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Manifest Density - Episode 62 - James Matthews - What to do when air is ’bad’

Manifest Density - Episode 62 - James Matthews - What to do when air is ’bad’

May 19, 2022


What to do when air is 'bad'

James Matthews of Carbon Intelligence on getting indoor air quality right.

James is an Associate Director responsible for implementing Carbon Intelligence’s Health and Wellbeing service. A qualified WELL Accredited Professional (AP) and Fitwel Ambassador, able to advise how best to implement health and wellbeing strategies to workplaces.

James provides consultancy services for landlords, developers and occupiers around sustainability and wellness in the built environment; from integrating sustainability and wellbeing into property management activities to full certification services. He has advised a large organisation to deliver the WELL Building Standard to a 110,000 sq. ft. office refurbishment in Canary Wharf. James has also worked with a developer to deliver the WELL Building Standard for a 95,000 sq. ft. grade A office development in Scotland. Matthews works with Carbon Intelligence’s clients to identify opportunities to improve the sustainability performance of managed properties.


Episode transcript:

The transcription of this episode is auto generated by a third-party source. While Microshare takes every precaution to insure that the content is accurate, errors can occur. Microshare, Inc.  is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information.

Micheal Moran [00:00:00] This is manifest density. Hello, everyone, and welcome to this edition of Manifest Density. Your host, Michael Moran, here to explore the intersection of COVID 19 global business and society. Manifest density is brought to you by the Global Smart Building and ESG data company Microshare unleashed the data today. I'm speaking with James MATTHEWS, who is an associate director at Carbon Intelligence, one of our partners in the UK. And James is an expert in indoor air quality and he has done a lot of work from his days at the University of Exeter. James, give us a little background on yourself. Yeah. 


James Matthews [00:00:40] So I'm James MATTHEWS. I working for Carbon Intelligence. I've been prior to that with a young for 6 to 7 years looking at building standards and looking at how that can be implemented into buildings built kind of from a land developer point city into the base build and also from fit out project level work. So it's really interesting space and I'm very kind of keen to talk about it. 


Micheal Moran [00:01:07] Well, we are living at a time with change expectations about all sorts of things. One of those things is the wellness and safety of the indoor spaces that they're going to spend a good deal of their time in a workplace is a great example. Obviously, commercial real estate in the office sector especially are eager to see people flowing back in. So are the people who run cities who worry about tax revenue and street level commerce. So we now know that air quality is part of the demand or expectation that some people have if they're going to go back into these offices. What are you seeing in the marketplace in that regard? 


James Matthews [00:01:48] So I think my observations would be prior to COVID and the kind of lockdowns that everyone saw around the world, the well being narrative was all around productivity. And with regards to sort of indoor air quality, it was looking at reducing vaccines and the impacts that that can have on people's health. Volatile organic compounds, I should say, but also carbon dioxide levels. So there's been some really interesting research that suggests that proves that if you have CO2 levels that go over 1200 parts per million can have a real impact on your cognitive ability. So anecdotally, that's the equivalent of maybe going out for lunch and having a couple of points. So I've been taught and it's that kind of slowing down of your mental ability and it's it's all around that productivity piece. If you imagine you're in the boardroom and you've got the most important people in your company thrashing out a big deal and they've been in there for hours. The indoor air quality that's going to be poor. Can you be set? Decision making at the end of the meeting are the best decisions they're able to do. That was where wellness was prior to the shift I've seen kind of in the market is is about reassuring people that the space they now choose to operate in is healthy. It is a place that isn't going to do us any harm. 


Micheal Moran [00:04:16] Sure. And it could be a doctor's office where they're making decisions that are relevant to your life and death. So obviously, these are not small issues. So I have to ask, as you're in the world and you're seeing the demand for this certainly is there among people who now feel compelled to go back into the office, they kind of want to know. But what what about the purchaser of this kind of a capability, air quality monitoring? Who is that? 


James Matthews [00:04:43] So, yeah, I think you can look at this from a landlord developer point of view. If you're developing your next asset wellbeing, it's very much about sort of 10 to 15 years ago where sustainability was. Sustainability used to be a nice to have. Now it's a must have without. Your asset is already going to be behind the curve against its competition. The indoor air quality and wellbeing is very much on the up and is being used as a as a USP. So I have experience with a couple of projects in Glasgow, in Scotland, and there was a project there that we were working on and they specifically targeted the well building standards because a building opposite going up in a similar sort of time that was also targeting the well building standards. So it's very much about kind of creating a premium product in the market. 


Micheal Moran [00:05:34] And of course, well, building is going to ultimately have greater value when it's sold and it's probably going to attract a higher rent. 


