Reopen Software: 6 Things To Know Before You Buy

Workplace distancing. Crowd density. Occupancy, vacancy, capacity.  Welcome to the new language of reopening campuses and venues around the globe.

Whether it’s pro sports venues, college stadiums, campus libraries or office buildings, dedicated reopen task forces are hard at work understanding new requirements to count people, predict crowd behavior, and help students, fans and employees return safely.

At the same time, CIOs say this is a very noisy time—they are hearing lots of pitches from lots of vendors who want to help them reopen safely. Evaluating AI-powered reopen software can be daunting, even though there are some obvious starting points. It should have proven partnerships in your vertical. It should scale easily, and ideally be vendor agnostic, working with any IT provider you currently have on premises.

But what else should you know about this category of crowd intelligence software? We’ve highlighted 6 key attributes here:

  1. Ask before investing in sensors. Ask whether the solution requires sensors to be installed over doorways or other locations. Depending on your electrical supply options, and the procedures for replacing batteries, some sensors could potentially become a hassle.  Inquire whether the solution can leverage existing video systems you already have in place.
  2. Remote Deploy. Considering how hard it is to schedule meetings and visitors these days, this might seem like an obvious starting point. If you believe your SaaS provider can get you up and running remotely, it may take some of the initial strain off the project.
  3. Privacy. Most organizations do not want to be in the surveillance business. When looking for software that helps you count people and predict how and when they will use spaces – think library during finals week or holiday shopping at the mall – look for a solution that provides you visual representations of people in your space. Ask your SaaS provider if the data they wrangle and you see is anonymous.
  4. A display you love. Everyone will tell you their software has the most intuitive interface. That’s because the user experience is important—but not because it makes you feel happier and smarter when you see it (though that’s nice) but because every other person in your organization should feel empowered by it. Non-technical types should find it easy to use and understand.  So yes, there’s a lot of GUI hype—but for good reason.
  5. Alerting. Make sure you have the ability to surface anomalies in ways that make sense to your team in the command center, or the ones using mobile devices. These threshold alerts can help facility and security teams respond to incidents faster, avoid bottlenecks or overcrowding, and adjust staffing when necessary.
  6. Compliance. When evaluating reopen software, ask providers whether you will be able to review data for compliance purposes. So much time and effort will be dedicated to phased reopening; make sure you are able to review and show data that makes clear how people use the space you manage, and how your reopen plan is working.

Internship Advice: Why Everyone Should Work at a Startup

“Keeping people safe where they work and play” – That slogan drew me to apply for a software engineering internship at Armored Things, and the same slogan greeted me upon my arrival to the office for my interview. Now, eight months later, I can confidently say that Armored Things lives up to that mission.

Having completed three years of my undergraduate computer science degree, I came into the internship excited to see how my studies applied to real-world solutions. Doing an internship at a startup is a different experience from working at a large, established company. That’s because you are able to watch a company develop and grow, and be part of the team that makes that possible. From day one, I felt like I was contributing work that was critical to the company’s success.

As an intern, I primarily worked with the engineering team, but I was also given the opportunity to listen to sales calls, and hear how customers are interested in using our product. Beyond that, I was able to expand my portfolio of programming languages and frameworks. I learned new applications for my interest in functional programming, as well as front-end frameworks that were new to me. Among the engineering tasks, I completed was creating a new library to be put into production to monitor our back-end services. It all added up to the type of real-world experience that helps prepare engineers to contribute in meaningful ways to product portfolios.

When we went into production, I was proud of the team and myself, knowing that we were delivering on a mission to keep people safe.

If I ever had questions, there was always a team member happy to hop on a call to help me out. There were plenty of opportunities for social gatherings as well. Before the pandemic sent us all home for remote work in March 2020, we had “lunch trains” so no one had to eat alone, and every so often there would be an after-hours game night, which was a really fun way to hang out with the team. Plus, working in Boston, there was never a shortage of amazing food options to try. I grew up in Boston, but still, I was introduced to quite a few new ones (looking at you, Pita Thyme!)

