3 Challenges Higher Ed Space Planners Need To Think About This Fall

college student moves in with boxes

Universities are becoming aware of the need for more space as students get ready to return to campus for the fall term. As the semester approaches, space planners in higher education are at the center of disputes about space because there isn’t enough of it. They keep coming back to one central question: What has happened to campus space since universities sent students home? 

Everything from the design of buildings to their maintenance may need to change to fit a new framework. The goal of a higher education space planner is to improve the student experience, which requires a re-evaluation of conventional space allocation. Here are some challenges that higher education institutions should think about now and in the foreseeable future.


1. LIMITED CAMPUS SPACE HINDERS HOUSING NEEDS


As the fall semester begins universities find themselves overbooked due to increased enrollment. Lack of housing is one of the biggest concerns in higher education right now. Universities, without enough dorm space, are turning to hotels and even neighboring campuses to accommodate students.

While some overbooked institutions, such as the University of Tennessee and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte are using hotels as a means of housing their students. University of Iowa, on the other hand, reopened a residence hall it closed five years ago as temporary dormitories.

McCoy Real Estate had an interesting suggestion for the University of Arkansas, where enrolment has increased by approximately 1,000 students year over year. In a tweet, they advise parents of an out-of-state University of Arkansas student who does not have on-campus housing to buy a house for their child.

Purdue made the clever decision to purchase a four-story Aspire complex on State Street as an inventive solution to the housing problem. The big purchase is a necessary stopgap measure as they brainstorm long-term solutions for campus space planning.


2. MORE LAB SPACE NEEDED


The fight for the label “research university” has colleges drawing attention to their lack of labs and allocating space and resources to lab development in their master plans. Brown University responds to this need with a massive acquisition. In July of this year, Brown University acquired 10 properties in the Jewelry District from the Care New England health system, with intentions to construct a new laboratory. Brown wants to expand its research capabilities and be prepared for pandemics in the future. 

Brown University isn’t the only one in the quest for additional laboratory space. However, the question remains: how can higher-learning institutions add these types of buildings quickly and without significant expense? Adaptive reuse, a practice within facilities management of repurposing old space into new building types instead of a complete demo and rebuild, is a reasonable solution. Adaptive reuse can assist universities in converting existing facilities into sustainable and cost-effective laboratory space with little time and expenditure.


3. VALIDATING ROOM, BUILDING AND COMMON SPACE RESERVATIONS 


As campus footprints shrink, higher education space planners are in action to provide building occupants with the space they need. Room reservation technology only gets them so far – not all booked spaces get used in the end. Colleges turn to space planning teams to free up bookings or direct students to underutilized spaces. For instance, Thomas Jefferson University located in Philadelphia, has a smart space management team, Space Management & Room Reservations (SMRR). They schedule events and classes in individual spaces on campus and work to accommodate non-academic events.

University of New Hampshire and Northeastern University are also in the running to validate rooms and space available on-campus for events and meetings. The need for validation arises because faculty members believe they require privacy from time to time. According to Margaret Serrato, workplace strategist at AreaLogic Workplace Strategy, the need for privacy and a quiet place to do heads-down work that is accessible to students is important. Providing the right workspaces to accommodate the ways that individuals work is a reasonable resolution.


HOW CAN OUR SOFTWARE HELP HIGHER ED SPACE PLANNERS?


The University of Tennessee at Knoxville, one of our customers, used our software to help them decide library staffing hours and cleaning schedules, among other things. Armored Things enables customers to gain real-time insights and historical overlays for predictive analytics with spatial intelligence. With our software, customers can understand estimates of peak usage and density to best optimize their space. 

​​Nupur Patra contributes to the Blog and Social Media channels for Armored Things. She is currently a Graduate Student at Northeastern University in the Digital Media program.

Collegiate Esports Need Spaces Too!

students using computers

Although a lot of parents argue that video games aren’t good for their children, it’s possible all that screen time may translate to college scholarship dollars. In the past decade, universities have integrated esports into their athletic departments and worked to recruit top-tier gamers across the country. 

