As employers all over the world work to figure out how they will reopen their offices in the COVID-19 era, one startup is poised to help them navigate the process.
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San Francisco-based VergeSense, which has developed artificial intellegence-powered workplace sensors, announced this morning a $9 million strategic investment led by Allegion Ventures–a $50 million corporate venture fund of Allegion plc. JLL Spark, MetaProp NYC, Y Combinator, Pathbreaker Ventures and West Ventures also participated in the financing. With the latest round, VergeSense has now raised $10.6 million, according to Crunchbase data.
When the company was founded in 2017, its founders never dreamed the sensors it had created could play such a crucial role in helping people return to work after being required to shelter in place for so long due to the coronavirus crisis.
VergeSense operates as a software-as-a-service business, but its core product offering also includes sensor hardware that it installs in the workplace. In a nutshell, its ceiling-mounted sensors collect data about where people are. They can do things like count how many people are in conference rooms or determine whether people are sitting at their desks. And importantly, in today’s era, it can also measure how far apart people are.
“We also have an analytics platform that serves up insights and recommendations for people in the real estate function at big companies to understand how office spaces are used,” said Dan Ryan, CEO and founder of VergeSense in a phone interview.
The company processes 6 million sensor reports a day for nearly 70 customers, including 40 Fortune 1000 companies that it serves across 20 million square feet, 250 office buildings, and in 15 countries. Over time, VergeSense has sold nearly 30,000 of its sensors to the likes of Roche, Quicken Loans, Cisco and Genentech.
Previously, in a post-COVID environment, customers primarily used VergeSense’s offering for data space and capacity management. The sensors have “new safety, security and compliance applications that customers have been beating down the door for.”
“In the past, people collaborating was a good thing,” Ryan told Crunchbase News. “But now we want the opposite. Touch is now the enemy in an office building.”
VergeSense is taking the same data it has been collecting to a completely new use case as companies think about how to return to the workplace.
The tool does things like provide alerts on over-occupancy events, prompting users to intervene in real time. Its data can also pinpoint most frequently used areas to help guide discussions around sanitation and cleaning. And people can automatically check in to conference rooms via its sensors rather than using a touch screen.
Other functions that VergeSense can perform include setting a maximum employee utilization rate by floor or building for a real-time understanding of when and where they are reaching unsafe occupancy levels; providing employee social distancing metrics and measuring interaction frequency.
“We’ve seen a surge in demand, both from customers accelerating deployment and new customers looking for COVID-related solutions as they think about returning to work,” Ryan said.
As such, VergeSense has incorporated new features such as a wellness dashboard, which provides a Social Distancing Score and daily occupancy reports.
The company says its SaaS business model means customers can get new product enhancements without hardware changes. Its open API platform allows for “seamless integration with popular workspace management solutions, including room and visitor booking software,” it said.
VergeSense plans to use the new capital to meet that increased customer demand during the coronavirus crisis and scale its analytics software platform.
Rob Martens, president of Allegion Ventures and chief innovation and design officer at Allegion, said the company is proving “just how nimble it can be and how valuable and adaptable its technology is.”
“VergeSense is a natural fit for the Allegion Ventures portfolio because of its potential to make workplace security and access smarter, stronger, faster and less intrusive in the future,” he told Crunchbase News. “They understand that you don’t just use technology for technology’s sake–you use it to make a difference and adapt it to solve problems.”
When Allegion looks at strategic investments, it not only considers what the companies are doing now to make an impact in their space, but also the potential they have for future impacts in additional markets and how Allegion Ventures can help fuel that growth, according to Martens.
Today, Canadian e-commerce giant Shopify was the latest company to announce it would allow employees to work from home indefinitely, joining Twitter, and others. While there will definitely be fewer people going back to work, VergeSense is banking on that fact there are still many companies who won’t follow this trend.
Illustration: Li-Anne Dias