Although we were suddenly working remote, and life was turned a bit upside down, Armored Things was able to use our platform to provide a new density alerting service to help bring our new normal into grasp. This was probably the coolest part of the internship for me. We were able to take our existing service and develop a solution to help venues reopen safely. That kind of innovation was really exciting to me. Even as an intern, I provided hands-on work to this project. When we went into production, I was proud of the team and myself, knowing that we were delivering on a mission to keep people safe.

I am extremely grateful for my time at Armored Things and for this opportunity to learn and grow. As I continue onwards to my senior year of undergrad, I find myself knowing more about which classes would be most valuable to my interests, and what their practical applications might be, thanks to the guidance I have received here. I am so thankful for the eight months I spent at Armored Things, and I am excited to continue my internship in a part-time role during my final year of school.

If I had one piece of advice to give engineering students, it would be to seek out a startup with a mission you believe in, and jump in. It’s a great way to build a career!

Hannah Reed is a computer science major at McGill University. She is currently in her fourth year.

Facilities Management Checklist: Logistics, Density, Analytics

Before COVID-19, facilities managers were already working in two worlds, combining a nuts-and-bolts understanding of building operations with business acumen and strategic vision.

Today Facilities Managers, and those with more senior titles like the Director of Facilities and Operations, are faced with challenges that are the direct result of the pandemic – and will impact both their immediate and long-term planning. They include:

Together, these three issues dominate many conversations with facilities managers who are investigating crowd intelligence and dashboard analytics to help support their work to reopen campuses and venues.


For facilities managers working in higher education,  isolation and quarantining policies can vary from school to school. It often depends on resources and how much real estate is available. In typical times, of course, housing decisions are made far in advance of actual occupancy.

But Covid-19 concerns and challenges change week to week depending on many factors, and universities have to work hard to keep paceIn this environment, it’s necessary to have a single view of an entire campus or venue, so facilities managers can identify underutilized buildings and floors, and see peak usage times for things like bus stops and dining services.

There’s also a new focus on how on-campus teams are communicating to internal stakeholders and the community at large. At Westminster, MD-based McDaniel College, a page for parents offers the Isolation and Quarantine Q&A.  “Why is the college sending students in isolation or quarantine to a Best Western? I thought you said they would be provided accommodations on campus?”

Answer: “Isolation guidelines require one bathroom per student, which we cannot do effectively in our communal housing on campus. “

Once alternative housing is opened, facilities teams often have to coordinate daily room cleanings and meal delivery. (And sometimes contend with students sharing their dissatisfaction with quarantine housing standards on social media.) Many facilities managers say having an agreed upon data set showing how many students need secondary housing and for how long has helped their overall communication efforts.

“The trouble with understanding how buildings and floors are being utilized—especially with reduced staff on the premises—is typically a lack of reliable data. Facilities managers need data analytics to show how things like holidays and semester finals impact the hours that office buildings and campus libraries are crowded.”


Before COVID-19, facilities mangers talked about density in terms of groups—corporate divisions, for example. One division (i.e. Legal) might grow by 20 percent and the facilities manager would have to consider things like whether that division might host more special events, or require more large meeting rooms.

But the pandemic changed how facilities managers talk about crowd density. Due to a new awareness of physical distancing, the post-pandemic facilities manager needs reliable, real-time data to understand exactly when and where students, fans or employees are gathered. Now density is talked about in terms of crowds, overcrowding and gatherings. This is an area where AI software that accurately monitors density—with real-time alerts for capacity thresholds—can provide valuable insights for improved, data-based decision making.


The pandemic introduced several new angles to the topic of space management and utilization–a familiar one to facilities managers. Understanding occupancy vs. capacity is the simple foundation of space utilization.  Let those numbers grow too far apart and it could mean you are paying to light, heat and staff a building with a 1,000-person capacity, occupied by only 100 people four days a week. That data was hard enough for facilities teams to see before the pandemic, but now there’s a need to schedule more cleaning crews, meet a demand to operate at half capacity (A/B work teams) and set up workflow and foot traffic to avoid bottlenecks and crowding.

