A new Front Office Sports Special Report highlights this year’s huge hardware supply chain...
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 trying to fill empty dormitory buildings, with student 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.
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.
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?’
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.
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.
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.
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.
Lauren Horwitz is a technology reporter and writer focused on IoT, most recently at Informa.