Aruba Beacons create location-based tracking to empower flexible working at Dutch local government.
BAR Organisatie is a collaboration of three Dutch municipalities, Barendrecht, Albrandswaard and Ridderkerk. It was formed in 2014 to create efficiencies through shared services and consolidation. Its fortunes are being closely monitored by others in the Dutch public sector.
"Clearly, cost savings are an issue," says Robert de Winter, automation department manager, BAR, "but so too is service delivery."
Creating flexible work environments
With the three municipalities running three different IT departments, and having three separate networks, de Winter says there was a clear opportunity to save costs and improve flexibility and performance:
"We had three different network set-ups, different equipment and different strategies. We wanted to consolidate this across all buildings, with a centralised view and centralised management."
Before that, however, he says the battle is for employees' hearts and minds. BAR wants to create flexible working for all staff, with new laptops and a mobile desktop, and introducing hot-desks at the three town halls. If it is successful, hot-desking will create savings on office space and commuting costs; flexible working will allow staff to work from anywhere, improving productivity.
To work, staff need to be able to find a 'free' desk quickly. Unfortunately, early trials suggested BAR's 1,200 staff were spending up to 15 minutes each morning trying to find a desk, a frustrating start to the work day. "A big problem," says de Winter.
A platform on which to build productivity applications
The Aruba solution is based on wireless access points in each building, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) Beacons and Analytics and Location Engine (ALE). "We needed a platform on which we could build an application to show the availability of free desks," says de Winter, "reliably and accurately."
The Aruba Beacons are placed under a desk, so we know exactly who has checked into a desk, and with the wireless location engine we determine what devices they're using. The combined solution is incredibly granular in its accuracy.
Robert de Winter, automation department manager, BAR
According to De Winter, a selected app developer in cooperation with a HPE/Aruba consultant impressed us with its total concept of hardware, software and smart app development:
"We saw an Aruba Beacons project involving a museum in Madrid, at the HPE Discover event in London, 2015. It was impressive and very inspiring. "
This triggered us to start a conversation with HPE/Aruba that then progressed to a Proof of Concept.
The result is BAR Connect, an app available on Android, iOS and online. The app was created by XS2, a Dutch developer, using Meridian Beacons and HPE Access Points.
The app shows available work places to a BAR employee, along with the status and location (in the building) of a BAR employee (away or online). Building maps help the user navigate through the building to the available working place. Users can 'reserve' a desk or meeting room.
The 15-minute search for a desk is a thing of the past, says de Winter. Staff can find a free desk in moments, they can also find colleagues. This improves productivity and collaboration.
BAR can also track hotspots within the building, helping building management and informing future office planning. It is also easier to track staff in the event of an emergency, meeting BAR's duty of care responsibilities. In addition, XS2 develops and maintains the app's web admin dashboard.
"The Aruba Beacons are placed under a desk, so we know exactly who has checked into a room, and what devices they're using. The solution is incredibly granular in its accuracy," says de Winter. "If something happens, we know who's there."
Arguably the biggest impact has been felt by BAR employees. With three established organisations coming together, management were keen to show the new entity could do things differently – and more effectively.
"The app is a very visible sign that things have changed," says a BAR employee. "We literally start each day with this reminder. It's changed the way we work as individuals, and as teams."
Staff are involved in suggesting new functionality for the next iterations of the app.
Inspiring digital service innovation
The immediate and obvious benefit will be productivity, says de Winter, but the longer term, more subtle impact will be cultural:
"It is important we are seen as an innovative, effective place to work. Flexible working is part of that, but it's also important we develop applications for citizens. BAR Connect is just one small part of the bigger puzzle. If we can get 1,200 staff working more productively, what might be possible with digital service delivery to citizens?"
The success of BAR Connect matters, he says, because it will help make the case for the next round of projects. The creation of BAR Connect has inspired plenty of discussion of what might be possible in the near future.
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