JLL Spark, the Proptech investment arm of JLL, announced that it will invest $1.5 million in San Francisco-based VergeSense, a developer of a smart building sensor-as-a-service office utilization platform.
VergeSense’s platform enables building owners and their enterprise tenants to collect and measure real-time occupancy and use data of rooms and desk spaces in areas such as conference rooms, private offices and co-working areas to drive workplace efficiency.
“VergeSense is a unique complement to the IoT solutions and smart sensors JLL uses and will add a new layer to the intelligence it provides to commercial real estate clients,” said Yishai Lerner, co-CEO at JLL Spark. “VergeSense’s approach to running [artificial intelligence] modules and data processing locally within the building with cost-effective hardware and ease of deployments is unmatched by traditional approaches. The actionable insights that are delivered will maximize the value of real estate for many large corporations and we’re excited to make this strategic investment.”
Currently deployed in more than 1 million square feet of commercial properties, VergeSense’s smart sensor platform will use the additional investment to accelerate platform development, build its team and scale distribution through API partners and its relationship with JLL.
“We are deeply focused on getting the most accurate picture of how a building is used,” said Dan Ryan, co-founder and CEO of VergeSense, in an interview with In-Building Tech.
VergeSense’s stand-alone system uses a ceiling-mounted sensor and battery power and connects to the cloud using a cellular or Wi-Fi connection. It works independently of existing building management systems – making it very easy for occupiers to install and deploy.
“The combination of simple, easy-to-install, powerful data analytics and future-proofing are things that commercial office customers want,” said Ryan.
While most systems just count the number of the occupants, the VergeSense system uses advanced machine learning to detect between occupants and objects, which can be important when it comes to reporting room status.
For example, most sensors would report a room as unoccupied if occupants left the room for lunch or moved to another location temporarily. However, VergeSense’s smart sensor is capable of determining, based on the items left in space such as laptops and bags, if it is really unoccupied.
Spark’s latest funding pick comes at a time when large corporations are starting to realize the benefits of using occupancy data and asset tracking to drive workplace efficiency and reduce costs.
The value of applications like VergeSense to corporate occupiers is two-fold.
The reporting of real-time data on the availability of conference rooms and desks leads to better worker productivity and improves occupant experiences for employees.
Studies have also shown that the majority of offices today are underutilized by at least 30%, primarily because ubiquitous digital connectivity and cloud-based systems that have enabled a rise in remote working, and more employees are spending time working outside the office.
Insights from platforms like VergeSense help corporate owners and tenants determine what kinds of space they need to add or can eliminate as they re-evaluate leasing requirements.
“Imagine the savings to a customer’s bottom line if they were able to reduce office space rent from two floors to a single floor in downtown San Francisco,” said Ryan.