In many regions, restrictions on workplaces are beginning to ease – and some small businesses can open their premises up for the first time in months.
But whether you’re a retailer, restaurant or an office, maintaining social distancing will be vital for keeping your premises safe for employees and the public.
Ensuring that guidelines are followed can be time-consuming and distracting, especially when your business is focused on serving customers while adapting to new circumstances.
A simple solution, CCTV cameras with AI technology, can help small businesses to not only monitor activity but analyse and improve how space is used.
That will keep workspaces safe today and make them smarter for the future.
The challenges of reopening
As we begin to return to some normality, businesses are working out how to operate in this new world.
Of course, one important consideration is adapting workspaces to government guidelines on both the distance between people and the total capacity of each area.
Every business will need to adjust the way they work. You might be a retailer keeping track of the number of customers in your store, a manufacturer setting schedules for using equipment or an office monitoring distancing in meeting rooms.
For small businesses particularly, dedicating employees to monitoring social distancing can be costly – and take people’s time away from working productively or delivering a great customer experience.
Equally, people can quickly become fatigued with having to enforce the rules, creating potentially unsafe situations.
A very smart camera
Artificial intelligence – combined with video – is the perfect tool to monitor whether social distancing rules are being followed.
AI can analyse images from cameras to identify not only the number of people in a given space but the distances between them. The system can then flag any breaches of the rules, through alerts on employee devices, for example, or notices on digital signs.
Importantly, this technology is available to smaller businesses, who might not have extensive IT capabilities.
Meraki smart cameras are self-contained with their own storage and analytics built in, so can be simply plugged into the Internet and managed from the cloud.
The cameras use open standard APIs, which means that output data can be used in many different ways to create customised solutions for the business, whether that’s monitoring the numbers through an online dashboard or receiving voice alerts from a smart assistant like Alexa.
The “rules” can be defined according to the needs of the individual business – and adjusted as government guidelines change.
All of this means that monitoring numbers can be as simple as asking, “Alexa, how many people are in the shop?”
And crucially, AI will never get bored of following the rules, making social distancing not only safe, but sustainable.
Productive use of space
The Covid-19 pandemic has changed our relationship with workspaces for good.
Businesses have become aware of the importance of not being too reliant on a particular space, for their own resilience. It’s also clear that remote, flexible working is not only possible, but very productive, and will be a key part of our working lives into the future.
At the same time, people have become more aware of the value of social spaces, like shops, restaurants and bars – and are keen to make the most of these venues in the future.
As a result, many businesses will be rethinking the use of their workspaces in the future, to ensure it’s safe, productive and sustainable.
The analytics from smart camera systems can provide businesses with valuable insight into how space is used by employees and customers today, and how that could be improved.
Meraki smart cameras, for example, could even be integrated with customer relationship management (CRM) software or point of sale (POS) software, for detailed insight into the link between the business and its premises.
This will help businesses to make bold, informed choices for the future about how space is used, to help them to thrive in the post-pandemic world.
Smarter, safer workspaces
Maintaining social distancing is vital for protecting your employees and the public, but it can feel like a significant drain on resources when times are tough.
Artificial intelligence tools are available to help smaller businesses today, make social distancing sustainable, and enable the smarter use of workspaces into the future.
With simple configuration and a flexible set up, smart cameras can take one concern away from small businesses, as we all adjust to the new working world.
I share additional thoughts about the future of work in this blog post. I hope you'll read my post if you'd like to learn more.
Learn more about how Meraki smart cameras that can support social distancing. Cisco is helping to support small businesses to recover from the economic impact from COVID-19, explore how here.