In a year of unprecedented change, Cisco DNA Spaces helped businesses rise to the challenge. Learn about how the team moved quickly during Covid-19 to help the Cisco customer community build business resiliency with new apps and features for location analytics.

As we wrap 2020, I want to reflect on the year gone by and what it meant for us folks at Cisco DNA Spaces. I think we can all agree that 2020 was a year like no other. It was a time of crisis, it was a period of upheaval; but it was also a period of innovation and transformation for location analytics products.

DNA Spaces is Cisco’s indoor location and IoT services cloud platform.  It enables Cisco Catalyst and Meraki wireless customers to use their existing network to drive digitization within their buildings.

In a world where our websites and mobile apps are becoming smarter by the day, DNA Spaces was launched with the vision to make buildings smarter, for our customers to drive seamless Wi-Fi onboarding for people and IoT devices, for loyalty based differentiated experiences and for behavioral analytics across your business locations.

Prior to Covid-19, we fulfilled our industry’s need for location analytics, behavioral insights, engagement and onboarding tools. In the two years since launch we are the most deployed indoor location services platform in the world, with over 120,000 global business locations on the platform at present. Most customers used the platform to set up Wi-Fi onboarding, engagement rules, locate assets or collect monthly analytics reports and stats on how their locations were performing. Setup DNA Spaces one time and you are all set from an indoor location services perspective.

And then the pandemic hit.


New circumstances require new solutions

Schools and universities closed without notice. Companies went remote overnight. Stores had to close for in-person shopping. Venues had to cancel their events. The Covid-19 crisis was turning out to be most difficult for our customers that operated out of physical locations.

As the state and federal governments started imposing restrictions and social distancing became a survival tactic, everyone woke up to the importance of understanding how people move and interact within buildings—not just in retrospect but in real time. Navigating the global pandemic required enterprises, policymakers and health officials to understand indoor location behavior trends intimately and use those insights to drive safety and compliance.

The product team at Cisco DNA Spaces saw this as an opportunity to help the community adapt for long-term business resiliency. For a product whose mission is to digitize physical spaces, it was clear that if there was ever a moment we could make an impact, it was now.


Pivoting to meet immediate demands

Our team decided to quickly pivot and reprioritize our product roadmap to include apps that would help customers respond to the pandemic and prepare them to safely get back to business. At the heart of our product pivot strategy were our users. We engaged in conversation with them at every step – acknowledged their needs, collected their feedback, understood their point of view.

Any product team will tell you that taking new features to market with a very short runway isn’t exactly an ideal scenario. But we learnt that if your purpose is clear, if your whole team is onboard and if executed well, the experience can be extremely gratifying.

We tapped into some of our core features and repurposed them to build apps more relevant to the new needs created by the pandemic. This resulted in a suite of apps that facilitate a safe return to work in a suite of Back to Business apps and features, including:

  • Proximity Reporting App for contact tracing based on wi-fi presence
  • Right Now App for real-time people count and behavioral monitoring on a single pane across your business locations
  • Density threshold-based triggers for safe capacities and social distancing
  • Instant Captive Portals for contact-less customer experiences

Cisco DNA Spaces apps and features 2020

Smoothing the path to adoption

We built and shipped these apps in the shortest time possible. But our work was far from over. How could we scale adoption at a time when customers were working from home and short on both time and money?

Our adoption strategy was based on two key principles:

  1. We ensured that all new features would work with zero support– no training, no long customer meetings and no demo. We wanted it to be possible for customers to sign-up, activate and deploy the new Covid-19 apps in 30 minutes or less. This required heavy focus on simplifying and scaling onboarding, providing in-product guidance and proactively addressing support issues with 24/7 service-level agreements (SLAs).
  2. We opened up our tier offerings for everyone as a free trial so customers who hadn’t yet adopted DNA Spaces could get started and do contact tracing, monitor real time occupancy within their buildings and deliver contactless experiences. Every Cisco wireless customer deserved to make their buildings safe for business.


Build it and they will come

Over 300 Cisco enterprise customers deployed the new features across 50,000 business locations in the first 60 days after release, leading to improved management of social distancing in places like retail stores, workspaces, hospitals, universities, malls across the world.

The positive response and validation motivated us to stretch ourselves even further and make our apps ready for Meraki as well.

Countless hours and many sleepless nights went into building and shipping these features but all of our efforts were rewarded when we received the ‘Customer Choice’ recognition on Gartner Peer Insights. To be recognized for the value that DNA Spaces continues to deliver was the icing on the cake. The real reward has been the opportunity to share the journey with our customers and be part of their commitments to caring for their employees, customers and communities.


Looking back, but actually looking ahead

As I look back on 2020 one last time, I see what a tough year it has been for all of us. But I also realize that if we broaden our perspective just a little, life becomes that much easier. That said, I believe that for the product and engineering team at Cisco DNA Spaces, 2020 was a year of courage and shared responsibility. But most of all, 2020 was the year of indoor location services – a year when our product found its true relevance and meaning. We will go into 2021 with all our learnings and I believe, we will all be better for it.

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Vivek Menon

Leader, Product Management

Secure Access - Cisco DNA Spaces