From IT’s perspective, the defining trend of 2020 was remote work, to keep companies operating and employees employed during the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic. Most companies had to shift to remote work during Stay Home orders in many states, and many that can work remotely have continued to do so since the spring.

As we head into the new year, there is reason to be hopeful for 2021 to include a return to the office. With multiple vaccines now being distributed to protect people from the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, we can probably expect many corporate offices to start to open in the new few months. Things will probably take a while to get fully back to normal, though, and in the meantime the need to reduce capacity levels and monitor occupancy, perform contact tracing, and simply offer safety reminders to employees and guests within facilities may remain.

Cisco has been hard at work adding new features to the DNA Spaces cloud-based monitoring platform that can help with monitoring and alerting on these metrics.

What is DNA Spaces?

DNA Spaces is the evolution of Cisco’s Wireless Mobility Services Engine and CMX location platforms. It specializes in computing the location of wireless devices (whether associated with the wireless LAN or not) and providing analytics and engagement opportunities to those clients based on that location data.

Unlike earlier generations of mobility services, DNA Spaces is cloud-based, which means no infrastructure to deploy on-prem. This makes it easy to gain the DNA Spaces insights even for widely distributed environments, like retail and hospitality chains.

DNA Spaces is available in three subscription levels, DNA Spaces See, which provides visibility metrics, DNA Spaces Extend, which focuses on 3rd party integrations, and DNA Spaces Act which provides engagement with client devices.

Cisco’s DNA Spaces platform integrates with a variety of Cisco products including the Cisco Aironet and Catalyst wireless products, and the Meraki line of cloud-managed WLAN access points (Meraki MR) and security cameras (Meraki MV).

Business Impact Reporting

The first COVID-related feature we’re going to look at is the DNA Spaces Business Impact Analysis. This feature provides trend information around users and guests on the network before or after some event.

Below is an example of a trend report showing the change in visitor activity for a sample company before and after the initial COVID-19 outbreak. The event has been defined (in this example) as Feb 1, 2020 to March 1, 2020. The graphs show the change in visitor metrics, per site, before and after that time range.

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Many businesses already have an idea of what impact the early outbreak and COVID-related lockdowns had on their business, but one of the interesting applications going forward is using this feature to gauge the impact of COVID response policies. For instance, if a retail business implements “High Risk” hours or implements a mandatory face covering policy, this tool can provide insight on the potential impact to foot traffic before and after those policies are established.

Occupancy / Density

Another way DNA Spaces can help manage COVID response is Density Rules. Density Rules allow the system to track the number of people in a physical space through tracking wireless devices or even counting people visible within a camera’s field of view, issuing alerts if a threshold is exceeded. With many COVID business restrictions creating a reduced occupancy rating or a specific number of people in a given area of space, these rules could help drive and report on compliance.

The example below shows how WiFi-connected devices or people visible on cameras can be used to drive rules.

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This example shows a rule based on a specific number of people that cannot be exceeded in any specific building defined within DNA Spaces.

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This example shows building a Density Rule to trigger when a certain number of people per 1000 square feet is exceeded. This can be very useful for retail establishments.

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And in this example, the occupancy of a given space has been pre-defined, and now the occupancy limit has been reduced to 50% of the defined capacity. An alert will now fire if the 50% occupancy rate is exceeded.

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Alerts for Density Rules can take the form of an SMS message, or a WebEx Teams message that could go to a room that store managers or facilities managers are in.

Proximity & Contact Tracing

Another exciting capability of DNA Spaces is the new Proximity Report, which can be used to identify devices/users that were in proximity of a specific user/device for certain timeframes. This is done using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) messages, so proximity can be detected down to ranges as small as 30 feet. The example report below shows the amount of time a certain device was located in different areas of a sample facility based on the building, floor, and zone within a floor for a multi-day timeframe.

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This example shows a list of devices that, for instance, were within 30 feet of the target device for a period of less than 4 hours.

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And this example shows which devices/users the target device encountered within particular timeframes on a given day.

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These proximity reports can be used to determine potential exposure risk in the event a user or visitor reports a case of COVID-19, and it becomes necessary to determine how many others and who else the person may have been in contact with.

Engagement Rules

Engagement Rules provide a means to directly engage a user or visitor via sending an email, SMS text message, or triggering an application event through an API event or push notification. These engagement events can occur when a user enters a specific area, or after they have been present for some period of time.

Companies who wish to alert their users, visitors, or customers to some condition or event, anything from an update in store hours to a reminder to wash hands frequently, can do so with Engagement Rules. Below is an example of an Engagement Rule.

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The last features we will look at in this article is a simple one: guest portals with health reminders. Cisco has added a wide variety of guest portal templates that can be used to communicate health and safety guidelines. These could even be modified to provide a symptom self-check assessment when a device is connected to the network. Here are some examples of the various templates Cisco has provided in DNA Spaces for COVID-related portals. Guest portals can be fully customized to suit your needs and branding.

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Accessing DNA Spaces

DNA Spaces has been included with various levels of the DNA software subscriptions for the Catalyst 9000-series WLAN products for some time. Now, DNA Spaces subscription licenses can also be bundled right in with Meraki products, to enable the intelligence of the DNA Spaces cloud platform on your Meraki WLAN and camera products too!

If you’re interested in learning more about leveraging DNA Spaces for COVID-related applications or monitoring other metrics about your real-world spaces for corporate, retail, or hospitality applications, contact your High Availability account manager to schedule a demo.