An award-winning esports team could potentially entice students and help boost enrollment, and the  2018-19 school year data shows  200 colleges in the U.S offered $16 million in esports scholarships

They may not need ice-cold arenas, but these players don’t sit alone in their rooms. In order to create an optimal experience, higher education facilities leaders have to find the proper space and equipment for esports teams to practice and compete.


JUST HOW BIG IS ESPORTS? 


 League of Legends is a multiplayer online video game known to be one of the largest esports both worldwide and at the collegiate level. The 2018 League of Legends World championship generated over 26 million hours of viewership, and the finals drew over 2 million viewers alone.

According to technology consulting firm Activate, esports will reach about 800 million viewers worldwide by 2024.  In total, esports produced a whopping  $2.7 billion in revenue in 2020 and is expected to nearly double by 2024. 


HOW CAN UNIVERSITIES CREATE SPACE FOR ESPORTS? 


In order for these teams to succeed, players need the proper equipment and space to practice and compete. These spaces are referred to as “arenas”, but they aren’t nearly as expensive to create as traditional sports arenas. Many of these arenas include desks with gaming chairs and monitors for players as well as large screen monitors for fans to watch their teams compete. 

Because esports is a relatively new collegiate program, many universities are utilizing old classrooms and spaces to accommodate esports rooms and arenas. But UC Irvine is one example of a university that went all in and created a space entirely devoted to esports. Their 3,500-square-foot arena is the first of its kind, housing 36 iBUYPOWER computers, Logitech gaming gear, and gaming chairs. The arena also has a “Console & Community Corner” where clubs and organizations can host events and meetings and even demo virtual reality.


OLD BUILDINGS VS. NEW FLEX SPACE 


Just last year, the University of Warwick in the UK announced that they plan to invest in a massive esports center on their campus. The center is meant to give players a space to practice their skills and even allow for research into the world of esports – combining sports and academics. The center will also serve as a venue for future esports events. What makes this space so unique is that it’s configurable – this allows it to be taken apart and moved to larger locations for bigger esports events on campus. 

Software from Armored Things helps universities evaluate their spaces in order to create recreational facilities like esports arenas. By collecting space utilization data, campus leaders can pinpoint where space is underutilized and decide how to improve its usage.  

In 2020, one of the top-ranked college esports programs was at the Maryville University of Saint Louis – and it’s not surprising that they won the 2016 League of Legends championship with a 40-0 record. The university offers a state-of-the-art practice facility with the best internet possible for low ping and high FPS (frames-per-second).

Want to learn more about Armored Things Space Analytics Solution? You can visit our website or reach out directly to sales@armoredthings.com for a quick demo.

​​Alex Trotto contributes to the Blog and Social Media channels for Armored Things. She is currently a Northeastern University student in her sophomore year.

Spotlight On Higher Education Space Planning Teams

Strategic Space Planning teams in higher education are increasingly pressured to help design flexible, dynamic spaces to meet the needs of a changing workforce, and a student population in search of nontraditional learning options.

“One of the things that I think a lot of universities and maybe some businesses are looking at is how do you change the allocation of space and space guidelines post-COVID with the introduction of telecommuting,” said William & Mary University Space Data Manager Tim Russell, in a recent discussion with Armored Things.

Space Planners at colleges and universities have always been tasked with solving current space disputes while also planning years ahead, and the 2020 shutdown of campuses across the country has only intensified their missions. In just one example, many higher ed space planning leaders say a common post-pandemic request is for increased lab space – often alongside the new realization that their administration offices are underutilized.  

“Most people don’t realize that the fight for space is fairly common in universities,” said Russell.

Russell, like campus Space Planners at colleges and universities across the country, sits at the center of many departments that are looking for creative ways to provide flexible, creative spaces for students and faculty – and meet sustainability goals at the same time.


