Why tablets at every meeting room? (Ask Luuk & Rik, #1)

Because they are the tip of an iceberg that we have been developing for a while

Microlab has a lot going on and sometimes it may seem a little chaotic, but trust us: there is a method in the madness! To prove it, in every Maker Reporter we will answer one question from our members in a bit more detail. This is the very first edition! Email us questions for the next edition at makers@microlab.team!

Microlab is investing heavily in ICT infrastructure. (Just a month ago we hired someone as our in-house hardware tinkerer!) We believe this is essential if we want to provide our members with better service, become more eco-friendly and keep our organisation lean.

Tablets, LED-lighting, custom software, Cisco enterprise-grade hardware & in-house designers… why?

The meeting room tablets are the most recent — and most visible — addition to our ICT stack. To give you an idea of the scope of our systems, I will refer you to the footnote [1], but in summary: we actively use over a dozen applications and have custom software suite that already contains tens of thousands of lines of code. Increasingly we are using (custom) hardware as well.

Our team gets to spend more time on fun stuff

One of the obvious benefits for our company is that we are spending less time on boring stuff, so we can focus on developing new floors, throwing Hawaii-themed drinks and organizing hackathons. The automation of membership processes has been the focus of our software development for most of 2016. And it’s worked: we have over a hundred active contracts, yet we spend less than two days a month on billing and new members can get a contract in about half an hour.

We get more grip on the building and its resources

The theme for software and hardware development for 2017 is and will remain “getting grip on the building and the resources”. Part of this is digital access control we have on every office on the fifth floor, secure printers and booking tablets at every meeting room. But this is just the start.

The main reason to focus on restricting and measuring access is about safety of people and belongings. As we get busier, we get more unsupervised people using dangerous machinery and still every month thousands of euro’s of our stuff is stolen or broken.

Behind the scenes we’ve been working on getting our systems ready for much bigger steps in this area. For instance, this year:

  • the meeting room tablets will be used to open the doors with your pincode (and only when you reserved it);
  • we will only send cleaners to rooms that have been opened since the last cleaning, saving them a lot of time;
  • we will add self-service post-pay fridges for soft drinks (and maybe snacks);
  • the wifi will be restricted to individual devices[3] so that we can provide better stability and speed;
  • we get real-time monitoring of the state of coffee machines, trash cans and printers;
  • the ground floor yellow zone will be retrofitted with digital access control;
  • the wood & metal machines will soon require a card or token to activate;
  • this year we will replace all the outside RFID scanners so you can use your Microlab member-card to open the front door!

And then what?

In 2018 the focus of ICT-development revolves around making the building greener. As the current systems are rolled out, we are adding layers of automation with a clear economic benefit to Microlab: we can have fewer people doing boring jobs and we will have fewer things broken or stolen. However, a lot of these tools can be repurposed for eco-friendly initiatives. We have a few cool ones in mind:

  • lights will turn on and off automatically based on your presence in the building;
  • heating and airflow will be controlled based on presence;
  • digitally monitored maintenance of greenery in and around the building;
  • we will be adding more 12V based systems, preferably powered by solar.

Do you have any ideas that we should implement? Let us know!

[1] Our team currently uses 
- Slack, Gmail & WhatsApp for communications;
- Trello, Google Calendar & Asana for planning;
- Moneybird, Mollie, Davilex Online, & Nexudus for financial management;
- a full Cisco-enterprise stack, Papercut, Microsoft Active Directory for the ICT we offer members;
- custom hardware for meeting room control;
- digital access control systems;
- custom software called MyMicrolab for contract generation;
- custom meeting room software.

Look at us being totally comfortable being photographed in matching outfits!

Luuk started Atelier Eindhoven back in 2014 with the help of Rik. At the end of 2015, we got the opportunity to scale the whole project up and turn it into Microlab Eindhoven. At that point Rik reduced his responsibilities at FastPortal and came on board in a hands-on capacity. Throughout 2016 we expanded the team with Frans, Chris, Max, Johanneke, Louise & Iris.

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