As an analyst that covers all things networking, I’m afforded an opportunity to meet and advise many different companies around the world. Networking has certainly become interesting recently with the promise of 5G and the advent of software-defined features that drive capabilities such as automation and self-healing. However, at the end of the day, networking is all about connectivity. As human beings, connectivity with other people creates experience. Consequently, I believe companies that focus on creating enhanced experiences with networking infrastructure stand to reap the rewards of delivering customer value and business transformation. Based on my dialogues with networking solution providers and their customers, I would like to highlight three exceptional examples of what I call experience-based networking.
CBRE – familiar spaces but not by name
CBRE may be one of the biggest companies you’ve never heard of. Founded over a century ago, it is the largest commercial real estate services and investment firm in the world. As one might imagine, managing vast office spaces is a monumental task involving both people and facilities. In speaking with executives recently, I gleaned that CBRE is keenly aware of the pain points of many of its largest customers (including the PGA, MetLife, and Wells Fargo ). First pain point: the explosion of apps and deployment drives the need for a unified platform that is easier to manage and that scales better with the needs of an organization and its users. The second pain point is the need to manage IoT devices and sensors across multiple locations to control lighting, temperature, and other physical environmental variables.
CBRE’s answer to the first challenge is its Host platform. Formerly branded CBRE 360, Host was launched late last month with enhancements that enable some very compelling employee experiences by applying artificial intelligence (AI) to network connectivity. I’m impressed with its stated mission of “increasing individual well-being, personal productivity, and organizational effectiveness.” Completely customizable, the Host platform can provide wayfinding, meeting scheduling, workplace room reservation, catering, access management, and special concierge services. Key to CBRE’s strategy is building an ecosystem of partnerships, including HPE Aruba for wayfinding. I’ve written about Aruba’s digital workspace capabilities in the past, and if interested you can find that article here. I applaud CBRE’s efforts to go beyond facilities management and bring enhanced experiences to its building occupants. For those stakeholders, it should foster positive employee morale and mitigate turnover.
Cisco and July Systems come together
Cisco Systems completed its acquisition of July Systems in the fall of last year. Prior to that event, both companies were engaged in a strategic partnership to deliver what was formerly branded Cisco CMX Engage, geared towards enhancing user experience predominantly at retail, healthcare, and manufacturing. Today, the solution has been recast as Cisco DNA Spaces. For Cisco, July brings an enterprise-grade, cloud-based platform for location services that is open (in the past this has been proprietary and difficult to scale) and interoperable with standard Wi-Fi access points. Of the 25 million access points deployed today, Cisco boasts that 1 out of 2 are its own—that’s an incredible install base to consider and one the company should be able to address.
From Cisco’s point of view, the major pain points of location-based services are the “blind spots” in physical spaces. To meet this need, DNA Spaces is designed to do three things: provide a consolidated view into physical spaces regardless of the number of locations or regions, facilitate action on that context and knowledge, and extend capabilities thorough a partner ecosystem. From my perspective, partnerships are key for long term success. Beyond exposing open APIs, publishing SDKs, and continuing to support its DevNet community of half a million developers, Cisco is also taking a vertical integration approach—certifying a handful of applications that will drive exceptional location-based experiences. Since the union of Cisco and July is fairly new, I’m looking forward to what’s in store for DNA Spaces this year and beyond.
Mist Systems and its AI focus
Mist Systems boasts that it offers the first and only AI-driven Wi-Fi networking solution. Its approach is comprised of assurance, a virtual IT network assistant branded Marvis (which calls to mind Marvel superhero images), user engagement, and asset visibility. Mist’s user engagement really shines at Lake Nona, a new VA hospital built in Orlando, Florida. I recently had the opportunity to speak with Jeff Saura, who leads the IT infrastructure team for the Lake Nona facility. The first VA hospital to be built in nearly 25 years, it serves nearly a half million veterans. Mr. Saura’s vision is to provide the absolute best experience to these veterans, which includes wayfinding and concierge-type services that have the potential to reduce stress levels for many that manage ongoing PTSD. Mist and Lake Nona’s approach should be a model for consideration at all VA facilities.
There’s considerable interest as of late in improving physical workspaces, with height-adjustable desks, open-officing concepts, sleep pods, and more. However, what will truly be transformative, in my mind, is the connectivity between the facility and the user. In order to fully realize the potential, location-based service offerings will have to be open, manageable, and scalable. I’ve only scratched the surface in this article, highlighting a handful of innovative companies that are working diligently to set the bar for experience-based networking. I believe the use cases will be extensive and transformative—especially for industries such as brick and mortar retail, which have been completely disrupted by the efficiencies and personalization of e-commerce giants such as Amazon. Remember the scene in the movie Minority Report where Tom Cruise’s character is addressed by name and presented with advertisements for Lexus and a Guinness as he walks through a shopping mall? What if he were offered an incentive for that test drive, or his first pint free at a local pub? Location services have the potential to re-level the playing field for the disrupted and provide enhanced experiences for us all.