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Space Management Analytics: We Have the Data, Now What Do We Do?

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As I was preparing for a panel session on digital transformation strategies for corporate real estate, I considered how technologies in the space management/IoT sub-vertical domain should evolve to meet owner/end-user needs. I have been keenly monitoring vendors in this domain over the last three years and believe this vertical has a unique opportunity to provide positive business outcomes for corporate real estate globally.

If a corporation were to adopt a holistic space management strategy, they will not only be able to positively impact the effectiveness of their physical space but also enhance the well-being of occupants that reside in those spaces.

Broadly speaking, there are three distinct phases in a real estate asset lifecycle: design, build and operate. This article will focus on the operate portion (post occupancy) of the lifecycle.

With the introduction of specialized hardware three to five years ago that accurately give desk level occupancy data (either via under desk or camera-based sensors), a whole new associated software segment of space analytics was born. As early hardware vendors matured, the majority of space analytics was provided via space mobile apps that aggregated data from the hardware sensors. With time, both hardware and app vendors progressed to provide the space analytics service. As shown in the diagram, certain paradigm shifts made by vendors could greatly enhance the value generated for a business adopting these technologies.

Let’s first start with space analytics software service. The challenge with most of today’s services is they are not prescriptive enough - they typically give the owner just data and the actions are largely left up to the discretion of managed outsourced vendors. Irrespective of who provides this service, the following aspirational goals for the service should include:

  • To keep, front and center, the framework of occupant experience and by proxy, occupant productivity, in any proposed recommendations. For example, could we reorganize an indoor space to meet the collaboration needs of the occupant based on what configurations promote the best collaboration outcomes?
  • To actuate building equipment in response to the “indoor environmental” conditions. As we get more granular with readings of parameters such as CO2, an opportunity arises to actuate changes to a building mechanical system (such as a purification system for example) with a goal to improve those parameters in the building.

Let’s now transition to the typical interaction between the space allocation and space analytics software. In most cases, these two solutions live a siloed existence on their own islands. This represents a critical miss since the opportunity to validate requests for additional space by a business unit are rarely validated against how business units are currently utilizing existing space.

These recommendations focus on changes to a building design or occupancy patterns post occupancy. Is there something more we can leverage from the space analytics data? I believe the answer is a resounding YES! Leveraging historical occupancy and real time indoor environmental parameter data from existing buildings can represent a treasure trove of data to better design and build future new buildings or retrofits.

Keep tabs on this particular vertical - the vendors that are able to drive more business outcomes as opposed to just providing data to end customers will be the true winners in this space.

Srini Khandavilli, Director, Smart Building Solution Architecture, Microsoft
Srini is part of the Application & Incubation team supporting the Microsoft Real Estate Services group. The group drives the digital transformation of the Microsoft Redmond campus and sets standards/supports implementations for the Microsoft global real estate portfolio. In his specific role, Srini owns driving strategy for the following functionality verticals: healthy buildings, secure device provisioning and onboarding, integration architecture for edge devices and determining the appropriate usage of Microsoft products such as Azure Plug n Play/IoT Central/Sphere in the end state implementation architecture.

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