The trouble with understanding how buildings and floors are utilized—especially with reduced staff on the premises—is typically a lack of reliable data. Facilities managers need data analytics to show how things like holidays and semester finals impact the hours that office buildings and campus libraries are crowded.

With historical overlays to look back at trends, facilities managers can predict things like how many cars and people will show up at graduation ceremonies and championship games. In that way, AI and predictive analytics can help facilities managers prepare and plan for the future in ways they never could before. This is the sort of data that can be helpful in real-time but also for planning space optimization as campuses and venues begin to reach full capacity.

Check out this quick introduction to Armored Things and learn more about its value to Facilities Managers during COVID-19 & beyond.

Security Challenges of Reopening Offices, Campuses, and Venues

Part 1: Understanding and accounting for the psychological security of reopening

In late April, Armored Things CEO Julie Johnson Roberts, and board member Tom Axbey had the opportunity to join a Clubhouse discussion hosted by investor Glasswing Ventures about some of the security challenges involved with reopening post-COVID for businesses, schools and venues.

The participants represented a 360-degree view of the topic covering everything from security and technology to business and operations. The speakers include:

  • Rick Grinnell — Founder and Managing Partner, Glasswing Ventures
  • Julie Johnson Roberts — Co-Founder & CEO, Armored Things
  • Tom Axbey — Operator, Investor, Advisor, and Armored Things Board Member
  • David McLeod — VP, Chief Information Security Officer, Cox Enterprises
  • Charlie Bonomo — Senior Vice President & CIO, MSC Industrial Supply
  • Brendan Welter — Chief Security & Technology Officer, Sterling National Bank
  • Chris Lord — Co-founder and CTO, Armored Things

This is the first in a series of four blogs sharing some of the insights from what was a really interesting and informative discussion. In this segment, David McLeod, Charlie Bonomo and Brendan Welter have just been talking about what reopening looks like in their enterprise organizations.

Rick Grinnell
Julie, I want to think about a few other vertical use cases because your company is going after venues and sports teams and other things beyond the enterprise. So, what’s your perspective on some of the concerns that your customers are facing right now and the challenges that you’re helping them deal with?

Julie Johnson Roberts
What I think is most consistent is that everyone’s experience is so different right now. There are some places [no matter the vertical] that are leapfrogging in terms of technical projects being accelerated in the downtime while others are slowing. There are folks bringing people back quickly, and then folks who are consolidating offices and taking a much more measured approach. The theme that I heard through all of this is that there is no consistent new normal, right? We’re not all universally going back to the office 9-5, Monday through Friday, at least in corporate environments. And therefore, I think the data that will be collected as people come back is going to be paramount. How do we understand our new policies and their impact on our environment? Everyone is taking a slightly different approach, but the data is really important as we reopen. From a capacity perspective and our ability to enforce these policies, but importantly, in the comfort and the trust that they engender with people that they’re following government restrictions, but that we also have good control over our environment.

David McLeod
You know, Julie, I really like hearing that, because when I think about my corporate campus environments, that could get me in trouble, in terms of public perception and trust. Because I have to admit, I didn’t really understand the psychological safety thing near as much as when I made 60 trips last year. And I was standing in the Minneapolis airport, social distancing, everybody cautious [in the] middle of COVID last year, and suddenly, one person just freaked out and said, ‘You’re standing too close to me’ and everybody scattered. And I realized, you know what? All our little compliance things, she wasn’t safe, right? It was too much for that person in that environment.

Julie Johnson Roberts
Well, the question is, how is that going to change over time? Day one of each place’s new normal might look very different. Rick said he’s going to a Celtics game, right.  And I think Massachusetts venues, in general, are hoping to go to 25% in May and then steadily 50%, 75% and more. (Editor’s Note: Massachusetts will permit 100% capacity as of May 29th). What happens to comfort? Are there people who opt in at 12%, who might opt out at 80%? We don’t know that yet. The data will be very interesting. There are so many different factors that play into everyone’s mental calculus. What’s my risk? What’s my family’s risk? Have I been vaccinated? Do I feel confident in the practices that have been put in place? But communication is going to be a huge piece of this. How am I being communicated to and because of that, what’s my confidence level?