James Matthews [00:05:44] Absolutely. Yeah. There's been there's been some interesting figures coming from from the US that would suggest assets with wellbeing certificates can come on a high premium bit for rent. 


Micheal Moran [00:05:56] Hold that thought. We're going to take a quick break to hear from our sponsor. 


Sponsor [00:06:01] Manifest density is brought to you by Microshare, a world leader in the technologies they're helping the world return to work safely. Our ever smart suite of smart facility solutions, including indoor air quality monitoring, predictive cleaning and room occupancy solutions, bring safety, wellness, sustainability and operational cost savings to indoor spaces. Learn more at microshare. I. O. 


Micheal Moran [00:06:30] Okay. I'm back with James MATTHEWS. Carbon Intelligence. James, as you confer with clients and advise them on things to do. What is the intersection of these various building certifications? Brim and Well and lead and things like air quality? Do they get credit for doing this. 


James Matthews [00:06:49] From lead in the in the UK isn't so much of a big thing. The main driver over here is is Brim, which is fairly similar. There is a cross crossover between well and Brim I think for about 33% if memory serves. So if you do some credits within Breeam, you'll achieve them and well and vice versa. So that certainly leads to some efficiencies. It is definitely becoming more and more demand for in the market and we are talking to clients more regularly about implementing such certificates. 


Micheal Moran [00:07:25] And so if you let's say you implement indoor air quality monitoring, is it in and of itself useful to know or are there a series of actionable data points you're going to get that take you down a journey to improve air quality? 


James Matthews [00:07:42] There are certain metrics because one of them say volatile organic compounds, and that's generally found from paint or off gassing, from new furniture or plastics, things like glues. That's definitely something you can see generally as a spike in new projects where things new new kit and new furniture is brought into a space. You would potentially clear the office of people for potentially up to two weeks, leave it with the air conditioning units and the fan crews running to extract as much of that gas out. And then you would then bring people back into the office. CO2 wise, you can increase the fan speeds, obviously circulate more and more out of the building and that too will improve the interactions. 


Micheal Moran [00:08:31] So I would imagine as you take someone through the process of improving the wellness of these indoor spaces, air quality is just one thing. There's a number of different metrics that you might want to correlate, right? See, you know how densely occupied spaces what what the cleaning regimen is. You know, there's all sorts of interesting questions about decibels and lumens. How much of that do you get into and. 


James Matthews [00:09:00] Carbon intelligence. We are predominantly focused on indoor air quality, although clients do want to look at implementing the standard, we will walk them through everything that is required of them and the wellbeing standards are quite flexible. So you can pick and choose certain metrics to to it to benefit your, your particular fit out of your building. And that's the benefit of it. It is flexible so you can choose what's kind of interesting to you and then we will walk them through all the different the ten different requirements as a part of the standard. 


Micheal Moran [00:09:39] James, hold your thought. I'm going to take a quick break for our sponsor. 


Sponsor [00:09:45] Michael sure is proud to support Manifest Density, the podcast that examines the intersection of COVID 19 business and society. Each week we bring you conversation with global leaders and visionary enterprise nurse who are helping the world adapt and apply the tragic lessons of the pandemic so the planet can build back better. Subscribe to Manifest Density on our website microshare. I o or download it on Apple, iTunes, Google Play, iHeartRadio, Stitcher, and a host of other podcasting venues. 


Micheal Moran [00:10:23] I'm back with James MATTHEWS of Carbon Intelligence. James is an expert in implementing indoor air quality. JAMES Indoor air quality is one thing from the standpoint of the person who runs the building or owns the building, but what about the people who occupy it? You must get questions about how much of this data should be shared with the staff of a corporate space, for instance, and what kind of issues that might raise. 


James Matthews [00:10:53] It's a tricky one, I think. If you are the landlord and you have a problem, you might be inclined not to share that information. If you're a tenant, then you're obviously going to be interested in your indoor air quality. I think the benefit of the market of where we are is that the democracy of data or the ability to access data is relatively cheap and easy these days. People can get hold of that information relatively quickly. If you are a tenant, for example, there are certain monitors that have really good standards that are only a couple of hundred pounds that you could implement. And having that information is key. It's the old adage of you can't you can't change what you don't monitor. And it's getting getting your hands on that data, which is invaluable if you want to make improvements and change into your space. 


Micheal Moran [00:11:47] There's still that ethical quandary. Joe, if you're the director of h.r. Or facilities management and you find you've got this data, it's not consistently good. Maybe it's good some days, not others are good in some spaces and not others. Do you democratize that data and show it to all the staff? 