WHAT IS THE ROUTINE FUNCTION OF SPACE PLANNING TEAMS?


According to the National Association of College and University Business Officers  (NACUBO), no matter how large their team or campus, all higher education Space Planning teams share common goals as you’ll see below.

Understand space needs in order to better respond to plans for future projects: University Space Planners are responsible for tracking space utilization on campus in order to determine whether spaces are being over or underutilized. This allows them to make future decisions about space allocation. 

Analyze and resolve specific space issues and concerns: At schools such as Boston University, space analytics is used to understand how space has been used previously, its current status and use, and future plans for the space. This data is then used to determine how much space departments should be granted as Space Planners are constantly faced with competition. William & Mary University created master plans that focus on areas such as academic space needs, administrative space, and infrastructure and utilities. Master plans such as these serve as an outline for long-term space planning and other facilities demands. 

Providing space studies: Space Planning teams are responsible for providing space studies, including suggestions and solutions to optimize the efficiency of existing spaces or identifying overages or shortages of space.


5 TOP CHALLENGES FOR HIGHER ED SPACE PLANNERS


Annual project funding: A routine issue for Space Planners is the unpredictability of funding. As enrollment numbers change, and some federal or state funding is unclear, space managers on college campuses need to connect their budgets to student experiences, or show costs associated with deferred maintenance. 

Supply chain trouble: According to William & Mary’s Russell, the pandemic has caused massive supply chain disruptions which have resulted in some projects being two years behind schedule.

Sustainability: Many universities are also looking to become more sustainable by cutting down on greenhouse gas emissions by reducing their electrical use. Colleges such as Indiana University also noticed that this energy minimization also generated significant utility cost savings which lowered operational costs and increased their overall energy efficiency. 

Deferred maintenance: Deferred and overall building maintenance has been a growing concern and issue for many universities, especially after the pandemic. Campus leaders are now looking to address these maintenance issues as they can be incredibly costly. In a recent Higher Ed Facilities Forum article, the University of Missouri detailed having an $881 billion backlog in building maintenance, causing them to reduce its campus size by one million square feet. 

Underutilization: As telecommuting has risen in popularity, many facilities managers are reporting that classrooms and office spaces are severely underutilized – sometimes reserved with booking systems but then only filled to a quarter of capacity. Inside Higher Ed recently outlined the way that some universities are repurposing unused space for public uses such as health and wellness centers or even childcare centers


HOW CAN AI SOFTWARE HELP SPACE PLANNING TEAMS?


Space utilization software can provide universities with insights as to how their space is being used and help Space Planners make future data-driven decisions. Software can provide visual mapping as well as monitoring utilization. Armored Things is able to surface utilization – which makes occupancy data more relevant. This can be done without requiring any new hardware. Occupancy analytics are surfaced within a few weeks rather than months. 

One Armored Things customer, the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, initially used our software to help determine library staffing hours and cleaning schedules. UTK recently expanded its initial deployment to cover more buildings and deliver deep insights through an integration with their class scheduling system.

Armored Things allows users to gain real-time insights as well as historical overlays to create predictive analytics. Our software displays estimates of peak usage and density to help customers understand their space in new ways. Peak usage and density enable campus leaders to track which sector of campus – or any shared space – receives the most traffic.  

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

Alex Trotto contributes to the Blog and Social Media channels for Armored Things. She is currently a Northeastern University student in her sophomore year.

6 Things Facilities Directors Will Tackle In 2022

Directors of facilities are no strangers to the many struggles and responsibilities that come with their job titles, but the pandemic has introduced entirely new challenges. Already a member of upper management, their strategic outlook is now vital to successful return-to-office strategies. 

On top of their pre-pandemic responsibilities, facility professionals have to figure out how to create a safe and collaborative work environment, one that encourages employees to return to the office. It can be hard to limit a Facilities Director to-do list to just a few, but here’s our take on the top 6. 


