Space Utilization: Clicker Studies vs. AI-Driven Software

At corporations and universities across the country, you can still find facility managers making space utilization decisions manually. That is, they are relying on clipboards and clickers, and often commission third-party reports on space occupancy and utilization. 

Facilities and Operations Managers are driving towards informed, fact-based decisions and looking for research conducted at their site to help determine how to reopen offices, libraries and laboratories after the COVID-19 shut down. There’s a growing realization that spaces should be designed with greater flexibility

This leaves them with an interesting choice: invest in one-time studies (which can cost up to $250k or greater depending on footprint and duration) through clicker-counting, or invest in a larger technology-driven space analysis. Either approach can identify target areas for improving utilization, benefit employee satisfaction and productivity, and result in significant real estate cost savings. 

Here’s a look into the pros and cons of clicker data studies vs technology-driven space analytics to help you decide which approach can help you achieve your goals for utilization or redesign. 


Every third-party clicker partner will work with you to set standards around tracking frequency, observable spaces, duration of study, and expected outcomes. They are ideal for understanding top-level space utilization around how your conference rooms, private offices, or desk spaces are utilized. This may shed light on where you need to increase collaborative spaces, what departments are prime for transitioning to a hot-desking strategy, and the average number of people in a meeting room. 

Studies can surface “signs of life” data, meaning that someone was in conference room A on floor 3 once on Tuesday and never again. They can tell you that, on average, huddle spaces are utilized at X% during core business hours. These are essentially bed checks, telling you that someone was in the space during working business hours. This static snapshot of your conference rooms and office spaces can provide an essential window into how your space is being utilized. 

As with anything, this approach has a few hang-ups. These studies are manual and become quickly outdated. For example, a clicker-study pre-COVID became irrelevant over the last year and a half and will have to be repeated any time policies or employee preferences change. 

Experts in workplace design agree that manual counts lack the precision required to meet the transformational needs of today’s office space. Workplace Design Magazine points to meeting fatigue encouraging workers to be on the move on average every 45 minutes, meaning that once an hour checks can miss key utilization insights. Bringing people into the equation will leave room for some human error as well as disrupting the normal flow of your employee’s workday. The clicker-counter becomes the elephant in the room. This can cause your employees to skew your data, feeling bound to their seats. Not to mention there’s a seasonality to office attendance that might cause clicker study data to be time-bound and require repeat studies.

Finally, because the data isn’t connected to other types of data, for example meeting room scheduling tools, what you have is occupancy counts without context. That context becomes a driver in terms of what to change in order to maximize your space.


There are a number of automated ways to source people-counting data. From sensors to Wi-Fi, video, and RFID cards, the greater number of channels through which you can capture traffic flow within your space, the more accurate your picture becomes. This data, when surfaced through dashboards, and alerts can bring your space analytics into sharp focus without disrupting the productivity of your workers.  

With a continual source of data, you can look for patterns over weeks, months, and even years. If your redesign team can see shifts from historical data, they can design with transformational flexibility in mind, building in elements like movable partitions, retracting roofs, or shady trees. 

Moreover, data can be overlaid on a spatial representation of your space, giving you a bird’s eye view of your campus. This view allows you to better visualize and create a full picture of how your building, floor, or office space is being used over time. It can help you understand bottlenecks or popular egresses. Are people congregating in the hall between meetings waiting for a room to become available? How can you transform that popular loitering space to better serve employee needs? A full-venue view can uncover these areas for optimization. 

This means making predictions is simpler—the guesswork is taken out with predictive modeling. Machine learning is able to become more effective the more data it has, and it can help predict things like whether a new lease will be utilized to capacity


Some occupancy counting and space analytics software require extensive sensor installations while others don’t. The initial deployment of software-only solutions to capture real-time data and make predictions (without big CapEx investments) often are far lower cost than clicker studies commissioned from third parties for a large campus or venue space. For example, one large corporation exploring space utilization solutions this year reported spending $250k twice annually for 2-week clicker studies—paying more for 4-weeks of data than the annual license fee for software! 