Charlie Bonomo
I also think about enforcing consistency once people are back in the office. It’s just human nature that over time, if I’m going back in, I’m around the same people. Let’s have a meeting. And before you know it, you have conference rooms that are crammed with a dozen people, and they present what’s either an unsafe environment, and you just don’t know who is going to react negatively to that. I think that going to be a big challenge — how do we manage those shared spaces to make sure that we are constantly reminding people that just because we’re back in the office, it doesn’t mean we should cram 100 people in a meeting room.

Julie Johnson Roberts
How do we get ahead of that? Maybe we’re sometimes talking about 100 people- or a 1,000. But sometimes we are talking about 12 people.  So, we talk a lot about preparedness or early alerting. How do we let you know at 80% of [capacity]? We can potentially give you advanced warning—because what do you do after the fact, when you already have those 12 people filling up a room?

This is part one of a four-post series. To continue on to part two, click here.

Is The Future of Physical Security Tech Enabled?

Part 2: The Security Challenges of Reopening Offices, Campuses and Venues

This is the second in a series of four blogs sharing insights from a Clubhouse discussion hosted by Armored Things investor Glasswing Ventures about some of the security challenges involved with reopening post-COVID for businesses, schools and venues.

The participants represented a 360-degree view of the topic covering everything from security and technology to business and operations. The speakers included:

  • Rick Grinnell — Founder and Managing Partner, Glasswing Ventures
  • Julie Johnson Roberts — Co-Founder & CEO, Armored Things
  • Tom Axbey — Operator, Investor, Advisor, and Armored Things Board Member
  • ​David McLeod — VP, Chief Information Security Officer, Cox Enterprises
  • Charlie Bonomo — Senior Vice President & CIO, MSC Industrial Supply
  • ​Brendan Welter — Chief Security & Technology Officer, Sterling National Bank
  • Chris Lord — Co-founder and CTO, Armored Things

In this segment, the discussion shifts from what reopening looks like to the role technology might play in that process.

Rick Grinnell
So, how much of this (safely reopening business, schools and venues) is going to be technology enabled, and how much of it is just simple, basic process? Tom, you used to lead a technology company that was in the safety business, why don’t we start with you and your thoughts on that subject.

Tom Axbey
When I was in the safety business, it was primarily focused on higher education. Campuses generally have a professional, well trained and equipped campus safety force. That’s the backbone of it. But then you’ve got to realize that most campuses are equipped to protect the perimeter of the campus, and who can come in, and who can come out, not what happens there (on campus). So, you can sort that out digitally. But if you look at it historically, college campuses basically relied on blue lights and digital sign engines. Then mobile changed everything. Everyone had a mobile phone in 2007, which coincided with Virginia Tech and the need for proactive notification. But it was still very reactive. Higher Ed campuses today are going through a huge change. On one hand, they’re very semester based. At the same time, they have huge sporting events, and they’re also balancing distancing-learning with onsite populations. David (McLeod) said that basically he’s made three to four years of progress in one year, and I think everyone’s gone through that in the enterprise. And Charlie (Bonomo) said they’re setting up hotel rooms. But if you’re a college campus you don’t have that. So, what you need to do is start being more proactive about how you manage people, because campuses were always about the perimeter of physical security and then mobile devices. So how do you track people? And that’s really the biggest challenge that campuses have right now, especially as they face going back to school this year.

Brendan Welter
I had an observation that those that have done well through this crisis, are those that have been decisive. And primarily it’s been those that have been decisive due to supporting data and things of that nature. What Julie and Tom and others have been speaking about certainly resonate with me in terms of being able to collect the right information to get to the right decision maker. So, the decision makers can lay out a path forward. That doesn’t mean they won’t course correct. But it does mean they will make be decisive about opening, and opening on a specific percentage, but they will prioritize their colleagues on that behalf. I do certainly believe that data and technology is going to support decisive companies that will be successful in the long haul.

Tom Axbey
You’ve got to be data driven.

