Workspace Analytics Is Critical For Hybrid Work

Data indicates that organizations plan to continue a hybrid work model for the near term. Mercer survey last May found 70% of companies said a blend of in-person and remote working will be the new normal.

But this hybrid model will also place greater onus on employers and facility managers to provide a healthy and safe working environment when employees are in the office.

That’s a tall order when 52% of employers said that they are only “somewhat prepared” to provide safe and healthy environments for their tenants and employees.

There are no easy answers to make workplaces, universities or other gathering spots safe and productive. But one important aspect of office and public health involves workspace analytics software, which helps organizations better safeguard workers in the office and make them more productive. 

Workspace analytics technology provides insight into employee density in a given physical space. By issuing alerts when the number of workers reaches capacity in a given space, the technology can ensure that workers’ social distance from one another. The technology can also queue up cleaning services or other workflows as necessary when spaces are used. Workspace analytics can also integrate with other workplace scheduling and collaboration tools to schedule meetings, create capacity alerts, or to trigger follow-up activities.

Technologies such as Armored Things have become increasingly critical to determining worker density, and environmental factors, such as building temperature, electricity used on a given floor or in a room. The software can enlist an organization’s existing cameras, sensors or other hardware, then derive data from these devices to track how many people have entered a facility.

We sat down with Chris Lord, Co-founder and CTO, to discuss the value of workplace analytics in organizations today.


WHY IS WORKSPACE ANALYTICS GATHERING STEAM RIGHT NOW?


Chris Lord: The pandemic that we’ve all lived through is probably one of the driving forces behind it. Two years ago, space utilization was an important part, but it wasn’t a necessary part. 

The pandemic has really shifted people’s thinking in terms of what is necessary [vis-à-vis a physical presence in the office].

 It’s forced us to reconsider how we use space [and to ask questions like], “When do we need to meet and why?” And “How often do we need to be in the office together?”

That’s really forced us to collect data to understand and ultimately to optimize what we do. Then the big questions are, “What is it that we’re trying to optimize?” and “Are we trying to optimize employee experience? Operational costs? Capital costs?”

You don’t just need data, you need the right data to inform the decisions you’re trying to make. 

In some cases, we need precise data to help with hot-desking [a shared-desk system for hybrid office/remote work models].

So, you may need that data to develop a hot-desking model, or you may need to understand overall utilization patterns and patterns of life within your space so that you can make coarse-grained decisions: “Do I have enough space or too much? Is it underutilized? That’s what’s driving a lot of corporate clients toward [workspace analytics] and where we obviously play a big role.


AS YOU CREATE THESE DASHBOARDS HOW DO YOU DETERMINE THESE ORGANIZATIONS’ END GOALS?


CL: We have a set of proven use cases that can help customers. That can direct the conversation, but at the end of the day, it’s really trying to understand what it is that [customers] want to do and what are the questions that they’re asking? 

So, the value of Armored Things is that you get continuous information about your environment, and how it’s being used. It’s something that’s there all the time. Sometimes that requires a deeper conversation on the facility side. [Companies] are used to these one-off studies that are a point-in-time snapshot and given the rapid change around us, has a shelf life. 

A point-in-time study that [I] did two years ago has very little bearing on what [I] need to do today. We can provide the look-back to last month, last year, last quarter, but the value of it every day and that opens up new opportunities.

I like to talk about democratization [of data], taking our data and making it available to your employees, to tenants, to whoever needs to make a decision. Our vision was three years ago, four years ago, to be the Google maps of people, not cars: Being able to show you where people are at any point in time. That’s the democratization of data.


HOW DO YOU SOLVE THE PROBLEM OF DATA-DRIVEN DASHBOARDS THAT AREN’T ACTIONABLE?


CL: Most people don’t have the time to swim in all the data. It’s not their job to be exploring data. What they need to do is figure out how to do what they’re doing better, faster, easier with fewer people at less expense than they did before. 


Most people don’t have the time to swim in all the data. It’s not their job to be exploring data. What they need to do is figure out how to do what they’re doing better, faster, easier with fewer people at less expense than they did before. 

