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Collecting Data On Office Communities Can Boost Profits, But Security Is Essential


In every sector, data leads to profit. As our lives become increasingly reliant on technology, companies are realizing the power that lies in collecting and analyzing information about how we live and work. Netflix saves $1B a year from customer retention by carrying out personalized campaigns based on consumer behavior.

As commercial real estate teams begin to focus on the customer experience rather than just a physical space, the value of data collection has caught the sector's attention. However, data management must be taken seriously. Collecting, storing and using personal identifiable information, or PII, has to be done with consent and with the end user in mind. There have been many headline-grabbing stories of data leaks, cyber scams and personal information being used inappropriately.

This is why data privacy and information security compliance are a top priority for HqO, a software company that provides an end-to-end tenant experience platform for commercial real estate clients.

“In today’s digital-first world, data is more accessible than ever,” HqO co-founder and Senior Vice President of Technology Kevin McCarthy said. “Each integrated technology serves as a new source of data for your portfolio — data which can be used to reveal how tenants really feel about the office and how they’re engaging with your building’s amenities and programming. As you might imagine, these insights can really optimize current and future investments, create efficiencies, and attract and retain key tenants. However, the need to collect meaningful data shouldn’t be overshadowed by the need to protect said data.”

HqO recently held a webinar that explored the ways property owners and teams are collecting data and how to approach security in the office. During the webinar, McCarthy interviewed HID Global End User Business Development Manager-PACS Rick Winter and Datawatch Systems Director of Business Development Kenny Reed, who represent two companies that provide access control solutions within HqO’s partner Marketplace.

Collecting Data Through Access Control

The webinar first focused on a simple question: Why collect data on tenants and their employees as they enter a building? 

“Data is being used by commercial real estate owners to efficiently operate buildings,” Reed said. “They can use it to control the HVAC. They wouldn’t want energy being used to power a building when there aren’t many people there.”

Winter said that customers have been collecting data to understand how people are engaging with office buildings throughout the coronavirus pandemic. As employees move toward a hybrid approach to work, it has become a business imperative to understand who is in the office and what building features and spaces they are engaging with.

Information from an access control system can give a business a deeper understanding of which building amenities and resources tenants and employees are using, such as conference rooms or on-site fitness centers. This data feeds back into how a business makes decisions about current and future office investments.


The panelists moved on to discuss how collecting information and allowing access using mobile devices is more secure than access cards. Whether a landlord selects a system that uses a physical access card or a mobile entry system, credentials that identify a person need to be stored in a secure manner and location.

“A mobile device is very personal to our lives today,” Winter said. “It’s been proven that a lost access card isn’t reported lost for at least 72 hours, but everyone will know immediately when you’ve lost your phone. Also, if someone leaves a company for whatever reason, the likelihood of getting a physical card back is very slim. It requires someone to go into the access control system and revoke privileges. With a mobile system, you can remove privileges from the mobile device without physically meeting that person.”

The Wrong Kind Of Data

Another key discussion during the webinar was the need to collect the right kind of data. Using sensors, mobile devices and software platforms, a business or landlord can collect endless data about members of its building community. But is it all valuable?

“Sometimes customers say, I’d really like to collect birth dates and other data from users,” McCarthy said. “We always ask, for what purpose? Almost always, the answer is, ‘I think it would be useful data to filter by.’ And our answer is, the juice isn’t worth the squeeze on this one. You’re not driving business value.”

Poor data quality is costly for a business. A Gartner study found that in 2017, poor data quality was costing businesses $15M a year. Why add unnecessary, potentially risky data to the growing mountain of information that needs to be analyzed?

“The main question with regards to PII is, what do you need?” Winter said. “There are a lot of needs and wants, but it all comes down to how it will provide any benefit. It’s great to have a bunch of information, but if you don’t use it, why have it? PII is so important and sensitive. The bottom line is whatever information you’re going to collect, you have to make sure you’re securing it properly.”

Ensuring data security doesn’t end when that data has been used. Once used, it needs to be archived securely and, if not needed, disposed of securely.

The webinar touched on a host of questions that the CRE sector should consider as property owners continue to adopt technology in the workplace. The sector is alert to the challenges; a Deloitte survey found that 56% of CRE respondents believed that the pandemic has exposed shortcomings in their digital capabilities. The sooner security risks are addressed, the better.

This article was produced in collaboration between HqO and Studio B. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.

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