James Matthews [00:12:06] Yeah, it's a tricky one. I think you'd probably work with your facilities team and your landlord if you're a tenant or if you are the facilities manager working on behalf of the landlord, then you'd certainly use that data to drive improvements and look at ways to improve the space. I think obviously with people choosing to work from home and choosing to work in the office these days, you'll see a shift in occupation patterns as well. So typically you might see higher levels of been in poor indoor air quality on say, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. If people are choosing to occupy the office more in that time, you could then set about strategies to improve the indoor air quality, potentially running the phone calls at a higher rate on those particular days, and then offset by saving a bit of energy and reducing the phone calls potentially on Wednesdays, sorry, on Mondays and Fridays when you have lower occupation. 


Micheal Moran [00:13:07] You bring up a really good point. I think when people think of indoor air quality monitors, they think of something that looks like a smoke detector that just sits there and detects the air. But it's really affected by a lot of things. One of the most important is that the quickest way to get poor air in a room is to put a lot of people in and close the door. Right. Because we do nothing but emit carbon when we breathe. And if you're not, ventilating that occupancy data is key to correlate with the air quality, right? 


James Matthews [00:13:38] Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. If you if you can marry the two, you've got a really powerful solution there. 


Micheal Moran [00:13:45] Well, we've already taken two breaks for the sponsor, so I won't tell our married solution here. But I think that's the idea. And it's not just occupancy, but there's other things that that affect to temperature, humidity. How often do you run? To concern. I mean, you're working primarily in the UK, so it may be that it may not be as big an issue as it would be in places like Beijing or Mumbai. How often do you run into concern about particulate matter, the outdoor pollution penetrating the indoor space? 


James Matthews [00:14:15] There's a lot of concern, I think in the UK this fall, especially in London where you have quite a high traffic density. There's been recent kind of unfortunate examples of where there was a child that died and it was linked back to poor air quality because the school was on a on a highway, on a big busy street. And it was it was proven that the not the sort of poor air quality that cars and trucks and everything that was emitting was was a was the root cause of, unfortunately, this child's death, which is awful. It is a concern. And I think probably pre-pandemic when people were traveling more, there was more concern. I think that I would imagine this is my educated guess is that there's probably slightly less of an issue at the moment with people traveling less. But it's certainly it is an issue. And you do see, especially in London in the summer, you do see a sort of foggy haze sometimes, but there's no winds or anything here. 


Micheal Moran [00:15:24] In the United States. This is a I almost said burning issue. That would be a little bit of color. This is a huge issue in the American West where forest fires emit a lot of particulates into the air every year. Now, California, Colorado, where I live, there have been recent fires that made it unsafe to be in your house miles and miles from the actual event. I would imagine this is something we're going to see more of. And then, of course, you have cities like Beijing and Mumbai and industrial cities that burn coal. 


James Matthews [00:15:55] It is going to be a fact of life for for the foreseeable future. In Europe we are phasing out diesel in the UK, in Europe we are phasing out diesel engines. I'm not sure if that's happening in the US as well. And there is is a huge increase in EV charging and drivers as well. So the future is getting better and it will slowly phase down. But I think that's a fair way to go here. 


Micheal Moran [00:16:19] And we can certainly thank Mr. Putin for keeping the oil pumping, but prices are very attractive for oil producers now, so the incentives don't always work in the direction that we might want for clean air. If you were to want to follow James MATTHEWS in your work and or carbon intelligence into work, what would be the best way to do that? 


James Matthews [00:16:41] I would visit carbon. See, that's a web page and you can get more information on everything that we do that and find me on LinkedIn. 


Micheal Moran [00:16:50] James MATTHEWS James, I want to thank you again. 


James Matthews [00:16:53] Thank you. A real pleasure to speak to you. 


Micheal Moran [00:16:55] And that's it for this edition of Manifest Density. Thank you, James MATTHEWS, for being our guest today. I'd like to remind everybody you can learn more about how Microshare is helping get the world safely back to work with our ever smart suite of products, including every smart air and ever smart, clean, smart space and energy management, ESG solutions as well. You can find more about these great solutions at WW share. I hope you can also subscribe to this podcast there or on iTunes, iHeartRadio, Google Play, Spotify and many other platforms. Well, that'll do it for this week on behalf of Microshare and all of its global employees, this is Michael Moran saying So long. Be well. And breathe clean air. 

Manifest Density - Episode 61 - Tracy Brower - ’Not your father’s workplace’

Manifest Density - Episode 61 - Tracy Brower - ’Not your father’s workplace’

May 5, 2022


'Not your father's workplace'

Steelcase workplace expert and author Tracy Brower on the importance for the workers to know about their work environment.