AI software-only solutions can be optimized regularly, allowing you to adjust the granularity of data you’re capturing. The continuous nature of data capture and storage provides for historical analysis which feeds occupancy predictions. Overwhelmingly they surface more actionable, accurate data than a manual occupancy counting service. 

Regardless of how you source data to modernize your workspace, designing a complex, flexible workspace that inspires and engages your employees is the key to unlocking productivity, maximizing real estate ROI and planning for the future of your business.

Look for a vendor like Armored Things whose powerful machine learning platform surfaces anonymized data that your team can take action upon right away. Because we ingest data from a multitude of existing sources and connect to scheduling applications and other business driving tools, we’re able to give you a contextualized, comprehensive view of your space 365 days a year. Your venue, campus, or office is likely already set up to surface data around its usage and Armored Things can help you tap into these existing sources without heavy financial and implementation burdens. 

How Spatial Representation Can Bring Density Data to Life

With higher education back on campus and employees returning (slowly) to offices and corporate campuses, we can look forward to a lot more human interaction. How much exactly remains to be seen though. How long will ‘hybrid” operations continue? Is contactless everything necessary? How cautious will people be returning to indoor spaces for extended periods?

For facilities and operations management professionals, the return of larger groups of people creates a whole new set of challenges related to crowd density and sanitation. And addressing them requires a lot more than counting people going in and out of the building. That’s a good start, but meeting expectations for space utilization will require more. They will also need to understand how people are moving about in and around the building to ensure safety and compliance. 


They say seeing is believing. Imagine a bird’s eye view of your building space with zoomed-in views of floor maps, and alerts and occupancy heatmaps to track overall crowd flow now and over time. This type of “crowd intelligence” can alert personnel to capacity issues, whether a space is getting too crowded, or an entire floor is at capacity. Knowing that a hotspot is forming is extremely powerful for facilities staff. Likewise, leveraging existing historical foot traffic in different spaces can inform space optimization and utilization strategies for the future. Looking back on how crowds move and evolve over time can help optimize staff: how much is needed and when. Sanitation schedules become smarter after seeing typical flow throughout a building, and security schedules can be more efficient after reviewing space use for events on the calendar. This intelligence can also help rethink corporate real estate usage, inform down-sizing or subletting decisions, and potentially save millions of dollars in building rental fees. 

Spatial representation of your entire venue is the best way to bring density metrics to life and get the most out of your space. It changes the narrative from what we think we know to what we actually know. It can come with surprises, too. For example, finding out that students are more likely to hit the library at 3 a.m. instead of 3 p.m., or that a weekly meeting has been drawing more people than the space allows. Actionable intelligence of this sort can alleviate resource-strapped teams, prove space optimization strategies, and enable low-involvement monitoring and easy incident response.  

And don’t be fooled into thinking that the challenges of crowds expire with COVID. The way we understand crowds and the decisions we make based on them is simply going to become more complex over time. 

The crowd intelligence enabled by spatial presentation provides a better understanding of how people are interacting with building spaces and moving through them. It provides actionable intelligence like real-time alerts for overcrowding and can predict traffic flow patterns at future dates based on historical data. It can also be deployed leveraging the existing security infrastructure already in place in most buildings today.

Facilities and operations managers and their partners in IT need the right tools to ensure safe and compliant use of buildings in the new normal. Spatial presentation and crowd intelligence can take the guesswork out of their decision-making and ensure a better and safer experience for all involved. 

About the Author

Ben Patterson is Senior Director of Engineering at Armored Things.

Three Considerations For Creating Flexible Architecture

Flexible architecture design allows buildings and spaces to evolve over time. As technology and the way we work shifts changes, the spaces we use need to keep up with changes or risk becoming obsolete. 