1. SUSTAINABILITY – HIGH-PERFORMANCE BUILDINGS AND ESG


Sustainability isn’t anything new for facilities directors, who are trained to think about everything from eco-friendly supplies to whether to expand corporate footprints.  A lot of that falls into the ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) bucket, and the pandemic highlighted the importance of measuring environmental impact at every turn. High-performance buildings are often talked about in terms of energy and water efficiency, high-quality indoor environments, and conservative resource use. Some estimates say sustainability efforts can improve operating profits by up to 60%. And a focus on sustainability is appealing when it comes to softer ROI numbers since consumers and potential employees often prioritize sustainability, and want to buy from and work for companies that do as well. 


2. MANAGING HOT DESKS – FIRST COME, FIRST SERVE  


Hot desking has gained traction throughout the pandemic as a way for employers to reopen with less corporate space, or in newer spaces.  Although offices are beginning to fully reopen, hybrid office schedules – with employees in the office 2-3 days a week – are increasingly popular. So how are facility directors expected to support and navigate this new way of working? 

Many facilities directors utilize schedulers to allow employees to reserve desks ahead of time on a first-come, first-serve basis, and hot-desking and hoteling software is on the rise. But both of these rely on employees and collaborative teams utilizing their reserved spaces – that is, following through on their vision to bring teams in on certain days. The challenge lies in invalidating those occupancy requests and determining the number of desks and spaces needed over time. 


3. SMART PEOPLE COUNTING – OCCUPANCY ANALYTICS HERE TO STAY 


The post-pandemic hybrid work model has transformed how offices function. Facilities directors need a better understanding of which spaces are actually occupied and how to create a work environment that provides employees a sense of belonging and ownership. Creating occupancy reports using space utilization software is one way to do this. Occupancy analytics can help these directors determine employee density in existing spaces and decide whether office spaces are underutilized or not. These analytics can also integrate with other scheduling and collaboration tools to aid with any other space-related decisions. 


4. DEEP CLEANING –  SANITIZING THE NEW WORKPLACE


The pandemic has completely altered the way that people think about their office cleaning crews.  Facilities managers have to prioritize more thorough and oftentimes more frequent cleaning crews. The ability to communicate to workers that office spaces are professionally cleaned on a regular schedule is crucial if facility directors want to be able to persuade employees to come back to work. Most employees will be expecting to see communications around cleaning vs disinfecting and will want to know when a space was last cleaned. This can help with return-to-office choices, and help employees feel safer. 


5. DEFERRED MAINTENANCE –  COSTLY AND PROBLEMATIC


Those of us who aren’t managing facilities don’t always fully understand how much goes into properly maintaining an office building, including how much budget needs to be assigned. These misconceptions can lead to maintenance repairs being deferred. 

Deferring maintenance changes the process from a proactive one to a reactive one. Reactive maintenance means the asset itself picking the time when it needs emergency service or total replacement. This can cause disruptions during peak occupancy hours or even a complete shutdown of the facility. Studies have shown that on average, for every dollar “saved” by deferring proper maintenance, there can be a four-dollar increase in future repair costs.  Today many facilities departments are at risk for deferred maintenance due to indecision about how and whether companies are reopening.


6. FLEX SPACES – TEAMWORK MAKES THE DREAM WORK


Offices have been left with a lot of underutilized space and less than enthusiastic employees due to the hybrid work model, so facilities directors must get creative in order to solve both issues. One way to do this is by designing flex spaces. 

Flex spaces involve creating spaces that are multi-purpose. Many businesses are replacing desks with couches and televisions in conference rooms to create more welcoming and inspiring spaces. This can help facility directors redesign the office to become a more efficient and collaborative space, subsequently boosting employee morale. Instead of separating different teams on various floors, creating flex spaces can unite teams and allow them to work more collaboratively in the office. 

In redesigning the new office space, the goal for employers is to create flexibility without adding any unnecessary space. Flex spaces are able to foster collaboration between teams while also utilizing rooms that would otherwise be left unoccupied. 

