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Episode 92

IoT Sensors, Space Utilization, and Delivering Workplace Experience through Real-Time Data

with Elizabeth Redmond of CoWorkr

Elizabeth Redmond is CEO & Co-Founder at CoWorkr where she is passionate about improving the efficiency of systems. Mike Petrusky asks Elizabeth about her background as a designer, which allows her to focus on innovation, and her life as an entrepreneur, which requires persistence and patience. The opportunities for workplace leaders to leverage real-time data for strategic planning and delivering enhanced employee experiences is made possible by IoT sensors and space utilization tools. Mike and Elizabeth share stories about the partnership between iOFFICE and CoWorkr while discussing the power and promise of data analytics in workplace applications for facility management and corporate real estate leaders.

Intelligent Space White Paper

Connect with Elizabeth on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/elizabethredmond/

Learn more about CoWorkr: https://coworkr.co/

Discover free resources and explore past interviews at: https://www.workplaceinnovator.com/

Connect with Mike on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mikepetrusky/

Share your thoughts with Mike via email: podcast@iOFFICECORP.com

Learn more about iOFFICE’s workplace experience solutions: https://www.iOFFICECORP.com/

Read the full transcript:

Mike P. (00:02):

Hi everyone. Mike P. here and I have two big announcements for you. First, I am thrilled to tell you that we have just launched a new website to serve as the home of this podcast. You can check it out now at www.workplaceinnovator.com. There you will find not only the latest episode of this show, but a link to our complete searchable archive of interviews. Plus the new site has available for free download research reports and white papers about the latest industry trends and available technologies. Also, I'm excited to announce that registration is open for the annual iOFFICE User Conference. Our Summit 2020 will take place April 14th to 16th, and I really hope you will plan to join me there. We will bring the future to life with amazing speakers, educational content and you'll have the chance to interact with our community forward-thinking workplace leaders. So join us in Vegas baby Vegas, where you will be inspired to create connected workplace experiences for your organization.

Elizabeth R. (01:05):

It's an ecosystem and everything has to be considered in order for the goals to actually be achieved. And so you can't just focus on technology, you can't just focus on furniture and you can't just focus on people. All of these things need to be in concert.

Mike P. (01:21):

This is the Workplace Innovator podcast where we talk with corporate real estate and facility management leaders about the industry trends and technologies impacting your organization. This show is powered by iOFFICE, the leading employee experience focused IWMS software that delivers real time data and mobile tools to help you intelligently manage your digital workplace.

            Hey everyone and welcome to episode 92 of the Workplace Innovator podcast. My name is Mike and this show is where you will find the information and inspiration you need to help you navigate the exciting world of CRE and FM. And I do hope we might deliver a laugh or two along the way. In fact I know we will with today's interview because my guest is the amazing Elizabeth Redmond of CoWorkr, a workplace analytics company that collects utilization data using its IoT sensor technology. Now I have known Elizabeth for a while. She is positive and humble and fun and I knew all of that. But I also learned in this conversation a bit more about her background as a designer and her passion for helping workplace leaders innovate by using technology.

            And finally she inspired me and will inspire you with some lessons as an entrepreneur which certainly requires a lot of persistence and patience as all of our lives do these days. I just know you will enjoy this discussion. So let's get right to it. On the Workplace Innovator hotline calling in from Reno, Nevada, I am pleased to welcome Elizabeth Redmond to the show. Hi Elizabeth.

Elizabeth R. (03:11):

Hey Mike. Thanks for having me on.

Mike P. (03:13):

So what's it like in Reno today?

Elizabeth R. (03:15):

Well, we actually got our first snow yesterday, so we've got some little whitecaps.

Mike P. (03:20):

Wow!

Elizabeth R. (03:20):

Yeah, outside of our window of the office we can see Mount Rose which is one of the highest peaks in the area.

Mike P. (03:27):

Very cool.

Elizabeth R. (03:27):

Yeah. We get to see the whole storms rush in and glaze the mountain tops and dust them with some fresh powder as they like to say it around here.

Mike P. (03:37):

You must be stoked dude.

Elizabeth R. (03:40):

Totally.

Mike P. (03:41):

That's awesome. Are you a skier?

Elizabeth R. (03:44):

I do ski. Yeah.