Dr. Tracy Brower, PhD, MM, MCRW is a sociologist studying work life fulfillment and happiness. She is the author of two books. The Secrets to Happiness at Work provides insights for joyful work and life and how to choose and create purpose fulfillment. Bring Work to Life by Bringing Life to Work provides new perspectives and alternative ways to consider and achieve work-life “balance” (hint: it’s not about balance, it’s more than that). Tracy is also a contributor for and Fast Company, and a Vice President of Workplace Insights with Steelcase.

Tracy has over 25 years of experience working with global clients to achieve business results. She is the recipient of various speaking awards as well as the Innovative Practices award from the University of Houston Stanford Alexander Center for Excellence in Real Estate and the Constellation Award for top global executives achieving business results.

Previously, Tracy was the Global Vice President of Workplace Vitality for M&M Mars (Mars Drinks) as well as the Director of Human Dynamics + Work for Herman Miller and the Director of Performance Environments and Living Office Placemaking for Herman Miller. Over her career, Tracy has had the opportunity to engage with many of the Fortune 500. She has also taught college and university courses and was previously a member of the selection committee for the Rosabeth Moss Kanter Award for Excellence in Work-Family Research.

CONNECT & FOLLOW: You can find Tracy on LinkedInTwitterInstagramGoodreads or here on In addition, her amateur photography is available on Unsplash. Or to reach out to Tracy, this contact form is available.

Sponsored by Microshare.

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They can also access the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, PlayerFM, Listen Notes, Spotify, Stitcher, iHeartRadio, Tune In, Podcast Addict, Himalaya, Deezer, and on Podbean.


Podcast transcription

The transcription of this episode is auto generated by a third-party source. While Microshare takes every precaution to insure that the content is accurate, errors can occur. Microshare, Inc.  is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information.

Michael Moran [00:00:00] This is manifest density. Hello, everyone, and welcome to this latest edition of Manifest Density. Your host, Michael Moran, here to explore the intersection of COVID 19 global business and society. Manifest density is brought to you by the Global Smart Building and ESG data company Microshare unleashed the data. Well, today I speak with Dr. Tracy Brower, Ph.D.. MB M.S.. RW I got to say, I don't know what that is, is a sociologist, and she is studying work life fulfillment and happiness. She's the author of two books, The Secrets to Happiness at Work, which provides new perspectives and alternative ways to consider and achieve work life balance. Hint, she says in her bio, It's not about balance. It's more than that. Tracy is also a contributor to and Fast Company and a vice president of Workplace Insights at Steelcase. Well, Tracy, welcome to the podcast.

Tracy Brower [00:01:01] Thank you. I appreciate it. Looking forward to our conversation.

Michael Moran [00:01:05] Well, I wanted to start by asking, you know, what is it that you saw in this discipline, workplace fulfillment, workplace, you know, safety that they drew you and how did you get into this career?

Tracy Brower [00:01:22] Yeah, that's a great question, right. It's fun to look back at how we got into it and the interesting path. So I have always been interested in organizational culture and kind of people and the sociology of work. How we affect our work, how it affects us back in place ends up being the stage where so much of that plays out. You know, our work experience, our work environment, the workplace brings people together. So that's really been the thing that's interested me is that it's it's a place where we can really, really understand the dynamics of people, understand the dynamics of leadership, understand dynamics of, you know, some of our fundamental human needs like trust and psychological safety. So I think it's just a really, really interesting lens for all of those aspects that are interesting to me.

Michael Moran [00:02:10] So one of the things that happened as a result of the pandemic to our company is that we went from a company that largely interacted with I.T. departments and facilities management teams to installed smart building technology. They were the buyers, so to speak, to now a world where the h.r. Director, the wellness chief wellness and safety officers, as well as other c-suite figures are incredibly interested in the physical safety of the spaces that the workers and employees and customers and tenants are in. Did that did your approach to to your discipline also evolve with them?

Tracy Brower [00:03:00] Yeah. So interesting to hear you say that. Yeah, we are absolutely seeing this really interesting connection. And there's actually an organization called Connect, which has been talking about the super nucleus. And this is the intersection of real estate and facilities with i.t. And with h.r. And I think the pandemic has just magnified that that overlap in the middle of the three circles of the Venn diagram of this super nucleus speak to the greater concern for so many departments, kind of figuring out the best way to create a work experience. And so we are definitely seeing more h.r. People at the table h.r. Taking a greater role in the decision making and having a greater influence. Definitely that expanded concern about safety, security, the experience that people are having and how we meet all kinds of needs from that experience, not just engaging and inspiring, which are utterly critical, but how do we help people that feel safe and secure so that they can be comfortable in the space, so they can be part of the culture, so they can be in person to build relationships and perform brilliantly. It's just really interesting the way many of our roles have shifted based on some of those shifting expectations of employees.