CHRIS LORD, CO-FOUNDER AND CTO, ARMORED THINGS

The shift for us has been one of building our application, the set of features within the application, and through our partners to directly address what that looks like. Some of that is simple. So some of that is you know rather than present you a lot of charts and graphs, we present you the KPIs [key performance indicators]. So right at the top are the set of KPIs that tell you, what’s happening at a glance. Some of it is building in capabilities like alerting, right? Rather than having to let you look at the data and make a decision we’re just telling you about the decision that needs to be made, based on the triggers that are important to your organization to your environment. And so that’s, that’s one way, you know, you don’t have to be living in the dashboard. 

We can target the data experience to the persona—to a role, a function. When you come in you self-identify as I’m a facilities manager, “I’m in charge of operations, I have a staff that is there on game day, I am–whatever [the role] is. You identify, and then your experience is tailored to your needs. 

Then our software asks you, “What changes would you make if you had dynamic and new information all the time?” If I’m a university, I’m scheduling custodial services, if I’m an office place. I’m scheduling the same sort of thing, and I’m making determinations as to whether I clean these rooms, don’t clean these rooms, have to have more people on staff, because there’s more people there. All these things are things that we’re used to thinking of and doing in a very static way.


AS WE LOOK AT THE PAST 18 MONTHS, THIS TECHNOLOGY IS SO TIMELY. IT HAS REAL IMPLICATIONS FOR SO MANY DIFFERENT INDUSTRIES.


CL: Our earliest customers were in the university space. The safety and the security of students is foremost in [universities’] mind all the time, and we were an effective part of that. But those conversations opened up opportunities in better use of space. 

And they’ve also shifted into opportunities around, “How can we improve the outcomes of students?”  “Are we providing the right resources based on where they’re spending their time? “Are there things that we can learn about how groups of students are spending their time, respecting their privacy, that will inform better space and better information delivery to our students?” 

And so we started there. And now, sports stadiums are a huge customer for us, and other venues where we bring people together. People are their core business, right? And if people are your core business. you want to know where they’re spending their time, you want to know where those opportunities are. 

Establishing The Deer District With Robert Cordova

“If you build it, they will come.” Well, now that CTO of the Milwaukee Bucks, Robert Cordova has established the 30-acre Deer District surrounding the FiServ Forum, how does he ensure that people will not only come to their event but think of the facility as the go-to meeting spot for Milwaukee? Cordova sat down with Stadium Tech Report editorialist, Paul Kapustka after his 2021 ALSD Conference panel to dig in. 

During the interview, Cordova discusses the use of crowd intelligence—essentially occupancy analytics—to uncover hidden patterns to crowd behavior. As he says “[it’s] what I call the uncommon sense. It’s the things you didn’t expect and that’s what you really want to use crowd intelligence to really help us do those heat maps so we can understand the behavior of the crowd for a variety of things, not just basketball.”

Armored Things is proud to partner with the Fiserv Forum to bring actionable insights to the Deer District through historical occupancy and predictive analytics. We’re helping to uncover Cordova’s “uncommon sense” aha moments so Fiserv Forum can design the ultimate fan experience. 


Importance of Coming Together in Covid: Student Co-Op Review

My student co-op search was no simple one; I spent months patrolling the Northeastern University database looking for the perfect fit. I had hoped to work in the sports department of a large newspaper, and when it didn’t pan out, I had to pivot to other options. Eventually, I stumbled upon Armored Things, a Boston-based tech startup hiring co-op students in the area of social media marketing and blogging.

That was six months ago, and I knew very little about tech startups, and even less about ‘space analytics’. Yet I was drawn to the idea that Armored Things technology enables better ways for us all to be together in the spaces where we work, and study—and even how we watch pro sports.

