Networking Solutions May 26, 2020

Cisco Meraki Hackathon – Bechtle takes first place with distancing solution.

The first virtual Meraki Hackathon in Germany took place in May. Bechtle won joint first for their Hannover team’s solution which uses Meraki cameras to measure and display the distance between people with the built-in zone features.

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Andreas Wespe
IT-Business-Architekt

In the current situation, observing physical distancing and monitoring the number of people in a room is of great importance. But it’s not always easy to correctly estimate. Finding a solution to this problem was what Bechtle brought to the two-day virtual Hackathon which saw seven teams from Germany and Switzerland compete.

 

The goal of the idea was to create a solution that quickly, easily, and precisely reported back on whether or not the people in the room were observing the required distance. It wasn’t easy to combine precision, complexity, and speed, meaning that the results are not 100% infallible, but more of a flexible guide that can be easily provided.

 

Use of Meraki zones to measure distance.

Measuring distances with sufficient accuracy usually requires complex calculations and WLAN-based solutions tend to have the issue that room limitations are hard to comply with.

 

The Meraki cameras offer suitable prerequisites as the camera images can determine the number of people present. There is also the option to split the image into zones and analyse it accordingly.

 

Several freely-configurable zones can be placed in the picture. The idea is that the zones can be configured so that that they correspond with the distance requirements—every zone that is occupied with more than one person equals an unacceptable state.

 

The information about the zones can be transmitted with Meraki via API or an MQTT stream. There is no uploading of images into a cloud as the required image analyses happen right in the camera and then only the purely numerical values are transferred to the zones. A second tool is required, however, to simply analyse and display them.

 

PRTG analysis.

This is where Paessler AG’s PRTG comes into play. The monitoring tool can transmit data via Meraki API using sensors (REST sensor) and display it. In this case, in the first step, the people present in the individual zones are displayed individually. The final evaluation of the zones and the number of people is then performed via a formula sensor that adds the sum of the zones and can compare them if required. The results are then displayed and shown on a traffic light dashboard, for example.

 

Many other options.

Over the two days, an executable PoC was implemented and tested. Expansions are planned for the final realisation. It would be helpful if the results were not only shown as a dashboard, but also directly. This could be achieved with a WLAN lamp or light that would turn red if the distancing became insufficient. Schools and businesses could benefit from this to quickly alert people in a space as to whether or not they were observing the required distancing.

 

A further advancement is planned, using MQTT as a transfer protocol, as this is quicker, more easily scalable, and ultimately more suitable than the original API-based solution.

 

At the Hackathon, the Bechtle team, comprising Dennis Schiller, Golo Königshoff and team captain Andreas Wespe, demonstrated how the challenges of today can be made a bit easier to manage, with just a few resources, multiple systems, and some time. If you have any questions on realisation options, costs, and implementation we will be happy to help.