A key objective of the New World of Work initiative at Microsoft is to give employees more choices in—and control over—how they manage their work life activities. Microsoft IT helps fulfill this objective by designing modern workspaces and equipping them with technologies that allow employees to roam and remain connected.
Windows 10 Anniversary Update includes several new and improved features that help personalize and enhance the work experience, both in the workplace and on the go. We use Internet of Things (IoT) devices that communicate with Windows 10 and Windows 10 universal apps for even more opportunities to personalize the work experience and collaboration.
Implementing technology to support modern facilities
More employees than ever work outside of the office, and many campus spaces have moved from assigned workspaces to open floor plans with flexible seating, multi-use areas, and modern conference rooms. We have implemented technologies throughout our modern facilities to help Microsoft employees be productive and collaborate effectively. These include:
- Smart touchdown spaces with Wi-Fi and universal docking stations that are accessible with a USB 3.0 cable.
- Windows 10 Continuum-enabled workspaces that provide a computer-like experience—with a monitor and keyboard—for Windows 10 Mobile devices.
- Diverse meeting room experiences that support formal meetings, focus areas, informal meetings, and one-on-one meetings.
- Skype for Business for audio calls, video conferencing, and IM, with employee presence information on any device.
Improving interaction with the workplace through the Internet of Things
The IoT is a network of physical devices and other items that are embedded with electronics, software, and/or sensors that can collect and exchange data. IoT devices are creating more opportunities to integrate our physical surroundings into computer-based systems through our existing network infrastructure. The interconnectivity of embedded devices with our systems and infrastructure has opened ways we can improve how employees can interact with their workplace environment.
In some modern locations, we are using beacon devices to provide geolocation information to applications. Docking stations communicate with applications to inform employees if a flexible workspace is in use or is available, and motion detectors and projectors in conference rooms can sense when they are in use.
Windows 10 in the modern workplace
We have deployed Windows 10 Anniversary Update throughout the company. It includes features that help users to be more productive and devices to be more secure. Cortana and features that keep devices in sync provide a more personalized experience. As compared to previous versions, Windows 10 provides better control over privacy settings and the ability to control background tasks.
Windows 10 was designed to make the most of new devices, including an improved tablet mode. By implementing Continuum-enabled workspaces, our Windows 10 Mobile users can connect to a projector or scale their apps to a larger screen and use a mouse and keyboard, while still being able to take calls.
We also implemented Windows Hello for Business for authentication. Windows Hello offers PIN and biometric authentication support for Windows 10 devices. Windows Hello lets you easily sign in with a passcode or a fingerprint. Users whose hardware supports facial recognition or an iris scan can also sign in with those methods.
Always On is a new feature in Windows 10 Anniversary Update that enables an active VPN profile to connect automatically. Always On makes it easier to remotely and securely connect to the corporate network. When an employee signs in to their device running Windows 10 Anniversary Update, it automatically connects and provides a persistent connection to the corporate network.
Using the FindMe Windows 10 universal app to transform a modern workspace
Many of our modern workspaces feature open seating—workstations are not assigned, and employees may not always be seated near their co-workers. Because a lot of work gets done with face-to-face interaction, we wanted to make it easy for people to find each other. Employees may not always be familiar with a location or workspace to know where they should sit, or where the nearby multi-use areas and conference rooms are. We wanted to provide better, more personalized ways for our employees to interact with their work environments.
At Microsoft, we have been using FindMe, which is based on a solution accelerator developed by Microsoft Services. Employees can install the FindMe Windows 10 universal app or use a browser-based version of the app on their devices.
In Thailand and Singapore, we further transformed our modern workplace by integrating FindMe with IoT devices to deploy an advanced geolocation solution. FindMe with geolocation works with layers of location services—including GPS, Wi-Fi triangulation, Bluetooth low energy (BLE) beacons triangulation, and workstation detection through Ethernet plug-ins. Location information is received by the FindMe app and transmitted to the FindMe service as a background process. The Ethernet plug-in offers the most precise location information, and the BLE beacons can determine where a user is within a few feet. GPS and Wi-Fi triangulation offers location information that is accurate within a five-meter radius.
Using location beacons combined with floor maps, we provided an intuitive, graphical interface to show employees where their coworkers are, where there are open desks, and what conference rooms and multi-use areas are near them. On the campuses where FindMe has been implemented, we provided a kiosk running the application on every floor. Outside each conference room, we installed display devices that employees can interact with to view the room’s schedule and to book the room.