Facilities management, design, and architecture teams traditionally bucket flexible architecture into three categories: adaptability, transformability, and convertibility. But knowing when to adapt or entirely convert can be a guessing game without data-validated, full-venue transparency. 

Knowing when to adapt or entirely convert can be a guessing game without data-validated, full-venue transparency.


Adaptability is defined as the ability to change and evolve as needed. In a more spatial context, adaptability is a building’s ability to service a multitude of its occupant’s needs without altering the architecture. Some spatial adaptations are intuitive, a designer or office manager reconfigures desks to fit more seats. Room to grow has always equaled more space requirements. However, by adding capabilities to track room, floor, or area occupancy and harnessing machine learning tools, you can identify underutilized spaces which can inform and validate your redesign


Transformability, in a similar vein to adaptability, has to do with interior and exterior changes without the need for construction. Unlike adaptability, however, these changes have the potential to be permanent. Key components of a transformable structure include movability and responsiveness. Moveable objects, like fabric wall partitions, can be repositioned to better accommodate health guidelines, and increase efficiency. Responsive structures are able to react to external stimuli like the weather. Data and machine learning can help identify underused spaces and transform them into something useful. For example, your data may show a cafeteria is underused, prompting a redesign into a conference room in only a few steps.


Unlike its predecessors, convertibility involves constructing and altering the physical appearance of a building. Moreover, the changes are almost always permanent. This might include erecting a new building from a vacant lot on campus or converting a rooftop into a dining space. As these changes are costly and require heavy construction, validating decisions with dependable data will help stakeholders sign off on large-scale changes. 


When designing flexible workspaces, cross-departmental teams are envisioning not just the near future but the capacity for change. Full-venue transparency with data validation lets you see the spaces you manage in a whole new way. Space analytics software – which provides real-time occupancy data with historical overlays – helps you predict future utilization and design. 

Layering our Armored Things software over existing infrastructure turns data into actionable intelligence. Our software enhances decision-making for the reallocation of existing spaces and the construction of new ones. Armored Things AI and people counting software will only aid in ensuring a given space are being used to its fullest potential.

To learn more about how Armored Things helps facilities teams deliver on priorities like this, schedule time with one of our experts today.

4 Tips to Reshape the New Workplace

This summer several high-end tech companies – Google, Apple, Facebook, and Twitter to name a few – have pushed back their return to office dates, or paused until further notice. Google, one of the first companies to completely pull their employees from the workplace at the start of COVID, is pushing their return back to January 2022.

According to the Wall Street Journal, nearly 14% of 400 U.S. employers surveyed in late July and early August said they would or already do require all staff to be vaccinated in order to work in person. Mary Kay O’Neill, a partner in Mercer’s health business, told the Journal, “a number of companies who have taken a conservative line on this may feel that it’s time that they can make the mandate”.

Major tech companies aren’t the only ones suffering delays, as return-to-office plans continue to change with the spread of the Delta variant. Now, CIOs, Facilities Managers, and Corporate Realtors are left to figure out how to get back on track, even as new restrictions are coming down that vary from state to state. 


Armored Things is encouraging customers to focus on four areas of concentration for designing and understanding their new corporate reopening strategies. 

  1. Space optimization. Optimizing your workplace should be an immediate priority for facility managers, who should continue to familiarize themselves with space management terminology. Physically, incorporating a new layout strategy to minimize close contact and make the most of new employee schedules will help things flow more smoothly. Evaluating underutilized spaces will help optimise the workplace from an efficiency standpoint. 
  2. Reporting. It would be hard to deliver on the top priority-optimization without being able to see results and reports quickly. The ability to surface critical data will inform space redesign in the workplace. Real-time data can be viewed in historical context for help identifying trouble spots and making informed decisions when it comes to assessing and redesigning the workplace.
  3. New Leasing Goals. Informed leasing decisions should also be an area of focus; using data, facility managers should consider the type and amount of real estate required by their company both at this point in time, and for the future.
  4. Crowd analysis. Finally, we strongly encourage customers to remember the power of knowing the number of people in offices and on campuses at any one time. Knowing how many people are using different spaces in real time can help manage overcrowding and minimize risk. 

