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.

Security vs. Privacy; What’s The Right Balance?

I spoke recently at a conference on the topic of smart cities and security, and specifically on security-related projects implemented on a district scale. In preparing my remarks, I reflected back on my days working in emergency management for the City of New York and recalled the successes of programs like the Lower Manhattan Security Initiative. While I wasn’t personally involved with this public: private partnership, it is often touted as one of the earliest- and most successful -smart city initiatives in the world. However, it hasn’t been without its detractors and controversies, and it reflects the changing perceptions of privacy and security over the years since it was first implemented.

In New York City in the years following 9/11, increased security measures were widely accepted, even at the expense of some measure of personal privacy. I remembered gathering with personnel from the city’s emergency services agencies for a live disaster drill in 2011. New Yorkers from the neighborhood, after inquiring as to what we were doing, offered us coffee and opened their doors to us. A positive sentiment toward our efforts was something we had all grown accustomed to, even as the years passed after 9/11 and the overwhelming support citizens gave first responders in the aftermath faded. 10 years later, New Yorkers still seemed to accept that securing their city against a myriad of ever’changing threats involved giving up some measure of privacy.

A few years ago, I relocated to San Francisco and discovered very different cultural ideas about privacy versus security. Friends in the emergency management world described protesters at counter-terrorism drills decrying the “police state,” something that I found shocking after dedicating my career to these sorts of efforts with the intent of serving my community. My fiance, a native San Franciscan, tried to explain this phenomenon by describing widespread distrust of law enforcement, his mother’s experience with police harassment at Berkeley in the 1960s, and citizens’ exhaustion with marijuana-related stops and other minor offenses. So when I spoke about New York City’s security successes at that conference on the west coast, I was met with some “big brother” tweets accusing me of disregarding privacy. While this didn’t surprise me after learning more about these cultural differences, I took the opportunity to discuss the issue with peers and colleagues and gauge their feelings and concerns on the topic.

While technology has improved security and quality of life around the world, fears remain about the potential dark side of “smart city” technology. I came across an example of this years ago where a foreign government was using security technology, ostensibly rolled out to protect civilians, to also keep tabs on them. As a security professional with a career dedicated to making our cities safer, this was especially upsetting to me, and one of the reasons that I firmly believe in using aggregate rather than individual data. On the other end of the spectrum, I learned that a major west coast city recently elected to take its shot detection system offline in the face of privacy concerns.

Smart city security projects and other related technologies hold great promise. As we have seen, early rollouts have notched many successes and saved lives. But privacy considerations are a major concern for many people, and we at Armored Things are focused on these issues as we develop our products. For example, we do not employ the use of facial recognition technologies, for they are not core or necessary to our value proposition. At Armored Things, privacy is one of our main priorities. As we continue to explore these issues, we strive to maintain an open dialogue with partners, peers, and practitioners, and seek the balance that protects the public without violating privacy rights.