My first blog, which was published a few weeks after I started, was a considerable accomplishment for me personally, mostly because I knew a lot of knowledgeable readers would see it.  I wrote about something I’m passionate about, trends in stadium innovation. Researching the topic allowed me to familiarize myself with Armored Things pro sports partners, like the Cleveland Cavaliers and Milwaukee Bucks

During the full-time co-op, my colleagues always made themselves available to answer questions or help me with tasks that were new to me. I was able to be part of a team that saw an 86% increase in impressions on Linkedin within eight months, a 66% increase in follower growth on Linkedin, and launched a new website and brand. It was incredibly rewarding to see our social presence and influence grow.

A particularly impactful milestone for me was the all-hands (in person!) meeting in late September. Here are a few takeaways from the three-day company-wide meeting:

  • Company swag is real, and really cool! I would never have imagined an Armored Things logo on a bag of M&Ms, mask, or ring light! Jokes aside, the Armored Things branded items made me feel like the company was building its brand and that I was an important cog in a powerful machine.
  • My colleagues are interesting! I had the opportunity to put faces to names, and to get to know people outside of my marketing team. Every employee made a short introduction video, which aired between events. During these intervals,  I had the freedom to interact with colleagues in a more casual setting, where I learned more about people’s personal and professional backgrounds. 
  • Synergy! Listening to presentations from the other departments, particularly the sales team, helped me better visualize the company as a whole. My perspective had been entirely marketing oriented, but now I had a better understanding of how other departments rely on each other. 
  • Elevator Pitches, Love ‘em! I really enjoyed the sales pitch exercise, where each member of the sales team was tasked with pitching Armored Things in under 30 seconds. Also, listening to the sales team sessions deepened my knowledge of  how and where the software is used.
  • Our Friends & Fans! One of the more moving events from the hand-on meeting was the ‘Why I Invested’ appearances.  I got to hear from some of the early investors who truly believed in the product. This included Isiah Kacyvenski, a former NFL player who would go on to co-found Will Ventures. And Rick Grinnell of Glasswing Ventures, who has seen many companies like ours meet their Series A fundraising goals and go on to bigger things. Listening to investors speak with passion and conviction reinforced my belief that we were all working toward an important goal.

I came into the co-op with limited social media experience but will leave it with a bevy of new skills on multiple social media platforms. My first week, I lacked confidence. After my first formal “corporate social share ”, my friends lifted me up by liking, commenting, and resharing it. Six months later, and without their help, I had played a major role in boosting Armored Things social media presence across multiple platforms. With each passing week, I familiarized myself with the Armored Things language. I wrote reports, engaged virtually with customers, helped build a social media presence, and published blogs relating to topics previously unbeknownst to me. 

I am immensely grateful for the opportunity Armored Things presented me. I have learned so much about the world of social media, technology, and myself over the course of these last six months. As we all return to the office – and for me, school – in different ways, I can say with confidence that I landed in the right spot, even if it’s not where I intended to. 

Space Utilization: Defining The Basics

When it comes to reopening corporate spaces, there are still many unknowns. Should I renew my prior lease? Who will work full time in the office? Will they all get desks? But one thing is for sure: Space utilization will be top of mind for anyone managing an office building or campus.

Our glossary of Space Utilization terms, which includes occupancy and capacity, is helpful to keep handy as you assess the buildings and spaces you manage. And this year, facilities managers and space planning teams are likely to also year about something called occupancy analytics.


HOW DO YOU DEFINE SPACE UTILIZATION?


In its simplest terms, space utilization is occupancy divided by capacity as measured over time. Let’s say you know 150 people use the cafeteria each Monday 8 am-12 pm and your capacity for the space is 300. Well, this one is simple: cafeteria space utilization Monday mornings is 50%.

But that’s just the first layer. There are numerous ways in which space utilization can be influenced. How a space is used, for how many purposes, and how often its full capacity is needed, are all factors to consider. Facilities managers considering priorities for 2021 likely also want to look at things like crowd density and restricting occupancy to help meet safer social distancing standards.


WHAT IS SPACE OCCUPANCY?  


Space occupancy is defined as the number of people in the office (or any space) at any given time. This is a simple one but perhaps the most important, especially at a time when the number of people can be limited due to restrictions around distance. For space occupancy, real-time metrics are invaluable, and AI can help surface instant views rather than relying on manual counts of each room or meeting space.