To learn more about how Armored Things helps facilities teams deliver on priorities like this, schedule time with one of our experts today.

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.

Armored Things Raises $12 Million in Series A Funding

BOSTON, August 24, 2021 — Armored Things, a crowd analysis and intelligence software company, today announced that it has raised $12 million in Series A financing led by Nimble Ventures, with additional new investment from Gutbrain VenturesPBJ Capital, and Micromanagement Ventures.

Existing investors Glasswing VenturesWill Ventures, and iNovia Capital also participated in the round.

The Armored Things AI-powered platform provides facilities and security teams with an accurate, real-time understanding of how many, and how often people are utilizing different spaces in arenas, buildings, and on campuses. The software enables smarter decisions related to crowd density, space utilization, security, maintenance, and guest experience while also providing easy access to valuable data trends for ROI related to space management.

The company will use the new funding to continue to build out its product platform, add to its team, and accelerate its go-to-market efforts in sports and entertainment venues, and on college and corporate campuses.

“The market for crowd intelligence and analytics in sporting/entertainment venues and college and corporate campuses are poised for exceptional growth over the next few years.”


Lead investor Nimble Ventures is the early-stage focused venture arm of the family office of John Burbank, a renowned hedge fund investor who is also an investor in US and international sporting teams. 

Nimble Ventures’ Nathan Mee will join the Armored Things Board of Directors. 

“Armored Things has positioned itself as an early innovator in what we believe will be a huge and fast-growing market as venue owners and facilities managers respond to these changes and look for new ways to optimize their space and the guest experience.”


Earlier this year, the Cleveland Cavaliers announced their deployment of Armored Things solution to help ensure safety and security for fans and staff at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC), part of Major League Soccer (MLS), also utilizes the software at Banc of California Stadium. The University of Tennessee Knoxville has made Armored Things part of its smart campus strategy.

Along with the new funding, Armored Things also announced the addition of Jonathan Tice as Chief Revenue Officer. In his role, Tice leads Armored Things’ market expansion with responsibility for sales and marketing, business development, and strategic partnerships. Prior to joining Armored Things, Tice was Chief Customer Officer at FocusVision, a global provider of the survey, research, and analytics software for large enterprises. His background also includes successful sales leadership positions at Decipher, Critical Mix, and Authentic Response.


Armored Things provides an AI-powered Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) for crowd analysis and intelligence. By combining data from existing security and IT systems with predictive analytics, the software provides facilities management teams with a real-time visual representation of people and flow within any campus or venue space. Easy-to-use dashboards equip users to anticipate changes and inform decisions to improve guest services, space utilization, operations, staffing, and security. Since its founding in 2016, Armored Things has built a team of security and technology experts to deliver world-class solutions to stadiums, corporations, and campuses around the country. For more information, visit

Learn more about how Armored Things helps campuses and venues make the most of their spaces.

Stadium Innovations: 5 Trends Changing The Fan Experience

Your favorite sports stadium may just be reopening to capacity this summer and fall after a long break, but that doesn’t mean stadium technology advancements were stalled.

Despite a lack of fans in stadiums over the last year, plenty of advancements have been made, bringing cutting-edge technology to venues across the country and around the world. At Armored Things, we have the privilege of supporting premier venues such as the Cleveland Cavaliers Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse and LAFC’s Banc of California Stadium with AI for strategic space utilization decisions and we stay close to the latest innovations. 

Here’s our list of the top 5 initiatives paving the way for an enhanced fan experience in stadiums now.


5G is currently being incorporated in over 6o stadiums and arenas across the United States. In May of this year, Verizon announced a deal that would deploy 5G Ultra Wideband in 15 NBA stadiums, continuing to bridge the gap between fans and the on-court action. Even if we haven’t noticed it yet, 5G has already begun to transform the way we watch and play sports. With unparalleled speeds and ultra-low latency, 5G enables a new kind of network that is designed to connect virtually everyone and everything together including machines, objects, and devices.