Mike P. (03:45):

Excellent.

Elizabeth R. (03:45):

I just kind of began my adult skiing career though a couple of years ago. So I'm relearning from my childhood career.

Mike P. (03:54):

From that one trip, that one high school ski trip you went on?

Elizabeth R. (03:57):

Yeah. Well I'm from Michigan and so in Michigan you ski on like old landfill sites. There are no real mountains. So what I ski on now is definitely intimidating compared to what I once knew.

Mike P. (04:10):

Much more intense. Awesome. Intense dude.

Elizabeth R. (04:15):

Dude get some fresh [inaudible 00:00:04:15].

Mike P. (04:18):

I love it. I love it. Well, it's great to have you on the show finally. We've run into each other a lot in these past few months at Core Tech. Get to see you all the time which is great. But for our audience at home tell us about who you are and what you do.

Elizabeth R. (04:35):

Yeah. So I'm CEO of a company called CoWorkr. My co-founder and I started this business about six years ago, really after being exposed through one of our clients at the time to this market opportunity and we thought it was pretty interesting. There was a lot of buzz at the time around this field called the Internet of Things.

Mike P. (04:35):

IoT.

Elizabeth R. (04:58):

IoT.

Mike P. (04:58):

[crosstalk 00:04:59].

Elizabeth R. (04:59):

Now it's classic old school lingo but at that time it was pretty new. And what we do is deploy technology around workplaces to collect data on utilization. And so there's a huge span of our services that cross the gamut of short term studies for benchmarking to using data in real time for booking conference rooms and phone rooms and finding couches that might be available, and using analytics over years to constantly reconfigure the workplace for better utilization and optimizing that flow.

Mike P. (05:40):

Really great. Awesome technology. You're a partner with iOFFICE and we deliver awesome experiences to our clients together, right?

Elizabeth R. (05:49):

Yes. And actually I think the first place we ran into each other last fall was at an event we co-hosted, kind of promoting that integration between our two technologies.

Mike P. (06:00):

Yes. Very cool. Well, I want to get more into the details of the tech tools you have available and learn more about where you see the market and the trends that are out there. But before we get too far, you know my favorite topic Elizabeth, what kind of music gets you inspired?

Elizabeth R. (06:17):

I'm a really big blues and funk fan. So I listen to a lot of Freddie King and James Brown and Sam Cook.

Mike P. (06:24):

Wow. Really cool.

Elizabeth R. (06:26):

Yeah. I think Sam Cook is what like really brings it home for me.

Mike P. (06:30):

You got a favorite song?

Elizabeth R. (06:31):

Well, I really like his rendition of Tennessee Waltz. It was just super corny, but it works for me.

Mike P. (06:49):

I'm not sure I'm familiar with that one.

Elizabeth R. (06:49):

(singing).

Mike P. (06:54):

Love it. I love it.

Elizabeth R. (06:56):

[crosstalk 00:06:56] going on singing?

Mike P. (06:56):

That was fantastic. I didn't even have to bribe you to get that out of you. That was awesome. We should do a duet together.

Elizabeth R. (07:03):

Oh yeah.

Mike P. (07:03):

So isn't he it's a What a Wonderful World It Would Be. (singing).

Elizabeth R. (07:03):

(singing).

Mike P. (07:20):

All right, we found common ground with music.

Elizabeth R. (07:24):

There we go. There's our duet.

Mike P. (07:25):

Perfect. Fantastic. All right. Now that we've energized the crowd, how about a little inspiration or a motivational quote, anything you could share with us?

Elizabeth R. (07:34):

So I do not know who said this but I saw it on a poster once, which is also one of the most corny things, but-

Mike P. (07:42):

Hang in there baby.

Elizabeth R. (07:43):

No, it's lived in my notebook for like the last 12 years and it goes, "Insane perseverance in the face of complete resistance."

Mike P. (07:51):

Wow!

Elizabeth R. (07:52):

And I personally like this because I tend to be somewhat of a lamb in my spirit. And so it kind of inspires the lion in me and reminds me to go out and get what I need.

Mike P. (08:04):

That's an entrepreneur slogan if I ever heard one.