HOW DO YOU MEASURE UNDERUTILIZATION?


To measure underutilization, you’d have to know your capacity and occupancy over time and set a goal for acceptable utilization at your company. The biggest problem with underutilized space is obvious: you’re paying for it. When considering new leases, knowing your underutilized space metrics is crucial. When looking at space management software, look for options to see historical and predictive analytics to determine how and when you can avoid underutilization.


WHY IS DENSITY IMPORTANT?


This is on everyone’s mind much more than it used to be. When space planners talk about density, they mean the number of people per square foot. But welcoming back students and employees to safe campuses means understanding density in real-time. That means real-time occupancy counts but also setting acceptable occupancy standards with new distancing expectations so that people are comfortable in large crowds. Many corporate property management advisors will tell clients to determine a density goal by predicting the number of people utilizing a workspace, and then multiplying it by the average square footage required by each employee (i.e., between 125-250 square feet). 


WHAT DOES PEAK USAGE INFORM?


Peak usage allows facility managers to track which sector of the workplace – or any shared space – receives the most traffic. These space utilization metrics can show which spaces hold the most value at any given point in time.  Armored Things do this by collecting real-time data from wi-fi and cameras to provide a historical overlay to show how a space is used over time.


WHAT IS ONE WAY TO MAKE OFFICE SPACE MORE FLEXIBLE?


In the new flexible workspace, everyone is talking about hot-desking – a system that limits the number of desks in the office space. This means multiple employees will use the same physical workstations at different points in the day in order to limit contact and maximize space. To determine if you need a hot-desking option, space managers should have a clear understanding of their space utilization and density figures.


WHAT IS OCCUPANCY ANALYTICS?


In 2022, monitoring occupancy is a top priority for many teams, and understanding what occupancy analytics means will help them get off to a good start. For help defining Occupancy Analytics, we asked Armored Things CTO Chris Lord to answer two key questions about it.

Chris Lord: When we talk about analytics in this context, it’s all about understanding patterns of life. It’s understanding how people are using your space over time and then using that information in order to drive business value and decisions.

There are many dimensions that occupancy analytics can inform. There’s the classic operation use; this could be help-desk staffing, security staffing, custodial staffing. Make sure you’re doing it at the right time with the right number of people based on how people are using a space. It can be long-term, like capital planning or deciding whether or not to renew a lease.

Overall it helps inform whether you have too much, or too little space, or the right kind of space… 

The information we extract from patterns of life can inform major spatial decisions in the workplace that ultimately should lead to greater employee satisfaction.


“The information we extract from patterns of life can inform major spatial decisions in the workplace that ultimately should lead to greater employee satisfaction.”

CHRIS LORD, CTO AND CO-FOUNDER, ARMORED THINGS

Armored Things employs two layers of analytics. The first takes high-volume real-time sensor streams and disparate data sources and combines them into a cohesive view of people and movement in space. This work relies on a lot of machine learning techniques and models.

The second layer uses that data to understand the patterns of life in space, and to combine it with contextual data (like weather or how space is allocated/reserved/scheduled) to extract insights that can directly drive business decisions about staffing, resource allocation, or space utilization.


HOW DO OCCUPANCY ANALYTICS COMPARE TO DENSITY OR CAPACITY? 


Chris Lord: Capacity is a static measure of how many people a space can support under a set of conditions (varies for an auditorium vs conference room vs coworking vs hallway) and, if unspecified, can be inferred from use and size. 

Occupancy is a point-in-time measure sampled over time and density is a function of occupancy and space or capacity.

Analytics can be done with either occupancy or density because they represent how something changes over time. 

For more on safely reopening offices and workspaces against the backdrop of the COVID-19 crisis, read the Armored Things blog found here.

Armored Things uses AI and machine learning to manage crowds, foot traffic, and wait times throughout professional sports venues, higher education institutions, and corporate campuses. To learn more about Armored Things, check out our Solution Overview Video or connect with our Sales Team at Sales@ArmoredThings.com.