REVIEW: Smartway2

Some problems transcend both the size and type of business you’re in, such as managing meeting rooms and making sure mobile workers have a desk when needed. Tools are available to meet these needs, but Smartway2 comes at the problem from a slightly different angle, using the cloud to provide the necessary processing power and those staples of modern business life – the tablet and the smartphone – as the user interface.

10 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT SMARTWAY2

  1. There’s a lot of things that you don’t need in order to use Smartway2, starting with on-premise software. That’s because the intelligence and processing power needed to keep on top of both meeting room and hot desk bookings is provided as a service via the cloud using software hosted on secure Amazon Web Services (AWS) servers. As a customer, all you have to do is sign up for an account and pay a monthly subscription, leaving experienced Smartway2 staff to manage and maintain the required software.
  2. Another thing you don’t need is custom hardware. Instead ordinary Apple iPad and Android tablets can be used to provide the interface for on-site room bookings, typically, mounted on the wall outside the room(s) concerned. A power supply is needed to keep the tablets charged but that’s really the only cabling required. Wi-Fi is used to connect to the hosted Smartway2 service via the building network.
  3. To turn a tablet into a meeting room display you just download a free Smartway2 app from the appropriate store (Apple or Google). Run a quick setup and this shows, at a glance, the current status of the room it controls using green to show the room as available; red for when the room is in use and yellow during the pre-set check-in period for a scheduled meeting. It also shows the capacity of the room and the availability of resources such as digital projectors, video conferencing systems and refreshments.
  4. If a room is free, users can simply walk up and make an immediate booking via the meeting room display. Alternatively users can schedule a meeting in the future by tapping a timeline at the bottom of the display window. If a meeting over-runs the booking can also be extended via the display (assuming there are no conflicting meetings) or the room released if a meeting ends early.
  5. Bookings can be made anonymously or restricted to registered users with authentication via a username and password or (this is the cute part) via another Smartway2 app, this time running on an Apple, Android or Windows smartphone.
  6. A number of technologies can be used to prove your ID via the smartphone when making a booking, not all of which will be available on every device. To start with, you can scan the QR Code shown on the meeting room display – any smartphone with a camera should be able to use this option. Alternatively, if the phone is NFC enabled you have the option of using the same technology as the latest generation of contactless payment cards, in this case implemented using programmable NFC tags which can be attached to meeting room displays and bookable desks. It’s also possible to use Bluetooth LE (available in iOS 8 and Android 4.3 devices and hardware dependent) although additional iBeacon hardware is available if required. Facial recognition via the camera in the smartphone can also be used to prove who you are.
  7. The smartphone app can, again, be downloaded for free and also used to make and manage bookings on the move. Any meeting room or desk within the organisation can be booked this way with the same options to make an immediate booking, schedule a meeting or reserve a desk in advance. It shows available rooms/desks, a list of your bookings and also lets you invite other attendees to meetings. Using the location services on the smartphone it can even work out the nearest available room or desk and, via Google Maps, show you where they are.
  8. Another use for the smartphone app is to quickly check-in when you arrive for a meeting, again using QR codes, NFC tags or Bluetooth. You’ll also be sent reminders of upcoming bookings via the app plus you can use it to extend or end a booking. Desks are identified using a small label containing a pre-programmed QR code and an embedded NFC tag. Note also that the Smartway2 software will check your location to make sure you’re actually near the desk and not just pretending to be in the office by, for example, scanning a photo of the QR code at home.
  9. The combination of a smartphone app plus booking displays near to meeting rooms helps to make Smartway2 more or less autonomous and small companies may be able to get away without any centralised management. For others, however, there’s an Enhanced Scheduler tool which can be used to allocate and manage both meeting rooms and desks across the whole organisation. Run in a browser, this tool uses drag-and-drop to manage bookable resources using either a familiar calendar or timeline interface. It also uses Google maps to show where resources are located and can be run from any device with a browser and Internet access.
  10. Initially targeted at the SME market, a small business can get started with Smartway2 from as little as £299 (ex. VAT) plus the cost of required tablets and smartphones. Beyond that, however, the product is scalable enough to handle much larger organisations and additional enterprise features are also planned to, for example, support closer integration with catering, video conferencing and Building Management Systems, usage reporting and an API for use with third party products.
SUMMARY
  • Affordable & scalable
  • Supports phones & tablets
  • Easy to understand apps
  • Autonomous management
  • Contactless support
  • Requires custom mountings
  • NFC support not universal
  • Bluetooth is device dependent
  • No resource booking option
  • Lacks e-mail integration
  • Martin Hiles

    A very good and accurate review, but the “Negatives” detailed in the Summary box are somewhat confusing and require clarification.

    “Requires custom hardware” – This is not correct. Unlike many systems on the market, Smartway2 does not require expensive proprietary hardware as it operates on any Android or Apple iOS device. The reviewer referenced this major benefit in point two.

    “Bluetooth is an add on” – Again not strictly true. Obviously, if you wish to use Bluetooth LE as a means of User Authentication between mobile phone and tablet, then you must purchase devices that supports this. The software support for such devices is included in all Smartway2 Apps as standard.

    “No resource booking option” – By this we assume the reviewer means that having booked your meeting room you cannot request additional equipment to be delivered to the room. These days most organisations are equipping their meeting rooms to a common standard with permanently installed equipment, which increases reliability and reduces administration costs. Smartway2 details the equipment available in each room to assist the user in selecting a room that is suitably equipped for their purpose.

    “Lacks email Integration” – True, but Smartway2 has its own inbuilt notifications feature, this alerts the meeting host and attendees of any changes to their scheduled meetings and reminds them of upcoming meetings, check in requirements etc.

  • Alan Stevens

    Thanks for the comments Martin and apologies for any confusion. Unfortunately brevity would seem to be the root of the problem here as “custom hardware” refers not to the tablets/smartphones employed by Smartway2, but the bracket or mount required to enable a tablet to be positioned outside a meeting room. A small negative, but something that needs to be borne in mind and, as you point out, a key feature of Smartway2 is it’s use of the mobile devices we all have rather than have to buy specialised equipment to do the job

    Similarly with Bluetooth, although software support is built in some additional hardware may be required to fully exploit this option. However, this is not the only contactless technology on offer and support for a range of options including QR codes, NFC and face recognition is another valuable feature of the product.

    As regards resource booking and email integration, these are options in competitive products and something which many customers would look for. For others, on the other hand, such features might be of little consequence. Either way another positive point in favour of Smartway2 is that, because it’s a cloud-based solution, it would be relatively easy to add these and other features in the future.