Elizabeth R. (08:06):

Yeah, absolutely. But the word perseverance I appreciate because I feel like people don't stick with things for too long these days. So it reminds me to focus on the longterm gain.

Mike P. (08:17):

I like that.

Elizabeth R. (08:18):

Yeah.

Mike P. (08:18):

Definitely a message we all need to take to heart in these fast moving times.

Elizabeth R. (08:23):

Yeah.

Mike P. (08:23):

Good stuff. All right. Well, I've seen you at these conferences. We get to talk to a lot of workplace leaders both from the facility management side as well as corporate real estate professionals. What is it you most enjoy Elizabeth about the work you get to do?

Elizabeth R. (08:38):

Yeah. So I am a designer by trade and at heart and so the work that we do is fascinating. It's extremely complex to get little devices to talk to the internet and be responsive in real time and to keep everything working on a day to day basis. So I'm particularly focused on and excited about the pieces of efficiencies. So it's kind of more on the operational end. But everything that gets me going is more around how to get our sensors installed more quickly, how to pack them up more efficiently, how to deploy them more quickly. And so all of these steps that gets us to scale with less resistance.

Mike P. (09:22):

There you go. Persistence in the face of resistance.

Elizabeth R. (09:24):

We're coming back to it.

Mike P. (09:26):

Yeah. Bringing that quote back. So tell us a little bit more about the sensor technology that you deploy and how it helps organizations.

Elizabeth R. (09:34):

Yeah. So we deploy tiny little internet connected devices. So they're just collecting very simple data on occupancy status. So they're saying, "Somebody is here, somebody is not. Somebody is here, somebody is not." And that data in aggregate can really help organizations to figure out how many vacancies they have per department on a monthly basis. And extrapolate that out to plan occupancy for future moves, to plan for transition of when they may be vacating a particular lease and deciding if they need to take up more space or not. And you know really from a macro scale why I'm excited about the work we do is that, we can help to improve efficiencies on a global scale of how much space companies actually need to take up currently. Because the way we work right now is very different from the way we worked 10 years ago and 50 years ago.

Mike P. (10:32):

Absolutely. So you've been doing this for a while and you've seen a lot of changes in the industry. What part of the deliverable do you feel has the biggest impact helping organizations today?

Elizabeth R. (10:43):

There's no disputing the power of our analytics and the data that we can deliver. Just the simple metric of being able to count vacancies at peak. So what's your peak utilization event and how many vacancies are there at that peak event is a super powerful metric. I think what's becoming really interesting today is the ability to use our data in real time and kind of unleashing that to the workers on an hourly and minute basis so that workers can come into the office, flip open a workplace experience app and search for an available phone room or a desk or a couch. And that is a way that we are applying this technology in such a practical way now that kind of touches everyone in the office.

Mike P. (11:31):

Oh yeah. I can see that being super helpful especially with the demands put on workplace leaders today to deliver that exceptional employee experience. These tools are essential to help users interact with the spaces in which they operate. And it's truly valuable to deliver on the expectations of people today. We have this experience with our personal technology and our smartphones. We want to bring that to the workplace as well and there's a bit of a gap in the ability to do so. Have you seen that?

Elizabeth R. (12:03):

Yeah. You know what I think is interesting is, there was this big transition to the open workplace and that was definitely a challenge to experience for a lot of people and it presented a lot of problems. And so I think we're in this phase of everyone being a bit more sophisticated with those challenges and those decisions. And so the focus now is providing a diversity of environments and that diversity of environments really do facilitate a great workplace experience and just a more productive day. And so if we can come in and play a part in that role of people finding those spaces and finding a booth that they want to work at, the exact type of setting that they like even if it's not on the same floor, they might have to walk up a set of stairs but they can find that exact booth that they like to work at. And I think that's pretty cool point that we're in right now in the whole workplace transformation.

Mike P. (12:57):

So now that we have this data Elizabeth, there's a lot of promise of what we can deliver as far as information for organizations for their planning purposes, you provide sensor technology and then you have a software that helps to make use of that data. Do you analyze it? Do you have algorithms and machine learning things going on to help people anticipate the needs of their workforce?