David McLeod
Even when I think about discovering the pattern of what happened on day one with 5% walk through testing and adapting to that, we don’t know how folks came and went through buildings. We know that we put up these cool new areas, but we’re watching ants in an ant hill and we don’t see it yet. So, we need the data before we need to adjust. We need the data after too. It can be our biggest guidance, especially if the data let us talk to people about how to feel safe.

Tom Axbey
And you’ll say you need access to the data during as well, right.

David McLeod

Charlie Bonomo
You know, what I wonder about is the position that companies will take based on doing this as the new kind of reoccurring event, like a power failure. So, I put in generators and things like that and it just happened once. In this case, we’re all going to get vaccinated and in 10 years we won’t be talking about it anymore. Because to solve these issues or to facilitate them with technology, it’s probably a fair amount of infrastructure that gets laid down at a cost. Will companies lay down the infrastructure, or will they handle it with process and kind of keep their fingers crossed that it doesn’t happen more regularly?

Julie Roberts Johnson
I think that’s a great point. From my perspective, I sometimes worry that security and safety generally are underfunded until a bad thing happens. Then they temporarily get budget. And then as attention kind of weans away from them again, the budget tends to go away a little bit as well. Then we’re potentially caught flat footed the next time a similar or same event happens. So, my hope here is that we’ve had a bit of global learning; that this becomes part of that preparedness posture the same way you would want to have board-level conversations about cyber hygiene, or in a university setting, things like active shooter. I think it’s unacceptable if those Black Swan events have not been contemplated at a very high level for an organization. And I imagine that despite maybe the level of threat perceived to going down, I would imagine that there’s still a perception that these things could happen again from what we’ve learned.

Read part 1: Understanding and accounting for the psychological security of reopening

Q&A: What Can Police Learn From Covid-19 Crisis

In late March, New York City reported the first active-duty police officer death related to COVID-19. And last week the New York Times reported on the changing role of law enforcement now, with a focus on the hundreds of NYPD officers pulled from their prior duties and tasked with making sure the rules around social distancing are followed—things like crowds in grocery stores.

And in cities where police departments already struggle to maintain appropriate staffing levels, the COVID-19 crisis is a wake-up call to understanding a new reality, said Jason Johnson, president of the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund (LELDF), in a recent Baltimore Sun editorial. Johnson, who served as Deputy Police Commissioner during my 2015-2018 tenure as Baltimore Police Commissioner, sat down with Armored Things recently to discuss how law enforcement agencies across the nation are coping with the pandemic.