To learn more about how Armored Things is helping CRE leaders make the most of their spaces, check out our CRE Guide or reach out directly to sales@armoredthings.com for a quick demo.

Alex Trotto contributes to the Blog and Social Media channels for Armored Things. She is currently a Northeastern University student in her sophomore year.

Bringing Them Back: Campus Management Focused on Risk Mitigation

Despite the surge in COVID cases over the recent months, colleges are determined to learn to coexist with the virus. Universities are now focused on adapting to and accepting the new normal in order to keep students engaged and re-enrolling. In a public announcement, Northeastern University’s Chancellor Ken Henderson stated that “as we move into this endemic phase of the pandemic, our job is to continue to control COVID effectively, not let COVID control us.”


“As we move into this endemic phase of the pandemic, our job is to continue to control COVID effectively, not let COVID control us.”

KEN HENDERSON, NORTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY CHANCELLOR

HOW ARE COLLEGE CAMPUSES MANAGING THE SURGE? 


So how are smart campuses –or any campus for that matter–addressing Omni outbreaks as they prepare to bring students back for the Spring semester? 

Well, some colleges are strictly only offering online learning for the first few weeks including Harvard University which moved to remote operations until January 24. Others are completely delaying the start of the spring semester including Syracuse University which is resuming in-person classes also on January 24.

In order to allow in-person learning, schools are taking precautions to ensure the safety of their students and faculty. The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that many schools are requiring vaccines for all students and employees at more than 1,000 colleges. Many are not only requiring students to receive both doses of the vaccines, but also the booster. 

The vast majority are also suggesting, some even requiring, that students get tested before venturing back to campus. Stanford University is advising that students get tested before traveling back to campus and urging them to stay home if they test positive. 

As students make their way to campus and in-person classes commence, universities are continuing to enforce mask mandates, routine testing, contact tracing, and quarantining in order to stabilize the rise in COVID cases. Northeastern University plans to remain open and continue to require all on-campus students to be tested on a weekly basis as well as mandate students to quarantine when testing positive or experiencing symptoms.


HOW IS FACILITIES MANAGEMENT ADJUSTING TO THE NEW NORM? 


When you consider the messages coming out of Northeastern and other universities, they’re preparing for surges, whether relating to COVID or even other contagious diseases in years to come. The idea that the pandemic will downgrade to an endemic suggests the continuation of today’s healthcare concerns in micro-communities like college campuses. The expectations around sanitization, occupancy communications, and space management have seeped into other areas of our experience and will continue long after the pandemic. Since in-person learning is crucial to any college’s success,  it’s essential to build occupancy analytics into the central data systems. 

The Armored Things platform utilizes existing Wi-Fi, sensors, and cameras to produce a complete picture of how and when people occupy the spaces managed. The software counts people in real-time, issues alerts, and even supplies predictive analytics. 

Space utilization software has never been more useful than during a pandemic where occupancy is limited in most spaces, especially on college campuses. Our higher education customers are integrating Armored Things into systems like class scheduling and registrar information to add context to occupancy analytics and bring their campus management into sharper focus. Enabled by AI, Armored Things can help you bring students back –and keep them back–safely, building a tech-enabled, flexible campus.

Alex Trotto contributes to the Blog and Social Media channels for Armored Things. She is currently a Northeastern University student in her sophomore year.

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. 

Occupancy Analytics In Higher Education

When students returned to campuses and classes this fall, many colleges and universities found themselves at opposite ends of a housing crisis: a shortage of space for first-year students who deferred or didn’t enroll in a full course load during the height of the pandemic. Meanwhile, others struggled to fill empty dormitory buildings, with students. Schools like Middlebury College in Vermont offered students ski passes and equipment plus housing discounts if students moved off-campus. Meanwhile, other schools offered incentives like laundry facilities and room discounts to move into empty dorm rooms.

Armored Things Sales Director Sue Bork talked to us about how AI is helping decision-makers at colleges and universities stay ahead of demands related to occupancy and utilization.