Michael Moran [00:04:21] Yeah, we've been saying, you know, basically that the pandemic kind of shined a light on the previously taken for granted. Environment in which we sit in the, you know, the what we thought of as just space and air. In fact, it contains, you know, multitudes of things that can be either harmful or or beneficial. You know, things like CO2 and things like, you know, volatile organic, organic compounds, which are really just that the odd gases and smells that come off of things like new carpets and furniture or cleaning materials, all of these things suddenly are in the minds of employees. And what's really interesting is that the tight, tight labor market, which is not just about COVID, I think people mistake that. It's also about demographics. You know, we're the baby boom is no longer booming. And we've got smaller workforces, we've got older workforces and many people retiring so that the labor market has tightened and now employees suddenly have much more leverage and much more ability to demand certain things at a workplace. Is that true?

Tracy Brower [00:05:34] Yes. Oh, my gosh. It's so true. I've been listening to so many economists lately and demographers and you're so right. They are saying this talent revolution isn't going anywhere. Anytime soon we're going to be struggling. The statistics the statistics I'm hearing is we're going to be struggling with this talent revolution for probably a good five years or so. And it's about supply and demand, right? Like when there aren't enough workers, workers can demand so much more. And I really think it's such an interesting moment. Right. Like all the things we took for granted are now absolutely explicit and they are thresholds to entry. So, I mean, honestly, I never thought about I know I was a germaphobe before. It was cool to be a germophobe, but I also never thought very much about the cleanliness of my work environment. Of course it was clean, you know. And now I think we've got employees who are looking for a level of security through cleanliness and air quality, like whoever the average employee wasn't thinking about air quality three years ago. Right. And now it's such a fundamental concern, not just in terms of the reality of our cleanliness and security, but our perception of it. So like we're hearing customers saying, you know, instead of the cleaning happening on third shift anymore in the office, it's happening more during the day because we want to you know, we want to see that cleaning happening or we want to walk into a building and feel like it smells clean in a in an appropriate safe kind of, you know, not a heavy scented way, but more in a cleaner kind of scent. And I think that, like, if we look at our Steelcase data about employee expectations, people want a greater level of belonging. They want productivity, they want comfort, they want control, and they want safety. And that is things like psychological safety, but it's also just basic safety that has to do with what we talked about and even, you know, like circulation patterns and density of the environment and the extent to which we have more private spaces where we can kind of be together in a safe way if we feel less safe in an open environment. So all of those expectations are shifting the way we think about the work experience pretty fundamentally.

Michael Moran [00:07:51] Tracy I have a colleague here who I will not name, but he listens to the podcast who said I wouldn't buy air quality, who cares? Who cares? And I said, I know you wouldn't buy it, neither would a brontosaurus, but you're a boomer and you don't understand the modern market. I know that in my attempts to hire younger people, they care very much. First of all, where we are, where they have to live, if it's in some place they don't want to live, they're not interested in the job no matter how much I pay them. This is just I think it's a millennial and Gen Y kind of prerogative. It's they're going to create a life as opposed to a career where if someone had told me, you know, honestly, Mike, one of my first jobs in journalism was Newark, New Jersey. I can make fun of Newark because I was also born there. But it's not exactly a garden spot, particularly in the eighties. It wasn't. And I just went there because that's where the job was. And I figured maybe they'll send me to another difficult place next and eventually I'll work my way up like some baseball player going through the minor leagues to the major leagues. But I don't think that that psychology exists anymore. People seem to be very in touch with essentially happiness, the pursuit of happiness. Do you do you see that as well?

Tracy Brower [00:09:10] Yes, 100%. There's actually been some really interesting studies on this, where through the pandemic, Americans priorities have shifted very significantly and they've shifted toward an emphasis on family and friends and community. They've shifted toward an emphasis on quality of life. They've shifted toward this. Is really interesting. A greater number of people want more adventure and there are even a greater number of people who want to go skydiving. Right. Like they're really thinking about their experiences outside of work. And this is really interesting. There's so much data about happiness and work and work life. And of course, work is part of a full life. It's not some separate thing. But the thing that a lot of people don't realize is when you're happier outside of your work, you also tend to perceive more happiness inside of your work. We're aware of the opposite about when you're happy you're at work, you tend to perceive greater happiness everywhere. But when you're happier outside of work, that perception of happiness inside of work is is higher as well. So this idea that you're mentioning about, you know, people are creating a life and the thing that we're seeing in the talent revolution is this idea of zoom towns, right? Like people are significantly migrating out of major metropolitan markets and they're going to mid-market because they can, you know, buy a buy more house or more yard or more school district for their money. And they know they can work remote to a greater extent. And so I think part of this idea of like what people need from the work experience has to do with sending a message that we're attending to employee needs. So, yeah, we care about you and therefore we're thinking about your quality, we care about you. Therefore we're thinking about the cleanliness of the environment, we're thinking about the density of the environment. We're attending to those details. And that's really smart in terms of viral control. It's really smart in terms of safety, period, but it's also really smart because it just creates a culture of like caring for employees and respect. It creates and sends a message that employers care about employees. And that's a big part of employee decision making today. You know, where where can I get the best quality of life and where will I be most respected and where will I have the best experience? Those are important business questions today from an attraction retention standpoint.