Location services with Skype for Business integration
After the FindMe application finds an employee’s peers on the floor plan map, it provides a point-in-time visualization of the employee’s presence status though Skype for Business integration. FindMe uses Skype for Business APIs to publish the location information in Skype for Business. With a single glance, an employee can determine where their peers are and if they are available for a quick conversation. They can click a peer’s location in the app to open that employee’s Skype for Business contact card and send them an IM or call them. Improving the meeting room booking experience
The Quick Book feature in FindMe offers several enhancements that help employees book meetings. In addition to displaying the meeting rooms on the floor map—along with the ability to select and view a specific meeting room’s status and schedule—employees can use the Quick Book feature to find available meeting rooms near them with a single click. Before FindMe, employees had to open a meeting request in Microsoft Outlook and add each room as a resource to determine its availability. It was time consuming—and it didn’t always result in booking the right size or type of room. Using Quick Book, all available rooms are ranked based on the relevance to the selected schedule and number attendees. The employee can adjust the time to see alternate availabilities. Because FindMe is aware of the employee’s location, it will search for meeting rooms that are close by. After an employee books a room through FindMe, the system sends a request to the Microsoft Exchange server, and the employee receives an email notification that it has been booked.
As more IoT devices are being deployed, FindMe can offer even more intelligence for meeting rooms. An employee’s presence inside a meeting room can be determined, so FindMe can send a notification for that employee to automatically book the meeting room that they are already in. We have also introduced the auto-release of meeting rooms—these are meeting rooms that have been booked, but that are not being utilized.
Security, privacy, and manageability
Security for Windows 10 universal apps and browser-based apps is managed through secure sign-in to user devices, and through multifactor authentication to the corporate network. We use a non-user system account to sign in to the Windows 10 kiosks and conference room displays.
To install business applications through the Company Portal, a device must either be domain joined and managed via System Center Configuration Manager or managed through Microsoft Intune. Device management through System Center Configuration Manager and Microsoft Intune helps ensure that all systems are compliant and are running the latest updates and required security patches for secure access to the corporate network.
Ensuring employee privacy
Tracking and publishing employee locations can be a sensitive topic. The only people who can view location information are other employees. However, we still wanted to give employees control over what is published about their locations. The application is optional, and employees can opt in or opt out of GPS tracking that can provide their location, within 10 meters, when they are outside of the workplace.
Settings within the application, and privacy settings in Windows 10, help employees to customize their privacy preferences. In Windows 10 Privacy, there are Location and Radios settings that can control whether a user device will allow any application to collect or send location information. Some of the configurable settings within FindMe include:
- The ability to turn on or turn off their location visibility whenever they want to by using the Private button (also known as Cloak Me). Employees can also remove their last reported location.
- The ability to set the frequency in which their location is published (5 minutes, 10 minutes, or 15 minutes).
- The ability to designate that their location will only be published during weekdays and during business hours.
From a service management perspective, the FindMe service with geolocation has low overhead. Device provisioning was simplified because the FindMe kiosks and conference room displays are standard Windows 10 tablet devices running a Windows modern app. The BLE beacon devices were peel and stick and required little more than placement for installation. We use a browser application to view the status of the installed BLE beacons.
We manage the kiosks and conference room displays the same way we manage other Windows 10 client devices. We do not have dedicated monitoring for the system. The BLE beacons operate on their own frequencies and don’t impact network bandwidth. The universal app itself was designed to not impact the performance of client machines as its background processes receive location information from the IoT devices and transmit it to the FindMe service.
The FindMe application is a Windows 10 universal app—therefore, it is inherently easy to manage and deploy. Because the Universal Windows Platform provides a guaranteed core API layer across devices, we created a single app package that can be installed on demand through our company software portal. The app can be installed on a wide range of Windows 10-based devices.
The FindMe solution is a great example of how Windows 10, IoT devices, and a Windows 10 universal app can work together to solve business challenges and provide a personalized workplace experience to our employees. FindMe was developed using systems and devices that are already in the Microsoft ecosystem. The IoT devices that we provisioned and installed were quite inexpensive and simple to install. Geolocation makes it easier for employees to remain productive and collaborate in flexible workspaces—as a result, we are seeing better utilization of meeting rooms.
We are constantly working to improve and personalize our employees’ experience and productivity. The workplace is evolving, and we are always looking for ways to integrate and leverage the capabilities of Windows 10, universal apps, modern facilities, and IoT devices to make the modern workplace really work for them.
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