WHAT BUSINESS PROBLEMS IS ARMORED THINGS SOLVING FOR CUSTOMERS?


We allow our customers to use their existing hardware—such as Wi-Fi, access points, cameras, or sensors—whatever they might have pulled in data so that they can better understand how to use that space and how and when people are moving throughout different facilities. That means they can avoid the manual work of things like clicker studies and make faster decisions.

This information becomes incredibly helpful for many different organizations, or departments—whether it’s higher education institutions, commercial real estate, a corporate campus, or a professional sports area. People have been measuring occupancy for a long time, but now space analytics are helping them understand how occupancy translates to smarter leasing and scheduling decisions, and ROI.


CAN YOU OUTLINE A USE CASE FOR SPACE ANALYTICS IN HIGHER ED?


From a higher education perspective, I talk to space planning teams who find this information so valuable. For example, from a facilities department standpoint, understanding when people are coming in and out of a building means you can staff that building properly, and make smarter leaser decisions.

Maybe you need to staff a library between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m.—that’s when students are populating it the most. So that means we need to adjust maintenance, or cleaning, schedules. And staffing. What hours should you staff a help desk? The library is one of the first places the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK) was able to see what we call actionable insights. Once they could see occupancy over time, they knew how to make scheduling changes. And lecture halls are a great use case. If you use historical overlay, you can actually see occupancy over time and say ‘Aha! Here’s solid evidence that we are falling short on space for a popular lecture hall, while another consistently leaves empty seats. Should we switch those two rooms?’



The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security – or CARES Act – allows organizations to allocate the act’s funding to IT projects such as workplace analytics deployments to enhance workplace health and safety. Many institutions are using that second round of funding from the CARES Act with software like ours – to help with social distancing.


HOW DOES ARMORED THINGS RELATE TO DENSITY?


When [an organization is looking to] keep that social distance, especially with the resurgence of COVID that’s happening, you really want to make sure that you are keeping a minimum number of people in a building or a floor. So they set occupancy limits.

Then you can set alerts. When they see a real-time alert on a mobile device, they can say ‘ I know I can close those floors off, or be mindful of when people are leaving [the space] before I let more people in.’

In addition, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security – or CARES Act –allows organizations to allocate the act’s funding to IT projects such as workplace analytics deployments to enhance workplace health and safety. Many institutions are using that second round of funding from the CARES Act with software like ours – to help with social distancing.


We can work with sensors, and it’s one of our data sources. But we don’t require them, and it’s a critical advantage to our software-only solution, that you can deploy us and leverage your existing Wi-Fi, for example.


WHAT DOES THE ARMORED THINGS DASHBOARD LOOK LIKE? 


An intuitive dashboard is really important to us. The Armored Things dashboard can display on a computer, it can be on a laptop, it can be on a mobile phone. It’s really crystal clear in terms of providing quick information, such as how many people are on campus or in each building. You can click on a building to see how many people are on each floor. 

We are surfacing anonymous visual representations of people, and since we don’t use any facial recognition, we’re able to alleviate privacy concerns.


HOW DO YOU WORK WITH SENSOR-BASED SOLUTIONS?


We can work with sensors, and it’s one of our data sources. But we don’t require them, and that’s important. You always want to consider the cost of some sensors at scale; it’s a critical advantage to having a software-only solution. We find that, as you scale across large higher education campuses, software deployment is typically going to be far less costly than installing additional sensors. It’s also typically a quicker deployment.


HOW DOES ARMORED THINGS INTEGRATE WITH OTHER APPLICATIONS?


It’s an open-architecture solution. We can pull in scheduling software. We don’t care what an organization is using—whether it’s Ad Astra, or, 25Live. We can tie it into a facility management system (FMS) or a homegrown system. 

A lot of times, we find the occupancy piece is missing from those software systems—and that is the piece we provide.

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

Lauren Horwitz is a technology reporter and writer focused on IoT, most recently at Informa.