At the World Football Summit, Michael Sutherland, chief transformation officer at Real Madrid, emphasized the importance of the technology within the context of sports branding,

“5G brings up an entirely new world of communication. It means a chance of providing richer content and gathering more precise information. As a consequence, consumer expectations are going to evolve. In the long term, 5G will completely change the fans’ expectations regarding their interactions with sports brands.”

Among the NBA stadiums partnered with Verizon is the Cav’s Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse, where fans can point their phone at any player on the floor and get live stats and real-time information- all made possible through 5G. The hyper-quick network speed has also helped enhance the quality of ShotTracker, a Verizon application. ShotTracker – currently in testing beta in practice facilities –  will allow broadcasters, teams, and potential fans to track the basketball like never before. The technology should allow the tracking of ball movement, shot selection, and player efficiency,  providing in-game statistics that were previously near-impossible to register. 


One of the benefits of building a new stadium is the economic return it promises for the city. Building a new stadium should allow nearby businesses to thrive, and would open a bevy of new jobs for the public. The Milwaukee Bucks have introduced an initiative that does just that and more. Built in 2018, the Fiserv Forum, the home of the Bucks, is a multi-purpose stadium located in downtown Milwaukee. The unveiling of the new stadium celebrates the development of 30 acres surrounding the arena, 30 acres which includes the ever-growing Entertainment Block. The introduction of this new stadium experience has come in unison with a surge in popularity for the area. Peter Feigin, the team president, told the Atlantic,

“Not only does the time period get extended on the front end, but we are seeing lingering post event, whether the Bucks, Marquette or concerts, with hundreds of people staying in the district for an hour-plus afterward. It is just what strategically we wanted, to make the district sticky with folks.”

The Bucks have had a direct hand in the development of the area, and have consequently seen economic and social success because of it. The Milwaukee model should provide a strong blueprint for other small market organizations to follow, helping bridge the gap between less desirable markets and larger markets. 


Waiting in lines for tickets and concessions can be one of the most tiring, tedious activities for fans. They go to a game to watch, not to wait.

Among the first venues to go cashless was Tropicana Field, the home of the Tampa Bay Rays. Throughout the 2019 MLB season, the stadium elected for this cashless approach. Bill Walsh, Ray’s Vice President of Strategy and Development, told the New York Business Journal that the switch was met with an overall positive response from the fans. 

“Cash-free transactions are faster. Certainly, there are other benefits in terms of greater efficiencies, limiting cash-room activity at night and making operations run a lot more efficiently. Primarily, the fan experience was the driver.”

Banc of California Stadium, the home of Los Angeles FC, is another venue that truly embraced a cashless fan experience. In 2021, the stadium no longer accepted cash, instead opting for pre-ordered concessions and contactless payment options. 


Transformational pitches offer multisport versatility to stadiums.

In 2005, the NFL played its first official game outside of the US in the Estadio Azteca in New Mexico, Mexico. The game marked a historical moment for the sport, which had otherwise played solely in the US for over a hundred years. Estadio Azteca, however, isn’t the only international stadium to host an NFL game. As of 2007, a handful of games each season have been played in England. As of 2019,  games have been played in the Tottenham Stadium – the home of premier league outfit Tottenham Hotspurs – in northeastern central London. According to Populous, the architecture firm behind the brand new stadium, 

“The multi-award-winning Tottenham Hotspur Stadium is a new benchmark in global stadium design, offering one of the finest spectator experiences in the world and, by incorporating a fully retractable pitch, becoming the first purpose-built home for the NFL in Europe.”

From a stadium design perspective, transformational pitches have the potential to revolutionize venue layouts. Tottenham stadium was designed to host both soccer and football, as the grass field used for soccer easily retracts revealing the artificial NFL turf below. The stands, which are also adjustable, allows for optimal viewing and sidelines depending on the sport being played.