  1. NYPD has police officers acting, in essence, like health and safety officers. Good idea? Yes, it’s a good idea. NYPD is fortunate, as a big city police department, to have those resources. It makes sense to have certain officers on these tasks, so the police response is consistent and proportional across the city.
  2. Are American police chiefs doing enough to prepare for this crisis? I think many law enforcement agencies have, in the last couple of weeks, made some pretty big strides. Generally speaking, I think many agencies were very slow to respond. Law enforcement leaders, similar to leaders in other fields, aren’t public health experts, aren’t epidemiologists, and they don’t have them on their staffs. I can tell you that it’s a conversation that probably no big city police chief has had in the past—about how they’re going to respond to a global pandemic. They don’t know what N95 masks are. They don’t know the difference between airborne and a droplet. That’s not part of their lingo, or in their daily reality. They respond to crime, threats and to some extent, terrorism. In parts of the country where natural disasters are more common, like hurricanes and earthquakes, they’re very conversant on how emergency management works. But ‘pandemic’ is not something that’s part of their lexicon.
  3. And what should they be doing now? In Miami, that city’s police department was the first I saw starting to take the temperatures of officers when they reported to work. You couldn’t enter the building until you had your temperature taken. Many other agencies now are doing that. They’re sanitizing their equipment in ways that they had not in the past. I read something just this morning about a police department in the Midwest—they have the luxury of doing this and not everyone does—but they put their officers on a 5-on/15-off rotation. They work five 12- hour shifts and then they get 15 days off, which is ingenious. During those 15 days, if they’ve been exposed, they’ll become symptomatic or otherwise test positive. I’m not an epidemiologist, but that seems like a great way to prevent spread. So, what should they be doing? I think innovating things like that. And this is all putting together the aircraft in mid-air—because this isn’t something that anyone in the police community took seriously or planned for. Hindsight being 20/20, they probably should have, but they didn’t. Priorities are always in competition with one another.
  4. We talked about New York City and nearly 7,000 cops out sick, in quarantine, or with COVID. What else can a police chief do right now to prepare for this worst-case scenario? I’d look to recently retired or otherwise recently separated officers in good standing. They can be brought back with a minimum sort of lift. You can’t bring someone off the street and train them to be a police officer. It takes about a year to do that. And most cities are challenged doing that anyway. But you can get officers that have retired in the last three years or so, give them a sort of a re-indoctrination into the profession and get them re-equipped and sworn in. To get them back in the fold, so to speak, it would be critical. In a place like Baltimore, they’re so short already. It’s impossible to fill the void any other way. The national guard can’t do it; a neighboring jurisdiction can’t do it. You have to stay within your family. And the only way to do that is going to be recently retired or otherwise separated officers. That’s something that they’ve done in the UK, trying to bring back retired law enforcement. The health professions are doing it. So, it just makes sense.
  5. How does this crisis compare to the other challenging moments that you’ve navigated in your career? I think it’s much more difficult. It’s much more challenging and complex. There are two real reasons for that. One, it’s a long-duration challenge. The D.C. sniper situation was a big challenge for law enforcement. And everything that happened in the immediate wake of 9-11. And in Baltimore, the 2015 riots. But most of those challenges were very short lived. They have got to be buckled in for the long haul and this one; they’re already been dealing with it for over a month and it’s, there’s really no end in sight. And the other thing that makes this particularly challenging is that it’s outside of the lexicon of police leaders. Very few police officers, let alone police executives, have any training in providing healthcare or in epidemiology or public health. They don’t know the difference between a virus and bacteria. They don’t understand how the protective equipment works. They’re learning.
  6. Do you foresee changes in the way police officers perform their jobs in the future because of this crisis? And do you think technology can play a role? Not only in policing, but in every field, I think people are starting to learn that there are more efficient ways to get work done, that don’t require a daily commute and sometimes don’t require an in-person meeting. And technology does obviously play a role there. It enables us to have substitutes for in-person meetings and other close personal contact. But I don’t think there’s going be a long-term change fundamentally, to the meat and potatoes of daily policing. I think it’s going to stay the same. We interact in close proximity with people, and often people in crisis. More and better personal protection equipment, however, will be introduced to police.
  7. Which law enforcement think tank do you see taking the lead right now? The National Police Foundation put together a dashboard. It’s basically to keep police leaders up to date—statistics and hotspots, levels of infection, fatalities, levels of police officers infected by state and equipment needs. It’s a real-time dashboard on what is needed for real-time intelligence purposes. And it’s very easy to understand, very visual, and they just go to right to that. The Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) and International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) are also compiling and distributing valuable information daily to police chiefs across the nation.
  8. What do you think will be the single biggest criticism of the way our police departments operated pre-COVID crisis? I think it would be a lack of preparedness for even things that are unlikely to happen. Firefighters are trained to be ready for whatever happens. Cops are more geared toward this [mindset]: ‘I’m going to figure out what I think is most likely to happen and I’ll put all my eggs in that basket.’ It’s the nature of our profession. I think that law enforcement can learn from the fire service. They’re pretty good at being ready no matter what. And cops aren’t wired like that.
  9. Most of America’s police departments are much smaller than the ones that dominate the news headlines. Is coping with COVID-19 harder for them? Yes, in many ways. Because they often lack the resources that give larger departments flexibility to adjust during a crisis. They have to look for new resources. Chief Amal Awad of the Hyattsville Police Department (just outside of Washington, D.C.) is partnering with a military research and development company to decontaminate police cars and equipment in new ways—to protect her officers and their families.

For more information on how Armored Things is helping companies navigate the COVID-19 crisis with real-time visual representations of occupancy and crowd capacity or overflow, please contact