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.”


UNDERSTANDING CROWD INTELLIGENCE


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.”

– MIKE CONLEY, CIO, CAVALIERS, ROCKET MORTGAGE FIELDHOUSE

VENUE-WIDE USE CASES


  • 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.

CROWD INTELLIGENCE WORKS BY:


  • 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 David.Smentek@ArmoredThings.com.

Higher Ed Reopen Strategies: Flexing Space on Campus

Flexible, hybrid (online and in-person) learning environments. Early start dates, no holiday travel, and at-home exams. With summer starting and fall semester just weeks away, the national conversation surrounding COVID-19 and colleges is heating up.

Inside Higher Ed reports that a May survey of college presidents by the American Council of Education showed 53% of the 230 respondents predicted their institutions would reopen in the fall.  Designating residential space on campus to quarantine students and requiring masks to be worn on campus are among the risk mitigation measures cited by survey respondents.

Plans to reopen vary by college and county, and differ among institutions in the same state. That’s because so many variables—student population, building occupancy and residential units—are all part of the equation.

College campuses present obvious, unique challenges: a mix of young adult students with older (and more at risk) faculty plus shared living and dining spaces. And just about everything students and parents expect from a college experience –from sports to sororities to concerts and ceremonies—are shoulder-to-shoulder gatherings.  So, in the week following Memorial Day, what should you know about the current plans for college campuses?


MESSAGES OF CONFIDENCE, CAUTION


For starters, some schools have leaned way in—and have publicly expressed confidence they will be ready to go. At Notre Dame, the plan is for an adjusted academic calendar, with classes resuming Aug. 10. “We recognize the challenge, but we believe it is one we can meet,” wrote university president Rev. John I. Jenkins C.S.C.  Officials in the Texas A&M University System have said students will be welcomed back in the fall—and yes, Texas A&M reportedly is planning on a football season. Officials in that system offered up creative spacing solutions—including Saturday and evening classes, and removing furniture in common areas to discourage gathering.

Across the country, some campus leaders are striving to deliver a message of confidence, one balanced with caution. But many schools are still in the research phase. Amherst College President Biddy Martin told students in her Memorial Day weekend update; “Between now and next Friday’s (or Saturday’s) letter, we will continue to make progress toward a plan for how we might safely re-open the campus.” The Washington Post reports that some schools, like Montgomery College, with more than 21,000 commuter students, have already decided they won’t reopen in September. To move on with distance learning, a decision had to made sooner rather than later.

Boston College is among those schools that had a chance to do sort of a dry run when it comes to reopening—because  400 students have remained on campus. In a statement released last week, BC said the last two months “provided valuable lessons about how to implement physical distancing and food distribution protocols in dining facilities, increase sanitizing for buildings (particularly residence halls), and use technology for meetings and events.”


A NEW UNDERSTANDING OF FACILITIES


For schools that do choose to provide in-person learning in the fall, the focus is on sanitation, testing and understanding campus spaces—from dormitories to cafeterias and libraries.

The American College Health Association published a 20-page report in May outlining several areas for schools to focus on, including Facilities:

  • Maintain at least 6 feet between workstations/workers.
  • Place plexiglass or other barriers in workspaces where people must face each other or unable to be 6 feet apart.
  • Consider installing plexiglass barriers at high-visited areas such as reception desks and check-in points.
  • Place appropriate signage at entrances indicating how to proceed.
  • Remove chairs and desks to ensure proper physical distancing in conference and waiting rooms.
  • Identify allowable occupancy in order to control workflow and/or establish maximum attendance

For administrators trying to plan in-person classes, the ACHA report suggested limiting all in-person courses/sections to “fewer than 30 participants. Consider creating multiple sections/shifts to reduce numbers.”   The report also noted that a “careful risk assessment and staged approach is needed to balance the benefits and potential harms of adjusting these measures, so as not to trigger a resurgence of COVID-19 cases and jeopardize the health and safety of the campus community.”