Michael Moran [00:11:33] I'm glad to see that. I'm sorry to have missed it.

Tracy Brower [00:11:37] Exactly right there with you.

Michael Moran [00:11:40] Hold that thought. We're going to take a quick break to hear from our sponsor.

Sponsor [00:11:45] Manifest density is brought to you by Microshare, a world leader in the technologies that they're helping the world return to work safely. Our ever smart suite of smart facility solutions, including indoor air quality monitoring, predictive cleaning and room occupancy solutions, bring safety, wellness, sustainability and operational cost savings to indoor spaces. Learn more at microshare i o.

Michael Moran [00:12:14] Okay. I am back with Dr. Traci Bauer, who is studying work life fulfillment and happiness. That sounds like a fun thing to study. Are you fulfilled and happy studying work like fulfillment and happiness?

Tracy Brower [00:12:30] Oh, my gosh. That's a great question. Nobody's ever asked me that. I love it. Yeah, absolutely. Oh, my gosh. They say whatever you choose to study, choose well, because you will be talking a lot about it. And this is a perfect time. I have a journalist ask me when my book came out, ask me, you know, Tracy, are you a little tone deaf? Is now really the time to be talking about happiness with all the difficulty? And this is actually the perfect time. You know, interestingly, when things are upside down and inside out and we're facing a lot of difficulty, that is exactly the moment where you can kind of reset, reimagine, assess where you are, reprioritize and kind of create those conditions for happiness. So it's actually a great time. And yeah, it's it's a very fulfilling path to study fulfillment.

Michael Moran [00:13:22] So, you know, one of the things that we have done at MICROSHARE is to try to address some of the needs, new demands that have been raised by employers and employees, mostly, actually, but also landlords, people who, you know, interact with customers. All of them are very, you know, conscious of the need to show that they've learned something from the pandemic. You'll see this is obviously evident in the things like the hand sanitizers that are everywhere and little notes about how, for instance, United Airlines I was on the plane the other day and I picked up their their magazine, which I'm surprised still exists since they publish a magazine every month. And it said this magazine cleaned with special microbial something, you know. And so everybody's very conscious of these things. So we've tried to address this with technology. I mean, data driven cleaning, to your point earlier, is something that we really pioneered and, you know, essentially clean. Well, what you need to clean don't go around like patent taking territory in Germany and clean everything in the building if no one's been in that part of the building. Right. So, you know, concentrate on what needs to be, you know, routine of where it used to be that people would show up after work hours and you might say hello in the hallway as you were leaving, but now you want to see those cleaners in the conference room after the conference that you just had is over. All of that new stuff, air quality concern about, you know, utilization of the building. I mean, all of these things we're trying to address with technology. But technology comes with a challenge, right? There's a change management thing. Anytime you hang something on the wall, the first thought everybody has is that's a camera you're watching. It's Big Brother. How do you balance the benefits of technology? Like the like the the solutions that we deploy against the fear or anxiety that such things might create?

Tracy Brower [00:15:31] Yeah. That's that's a big one, right? Because it's the perception that you create as much as the reality of what you're doing. And I actually I actually wrote an article about this before the pandemic, and I think it's actually still relevant. It's the article is called like Give to Get or something like that. And the thing that I think is so important is to be really clear with people right away. Like, like we have customers who will install sensors to, you know, measure density will oh my gosh, if people just discover a sensor and they haven't been told about it, they're going to have kind of the worst conclusion, like what are they.

Michael Moran [00:16:11] Set up for?

Tracy Brower [00:16:11] Right, so.

Michael Moran [00:16:12] And so I think off the wall.