Elizabeth R. (13:20):

Yeah. So on the sensor end, on the hardware technology end we are using AI and machine learning to analyze what's going on in the environment. And that's just an element of efficiency so that we can do more with one piece of equipment as opposed to multiple pieces of equipment. And ideally gather more information about that environment. So are people leaving their computers behind? Are they setting up an environment as a project space versus just a meeting room and so forth.

            But I think the next wave in where our field is going is doing more of the predictive analytics. So trying to look at historical data and predict what's about to happen. And this is really important because the way that companies are hiring people there's more contingency workers, there's more part time staff, people are working from different environments and that's constantly changing for that staff. And so being able to trend patterns over time is really important and powerful dataset. And I think it's interesting, you know there's obviously a lot of talk about an impending downturn, but for us in this field we're definitely sitting on a valuable resource that is how people work. And so using that data in aggregate to understand what might happen in the future for these organizations and how they can plan for future spaces is pretty powerful and interesting.

Mike P. (14:47):

So do you have any other thoughts about employee experience and what's your advice for workplace leaders going forward?

Elizabeth R. (14:54):

Yeah, so I like to talk about it in terms of, and in order to get a complete data set you need to have technology that's going to capture a hundred percent of the activity that's going on. And so there are ways of data tracking through badge, but people might follow somebody else in, there's no badging out. So it's not a very complete dataset. Similarly with like checking into a room reservation, not everyone is going to opt into that or checking into a desk in a hot desking environment. So unless you have a hundred percent opt in and a hundred percent usage of that feature dataset on a daily basis, it's not going to be complete. So we like to talk about it in terms of passive data capture is important. And what that also offers is real time information on what's currently happening.

            So I suppose I encourage workplace leaders to not be intimidated by technology, to definitely give it a go, test things out and make sure everything is working together as they were expecting. These collaborations between companies like mine and the room reservation or the workplace experience companies for example, some of them are new and so it takes a little time to get it right but we're all kind of focused on making that happen and making it work because we're tech geeks and we want to make it work.

Mike P. (16:19):

That's awesome. But you're not just about the tech, you also encourage people to take a qualitative look at their spaces I imagine as well. Do you work with any partners as far as change management strategy and the deeper dive into the data that is being gathered? Is that part of your holistic view of the workplace deliverable?

Elizabeth R. (16:41):

Yeah, I mean I think honestly it's an ecosystem and everything has to be considered in order for the goals to actually be achieved. And so you can't just focus on technology, you can't just focus on furniture and you can't just focus on people. All of these things need to be in concert and need to be at the right place and time to truly be utilized. So that's a big part of our focus. I think everyone in the services end of this is focused on making sure they do the data gathering at the beginning to make sure their goals are reached and that they're realistic and viable.

Mike P. (17:20):

What about the future? Do you have thoughts about where we're headed in here in the new year and beyond?

Elizabeth R. (17:26):

Yeah. You know there are some big challenges ahead of us and we're all trying to do a lot because we understand that it's one big ecosystem as I mentioned. So we're really excited about getting more sophisticated in our partnerships, in our integrations, in having more of those implementations working on a building to building scale.

Mike P. (17:47):

Absolutely. Excellent. Elizabeth, this has been fantastic. I really enjoyed speaking with you. Thank you for being on the Workplace Innovator podcast.

Elizabeth R. (17:57):

Awesome. Thanks so much Mike. Great chatting with you.

Mike P. (18:01):

There you have it folks, Elizabeth Redmond sharing a few of her thoughts about the opportunities we have as workplace leaders to leverage real time data for strategic planning and delivering enhanced employee experiences. That's what this show is all about. So much is made possible today by these IoT sensors and their integration with space utilization tools like the iOFFICE Hummingbird app. It's easier than ever to meet the expectations of the occupants of our facilities. And if you'd like more information I hope you will connect with Elizabeth. I've shared her contact information in the show notes. And of course as always I invite you to visit me at www.workplaceinnovator.com, where you can request a demo of iOFFICE. You can download free research reports, white papers and you'll find more podcast episodes just like this one that I hope will inspire you to be a workplace innovator. Peace out.

            You've been listening to the Workplace Innovator podcast. I hope you found this discussion beneficial as we work together to build partnerships that lead to innovative workplace solutions. For more information about how iOFFICE can help you create an employee-centric workspace by delivering digital technology that enhances the employee experience, visit iofficecorp.com.