Now more than ever, especially in a post-Covid world, team owners and designers are exploring ways in which fans at home can truly feel immersed in the live-action no matter where they sit. The recent advancements in AI and virtual reality have led to the possibility of stadiums delivering game-day experiences to fans who are watching from their couch. Some organizations including the Minnesota Vikings and Manchester City are already experimenting with VR broadcasts.  These VR broadcasts allow for users to watch the game through a selection of different camera angles such as courtside, on-field action, and even VIP suites. Using Oculus headsets and through a range of applications, fans have access to in-game angles, valuable statistics, and player insights those present in the stadium don’t have access to. In 2021, virtual reality headsets can cost anywhere from $200 up to $1000. Nonetheless, as the technology continues to develop, cheaper alternatives will be able to deliver the same if not better game experiences for fans.  

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

Real-World Crowd Intelligence Value at Your Campus or Venue

When I talk to partners and clients around the globe, I hear two common threads, whether it’s a premier sporting event venue or a small college campus. One is focused on real-time response,  and the other on improving long-term space management.

The security and facilities teams I talk to want real-time, actionable insights.

They want to know in real-time when a room or section is overcrowded, or whether a restricted-access zone is filling up.  At the same time, those same teams want to optimize spaces for the long run.  

They want to move away from spreadsheets and instead make data-driven decisions with easy-to-understand dashboard metrics. 

In short, they want to future-proof their operations, and they don’t want to hire data scientists to do it. And that’s where crowd intelligence software comes in.

“With crowd intelligence software, there’s no reason for data to overwhelm operations teams. Your existing data can go to work for you, and can surface insights to guide the way to smarter space management.”


A search of the term “crowd intelligence” generates a few definitions, but the one I want to focus on has to do with understanding how “crowds” or groups of people move in and around a physical space or venue. This “intelligence” can be used to predict behavior, anticipate crowd flow, and optimize the experience — for both the people interacting in the space and the people responsible for managing it.

Crowd intelligence helps facilities management, venue operators, and security staff know where people are, whether they are clustered in crowds, and where they are likely headed. At Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse, the Cleveland Cavaliers rely on Armored Things for full-venue transparency, so they can see where crowds are headed and gathered, and if foot traffic is flowing as planned.

“The ability to understand the flow of people in the venue equips us to stay one step ahead of their needs, deploy resources more intelligently, and optimize the
event environment.”



  • Staffing: Security staff can reposition personnel to redirect crowds ahead of congestion, deploy service staff based on crowd density, manage ticketing or event entrances, monitor security risks, and respond quickly to incidents. And it doesn’t always have to be safety related. Our work at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville helped them make staffing decisions around peak usage hours at their library and help desk.
  • Space Management: By understanding the flow of people in a given space, facilities management can optimize room and event occupancy, identify workspaces for more efficient hybrid use, flex different spaces for changing traffic flows, manage de-densification efforts, and enhance energy efficiency.
  • Concessions/Sponsorship ROI: With crowd intelligence, business teams can test and measure the best placements for concessions and portable carts, redirect traffic to reduce wait times, and test service styles for optimal event experiences. This type of data can also be used to prove sponsorship ROI and adjust sponsorship pricing models based on actual traffic flow.


  • Using existing Wi-Fi and security infrastructure to collect real-time crowd data. 
  • Applying data analytics and machine learning to understand density attributes and patterns, anticipate movement, and predict future density.
  • Surfacing contextual data via dashboards and graphic visualizations on command center desktops and mobile devices.

Importantly, crowd intelligence should also be:  

  • Anonymous. It analyzes patterns, not people. 
  • Secure. All data should be protected with VPN, TLS and restricted access.
  • Resilient. Geo-redundant infrastructure and auto-scaling ensure uptime.
  • Flexible. Crowd intelligence uses edge services running locally, in the cloud, or both.