Tracy Brower [00:16:15] Yeah, exactly. Or we've had stories about, you know, people who are trying to flush them down a toilet or take them apart or I mean, it's just crazy, right? Because because we are often mistrustful and people don't trust what they don't understand. So I think part of the change management pieces like communicating right away, obviously being really transparent, I think to being really clear about the why of what you're doing, being really clear about what information is collected and what's not, being really clear about how the information will be used. But to me, the big thing with kind of neon lights around it is the idea of what the employee gets. We as humans have a real propensity toward reciprocity, so when I receive something, I want to give something and vice versa. That's just part of a human dynamic, a human condition. And so there is this give to get with technology. Like if you're pulling information about me through multiple channels, what am I getting as a result of that? Well, I'm getting better safety or getting, I don't know, better ability to manage my calendar because you're giving me insights about how I'm using my time or you're giving me better development opportunities because I'm entering information into a system about my career goals and my performance capability. Those are examples of kind of that you have to get. So you're going to measure my utilization of the space. If you're going to measure where I am in the space, if you're going to measure, I don't know the quality of the air in the space. And that's going to impact on knowing where I am and how I am moving about the space. I want to know what my guests are out of that. I want to know what the benefits are for me. I mean, it's just so old fashioned, right? Like change management is about people really understanding not just the why, but what's in it for them. But I think it's even more relevant now as technology becomes so ubiquitous. People will trust it more to the extent that they understand what's being measured, how it's being used, and how it benefits them.

Michael Moran [00:18:22] Now I want to ask you to hold that thought. And we're going to we're going to come back in a moment after we hear from our sponsor again. But I wanted to ask you, when we come back about, you know, some of the reactions you've seen to to these types of changes and these types of initiatives and how to manage all that. Got back after this word from our sponsor.

Sponsor [00:18:47] Microshare is proud to support Manifest Density, the podcast that examines the intersection of COVID 19 business and society. Each week we bring you conversation with global leaders and visionary interveners who are helping the world adapt and apply the tragic lessons of the pandemic so the planet can build back better. Subscribe to Manifest Density on our website microshare. I o or download it on Apple, iTunes, Google Play, iHeartRadio, Stitcher, and a host of other podcasting venues.

Michael Moran [00:19:27] Okay. I'm back with Dr. Tracy Brower. Tracy, before we took that break, we were talking about the change management process. We we obviously help our clients in this and we warn them, just hang those sensors up because they will get ripped down. And we try very hard to provide, you know, some kind of a roadmap to how they should do this. We found that one of the things that's useful is all of the kind of back to office or back to work subcommittee that have proliferated, the task forces proliferated all over the corporate world that if you can get the employees involved, they're not just have the CFO and the facilities manager and the director, but actually have somebody represents the interests of the employees. That's very powerful. And when you have an initiative like this, let's say you're putting air quality monitors out. That employee then is the spokesperson for for the employee base. They can go and say, hey, we we've been shown that this is coming. Here's what it does. It's not what you think it is. Is that a is that a viable approach?

Tracy Brower [00:20:45] Yeah, 100%. We do so much to work with our clients around change management. So I love where you're where you're going on this and what your emphasizes that employee voice is so important. People are so much more likely to buy in when they feel like the authors of their destiny. And we always say, you know, you can't give everybody a vote, but you can give them a voice. And so that participation in the process of returning to the office, that participation and, you know, giving feedback about what's working in the space, what's not working, the space is so important. It's so great to even have like a liaison committee kind of thing, right? Where you've got liaisons from different departments who are meeting together and getting updates, and then they can have kind of that two way communication from in to their department about things. And I think to really engage in them, right, like, like attention is the most scarce resource today. There's so much coming at us that you like, you don't even know what the attention do anymore. But when we can engage people with curiosity, you know, engage people about, you know, experimenting in the space. And I think the cool thing about experimenting, the cool thing about kind of engaging their curiosity in their participation in something new is that we send the message that we're not stagnating, we send the message that we're a learning, innovating kind of organization. We send the message that we are moving forward and trying new things and we are listening to you as we do that. Those are all really, really powerful ways to engage people and powerful ways to come to better conclusions. Right, because who knows better about the space than the people who are living in it? So that process for employee voice, that process for experimentation, that invitation to curiosity are really great ways to inspire people, not just engage them, but inspire them as well and give them the opportunity to be part of the future.

Michael Moran [00:22:41] Well, Dr. Tracy Brower, your most recent book, The Secrets to Happiness at Work, I assume you can get that on Amazon and a number of other places. Someone.

Tracy Brower [00:22:51] Yeah.

Michael Moran [00:22:52] Where else would someone go to to follow your work and learn more?

Tracy Brower [00:22:56] Yeah. Thanks for asking. So Steelcase dot com has tons of great research. Tracy Broadcom. I have all of my articles and books there and resources and content forms. I'm also on LinkedIn. Tracy Brower, Ph.D. And I'm all on all the other normal social media channels. And you can get my books. The Secrets to Happiness at Work is the newest on any of the kind of places where you would buy books Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Target, you indie books, you name it. And so I thank you for asking. That's great. I love it when people reach out and have sharing of their own experiences because we are all learning together.

