Sometimes, a project finds you. Ron Stacey, for example, spent years as a consultant in the fields of management and technology, where he was exposed to a myriad of different industries and advanced technologies that served to broaden his view of the Internet of Things (IoT). After he was recruited by facility management juggernaut ABM, Stacey found himself in the position of leveraging that knowledge into the creation of some truly game-changing technology.
Stacey was brought on as the senior director of technology strategy and implementation for ABM’s aviation services wing. His initial goal was to oversee the creation of a system that could, with a very high level of detail, track in real time the use of their labor, using new, innovative modes of IoT.
“When I arrived, they knew what they wanted to do and what their drivers were,” he says. “This was all about market differentiation and competitive advantage, as well as operational efficiency, but it was pretty much just a concept. They brought me in to pull those concepts together, create an actionable design, bring it to production, and send it out into the field.”
ABM’s aviation wing provides airports with a variety of services, from janitorial services to catering to the transport of disabled passengers. With Stacey’s help, ABM sought to use IoT technology as a means of maximizing efficiency in these areas. That meant knowing the status of ABM agents at any given time—Are they engaged with a passenger? Are they en route to a job? Who is available for dispatch?
“Also,” Stacey adds, “there’s the question of whether employees are just hiding out in the break room.”
He continues, “They want to be able to provide a guaranteed level of service, and they need to be able to calculate whether they have too much labor or not enough to do so.”
Stacey set about building this technology by integrating Bluetooth low-energy tags—sometimes known as “beacons”—at pickup and destination points. The employees are already equipped with mobile devices outlining their dispatch assignments, so Stacey fitted each with Bluetooth signal detection pieces—often known as “beacon sniffers”—that coordinated with the beacons themselves. Based on the strength of the signal, the location, and distance to where they were supposed to be, operators were able to remotely gauge the efficacy and availability of employees, allowing for greater awareness, flexibility, and efficiency.
Stacey faced plenty of challenges along the way. For one, he was mostly on his own, with only one colleague helping him to maintain the entire technology base. Data management was also a pain, with the intricacies of operating systems and service patches complicating the work. “Software would work on 80 percent of the operating systems, but not on the other 20 percent, so how do we get around that?” he says. Finally, there’s the occasional resistance to the technology. “Some employees found a number of amazingly ingenious ways to get around the system so they couldn’t be tracked.”
In the end, Stacey ended up with an operational system in roughly nine months, and the technology is now being rolled into production at several major airports. Stacey, satisfied with his work, ushered his colleague into his previous role so he could work to implement similar measures at IoT-centered technology company SpaceSense.
Stacey was drawn to SpaceSense because he found that their IoT solutions solved some of the known issues with the systems of their competitors. Furthermore, their approaches encompassed not just the realm of workplace optimization, which was the focus of his work at ABM, but also the areas of asset tracking and conditioning marketing.
“SpaceSense provides hardware, a software platform, and data analytics services,” he says. “There, you’ll find everything from turnkey solutions, where it’s a fully designed and implemented system, to hybrid solutions, where customers are using their own software platforms and we’re doing data interfaces. With SpaceSense, I’ll have the opportunity to play in all of those areas. They really have the whole package.”
He wouldn’t be there, though, if it weren’t for his experience at ABM. “ABM was the first place in which I was not just a member of the team, but leading the team. But the real influence, I think, was that I gained very in-depth experience with the practical issues: What are the business drivers and customer needs? What drives market differentiation?”
These are the questions he’ll be asking as he engages with SpaceSense’s clientele, which encompass multiple industries. He mentions potential collaborators in the food service and machine maintenance sectors. “We have the opportunity to help them grow their market without adding workforce or costs.”
But it’s more than just the projects now. Stacey wants to help SpaceSense grow as a business, and he emphasizes the company’s potential.
“This isn’t just cool technology,” he says. “This is real opportunity.”