With crowd intelligence software, there’s no reason for data to overwhelm operations teams. Your existing data can go to work for you, and can surface insights to guide the way to smarter space management.

David Smentek is the Director of Partners and Federal at Armored Things. You can reach him at

Expert Advice on Planning a Reopen Strategy

Morgan Mosher is senior principal at T3 Advisors, the global real estate and workplace solutions company focused on technology and life sciences tenants. Recently Mosher published a list of Critical Questions to Ask Your Landlord to help prepare clients for reopening offices and workspaces against the backdrop of the COVID-19 crisis.

Mosher spoke recently with Armored Things about reopen strategies as part of our continuing CIO & Executive series focused on helping campuses and venues reopen.

On First Steps: My step one is really building a robust task force—and part of that task force is having somebody representing legal implications, as well as health care. Everybody is thinking, of course, that you need someone from IT, you need someone from facilities, you need someone from people ops. But there’s a lot of other things we need to be focusing on—like legal and health care.

[For example] The dental startup Floss Bar has a consulting arm that is offering education on how to take temperatures. So, you can be looking out for health care resources out there. That way, you’ll have an opinion that is a little more educated on the topic. I think those healthcare voices are absolutely important to have at the table.

On Welcoming Back: I don’t think there’s going to be  a single one of my clients that reenter and don’t do some level of physical distancing.  One of the things I’ve been talking about to my clients is the plan to use labels like red Xs and other visual cues—and thinking about how you can do that in a softer way. For me, personally, it would be a little jarring to be sitting next to someone and return to see  a giant, red X. We’re already going to be a little uncomfortable. and we need to build that comfort and that safety level back. I think removing chairs, putting in planters, thinking about softer ways to showcase that physical distancing is going to help.

On Questions for Landlords: We broke it down into a few different categories, like medical communication is a category. So how are they handling common areas, like elevators and lobbies, and is there a coffee shop in the lobby?  Are there going to be visitor restrictions? You can make sure that your landlord is thinking about those things.

Oftentimes, everything you do for your building is only going to be as effective as the building you’re in. You could have perfect procedures and if you are in a multi-tenant building, and your landlord hasn’t properly addressed something like increasing outdoor air circulation, or didn’t change their elevator protocols, it makes everything you did null and void. Those conversations with your landlord are critical.

“Oftentimes, everything you do for your building is only going to be as effective as the building you’re in.”

On Reopen Priorities: Now the conversation is very heavily focused on re-entry—and how do we go about that. Last month a big theme was taking temperatures and a lot of trying to understand the legal implications of that. And now a lot of people are talking about physical distancing requirements. What does that look like? Those are the two primary things that most people are asking about. The other stuff, like ordering face masks and ordering hand sanitizer, people know how to do that on their own. But as far as tiered scheduling, and who is on their task force, and physical distancing layouts, no one wants to go too far down that road alone. They want to stay with the pack on this.

On Phased Reentry – I think it’s the only way a lot of the physical distancing layouts are going to be work. Because people aren’t going to magically have a ton more square footage. Phased reentry is way more important than tiered scheduling—really figuring out which job functions are critical and need to be performed within the confinements of an office.

[If you are using tiers,] I would stay away from using Team A or Team No. 1 and Team No. 2. If I were on Team B, I’d be thinking ‘What? I’m on the junior varsity team. I’m not as important as the A team.’  The same goes for the phrase ‘essential.’ Because everyone wants to think of their job function as essential, especially in these tumultuous times.

“If I were on Team B, I’d be thinking ‘What?  I’m on the junior varsity team. I’m not as important as the A team.’

On Information Overload: People are going to be bombarded with products – ‘Use this product and it will clean everything like magic!’ and then there’s the whole spectrum of politics and emotions that will be involved. There could be somebody who thinks this [COVID-19] is a hoax sitting next to someone who is scared out of their mind. We really need to take a lot of the emotion and politics out of it, and bring in professionals to give you the best guidance, so you aren’t making decisions based on those two things.

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.