a feed to annotate a livestream ) At 1080 with HDR, image quality can get pretty close to broadcast quality from modern security cameras – which means that when your community want to share a book reading or music performance or even more conventional presentation you might not need to involve complicated IT to setup ad-hoc video conferencing or livestreaming solutions (simply pass the RTMP feed to a service like Restream or even Youtube to rebroadcast… a great tool if you don’t have cameras for video conferencing.)
An example meraki dashboard with data relevant to coworking space operators

Network / WiFi Usage

Modern networks like Cisco Meraki mesh systems enable you to get a look into what is being consumed on your network mapped against a physical space floorplan of your facility. Here are some benefits of accessing this information.

  • Learn about what information is important to your community – without seeing specific pages being viewed devices you can see which domain names and IP addresses are important. A simple example – you are broadcasting an all-hands important stream and want to audit how many on-premises people have logged into the stream whilst in the office.
  • Audit how each device is connecting to your network – by knowing which network devices a computer connects to you can asses whether your mesh network is designed correctly and offer easier diagnostics for staff to troubleshoot why a certain laptop may not be connecting to the Internet as fast as expected (e.g. if that same laptop was used elsewhere on premises and is still connected to an access point which is far away; now staff can see this specific connection active and recommend the user reconnect to the network to jump onto a closer access point.)
  • See bandwidth usage per device and group devices to users – manage how your network makes bandwidth available to ensure even quality of service to all community members through speed/usage caps.
  • Gauge where people are roaming and gather – again, it might not be enough to just see where people are on cameras; combining that info with what your network tells you about mobile devices moving through the network to hop onto access points in a particular area of campus can give your team clues as to why people are gathering and how to best offer help to that gathering (which could be as easy as opening bandwidth limitations on that part of the network or more in-person like taking a tray of beverages to the group gathered for refreshment.)

Access Control Systems

Gone are the days when people needed massive rings of keys in their pocket to enable them to get into buildings and the rooms within them. In fact, gone should be the days where those keys were just replaced with FOBs and dongles and security things that offer limited windows of time to type in a code or swipe some odd piece of hidden hardware to access space.

The new way of controlling who gets access to which space combines software and hardware. There are numerous systems which do this but our favourite at StartWell is KISI. This simple system uses hardware controllers plugged into our network that then connect to reader devices on doors.

KISI reader devices allow mobile phones to be detected when someone approaches a door – allowing the door to open for them. Its like having a robot butler thats really a ghost… or something.

In addition to apps on phones, KISI also allows you to assign cards with unique token numbers to each user on your KISI account through a web based SaaS. So your front desk can keep a number of unassigned cards that are safe incase they go missing – a staffer elsewhere can assign one of them to someone with specific access instructions and the front desk person can then simply hand that card to the specific person upon campus arrival. Get this – the card can auto expire, be reassigned to someone else or have its permissions changed at any point online without ever touching the actual card.

Of course, when people pass through doors that data lets you know where they are. KISI integrates with Cisco Meraki hardware and one thing we love is being able to see whether the person that walked through a secure door was by themselves, with a group or was followed by someone who shouldn’t have entered.

The security implications of this type of system should be obvious – what may not be is how you can easily tell where people are gathering. For example, if a single person books a meeting room with 10 seats you might not be sure how many people will need water and coffee in the meeting – until KISI tells your cameras to capture an image of the group when they arrive. Your team can tell how many people will gather in the meeting room and provide services accordingly.

Of course, with APIs and tools like Zapier to stitch them together, creating simple notifications in messaging tools like Slack enables these smart systems to keep your staff in the loop on who is where – from there they can act to make gatherings more fun and successful as you see fit.