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Using AI to measure workplace productivity

We speak to workplace and change expert Neil Usher about GoSpace – an artificial intelligence system for the workplace that claims to improve business performance.

14/04/2020 5 min read

When talking with end users, specifiers and property professionals, we increasingly find that the conversation turns to data. Indeed, a number of our Roundtable events have focused on how businesses can measure productivity. Is it even possible?

Until recently, the answer to the question was blurred at best. But the latest advancements in technology might well provide that very Holy Grail.

A perfect example of this is GoSpace. Unlike existing technology, GoSpace goes beyond just collecting data and providing analytics, by intelligently evolving team space allocations in seconds.

With over five years R&D, GoSpace is the first artificial intelligence system for the workplace that both improves business performance and reduces property costs. Not just once, but over the life of your property portfolio.

If you’re skeptical about such claims, you should know that the person who brought this innovation to our attention is property, workplace and change expert (not to mention leading author, contributor and Mixology judge), Neil Usher. In our opinion, if Neil puts his name to something, we really should be checking it out. So, taking our own advice, we asked the former Sky Workplace Director a series of questions about this new tech breakthrough and also about his latest musings.

Neil, in layman’s terms, what is this new innovation?

GoSpace AI is a dynamic workspace allocation system. It ensures the right people are always working together in the right amount of space. That is, how workspace is used for the greatest benefit of both the organisation and its people, rather than what it looks like.

It first creates an effective workplace, and by doing so then ensures an efficient and environmentally responsible one too. These goals, often seen as a compromise, we see as entirely complementary.

It’s technology for good – it makes our lives socially, environmentally and commercially sustainable, mutually beneficial and supportive.

It will be especially useful in the coming months as (hopefully) the pandemic is controlled and organisations begin to consider how they’re going to re-occupy their workplace. It’s unlikely that everyone will revert to the old normal.

What makes this unique/different from what is already on the market?

The industry presently sees the workplace as a static creation. Yet, as the organisation it accommodates changes, it needs to change with it to stay relevant and appropriate.

No-one else uses AI in this way to generate solutions. All other applications we’re aware of still require humans to decide what to do with the data accumulated. Very often that results in hunch or guesswork. We use science to identify the minor adjustments necessary, rather than saving it all up for a big blow-out move when it can’t be contained any longer.

No-one else can move as quickly as GoSpace to capture the data needed to evolve the workplace, as there’s no major install, no capital cost and we don’t even need an up to date space plan. It’s not only unique and incredibly powerful, it’s also simple and easy to access and use.

What will this do/change for the client? Why is this so important/valuable to your client/the market in general?

The client will be in control of their workplace and the changing patterns of demand for space like never before. Recent events globally have made that all the more pressing. No-one knows how the demand for space will pan out from here, so it’s vital to have a tool to be able to plan for any eventuality, however quickly it changes.

They’ll not just have data and a strategy report in one lump at the beginning of a linear process, they’ll have an understanding of their workplace over its lifecycle. It makes GoSpace ideal for a project, for post-occupancy – and for the management of the facility.

Again, in layman’s terms, please tell us a little about the technology behind this.

The data is fed into an AI engine that uses advanced algorithms to solve highly complex problems in a non-linear way. It’s not just ‘smart’, it’s genuinely intelligent. Creating a workspace allocation scenario takes less than a minute. That means planning can be achieved at a pace never thought possible, and decisions can be taken in real time.

Who/which sectors do you think this will most benefit?

The application is being used by a number of large international organisations. We have also engaged with designers, strategists and developers, supporting workplace projects and post-occupancy evaluation – or, as we would rather call it, perpetual occupancy evaluation. The market is essentially all medium to large workplaces across the world.

Is it easy to use?

We’ve made the interface as straightforward as possible, with the intelligent stuff going on in the Cloud. Taking in data on space usage, collaboration needs and forecasting, creating a scenario involves hitting the Evolve button – and you have an optimised workplace.

What has your role been in the development? How did it all come about?

I’ve known the founder and CEO, Bruce Davison, for about five years and watched GoSpace take shape from the seed of an idea to US-patented genius. It was about 18 months ago when I realised this was a total game changer. You know I wouldn’t get involved in something unless I thought it would shake things up!

Congratulations on the fantastic success of the Elemental Workplace? How did you find the process? Did you enjoy touring/launching the book?

Thanks! It’s been tremendous fun. I’ve been to a lot of places with it and met a huge number of people. I’ve even signed a few of the Indian version. I still haven’t seen anyone reading it on the tube yet – but there’s still time. My favourite moment was going to see a CFO about an assignment and taking a book along when he said, ‘I already have it – and have some questions’. Sure enough, there in his notebook was a list of questions. I’d still like it to break out of the sector a little more, but I’m hopeful that will happen.

We hear book 2 is coming. What can you tell us about it?

You may see something around September – still a way to go yet. It’s tough turning writing into a hobby and doing it every spare minute you get, when you don’t get many spare minutes. Even less now, with the schools closed too. You’ll be the first to know, anyway…well, almost the first.

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