Michael Moran [00:23:34] Well, thanks. And that whole concept of normal social media, but that's a whole other podcast. We'll do. We'll do that. But of course, you can learn more about how microshare or something get the world safely back to work with our ever smart suite of products ever smart solutions, boost efficiency, enable cost savings, and bring safety and reassurance to the people inside your buildings. You can learn more at ww w microshare. Got it. You can also subscribe to this podcast there or you can download it on iTunes and Google Play and iHeart Radio and Spotify and all sorts of other places that I don't ever go. That's going to do it for this week. On behalf of Microshare and all its global employees, this is Mike Moran saying thank you again to Dr. Tracy Brower and to you the audience. So long be well. Thank you for listening.

Manifest Density - Episode 60 - Terri Patterson - Workplace violence and COVID

Manifest Density - Episode 60 - Terri Patterson - Workplace violence and COVID

April 6, 2022


Workplace Violence and Covid

A silver lining of the pandemic was the significant decline of workplace and school violence in 2020. Sadly, it is roaring back. Former FBI agent Terri Patterson discusses this sad reality.

Control Risks | Global Risk Consultancy

Crisis and Security Consulting practice, based in the Washington, DC office. She focuses on the impact of mental health issues in the corporate environment, specializing in threat assessment and case management.

Terri has over two decades of experience leading law enforcement operations, strategic programs and critical incident preparedness. She is a recognized expert in behavioral assessment and risk mitigation, with a specialization in global security solutions to combat criminal and national security threat actors.

Serving in a variety of influential roles during her FBI tenure, Terri has designed and delivered training globally to investigators, intelligence professionals, mental health experts and executives in the identification and mitigation of criminal, national security and insider threats.

This bio work constitutes a fair-use of any copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US copyright law. View original source here. [[hyperlink:

Sponsored by Microshare.

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Episode transcript:

The transcription of this episode is auto generated by a third-party source. While Microshare takes every precaution to insure that the content is accurate, errors can occur. Microshare, Inc.  is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information.

Michael Moran [00:00:01] This is manifest density. Hello, everyone, and welcome to another edition of Manifest City, your host Michael Moran, here to explore the intersection of COVID 19 global business and society. And if density is brought to you by the global smart building and ESG data company Microshare, unleash the data well today. Really, really interesting conversation. I suggest we're going to have here with Terry Patterson, who had a long career in the FBI and is now a crisis consulting expert at control risks. You are definitely an interesting person. What an interesting, you know, focus area you have workplace school and other shootings. How to prevent them, how to how to mitigate the risk and respond. Welcome to the podcast.


Terri Patterson [00:00:54] Thanks so much, Michael, I'm happy to be here.


Michael Moran [00:00:57] So what is it that got you into? First, the FBI and then in into this line of work at control risks.


Terri Patterson [00:01:07] Well, thank you for asking that I often don't talk about my career before the FBI, but I started my career as a psychologist engaged in threat assessments primarily in the community. And then I spent 23 years, as you have already mentioned, as an agent with the FBI. Much of that time was spent at the Behavioral Analysis Unit at Quantico, Virginia, where I worked on a variety of issues, starting with the beginning with violent crime matters and then transitioning over to as much of the FBI did over to terrorism and violent extremism. And so after retiring from the FBI for 23 years, I have joined control risk and I have been here now for almost two years and I have continued to really try to bring a full circle. The behavioral aspects of mental health and violence. And so certainly I talk quite a bit about mental health in the workplace and how it is that we should always strive for resilience and and positive mental wellness in the workplace. But then sadly, a lot of my work is also spent, of course, on those threats that can emerge when we see this complex combination of factors that can lead to violence in the workplace or in other commercial establishments. And then sadly, I think most tragically in our schools, as you've already mentioned.


Michael Moran [00:02:43] Well, Terry, obviously your time at control risks now has overlapped almost perfectly with COVID 19, something that obviously has been a tragic development for humanity. It's done all sorts of damage, and we've talked at length on this podcast about the economic, social and political impacts of of COVID 19. But one of the silver linings that have been pointed out is when people left the workplace to remotely work and when people actually even were kept out of religious venues for a while and schools. Of course, these tragic events really took a dove. There weren't many school shootings in 2020. There weren't many workplace violence issues that popped up, at least into the news media. How has that developed now that we're hopefully in the late stages of the pandemic and people are going back to their places of work and worship and school?


Terri Patterson [00:03:39] Well, I think you're pointing out, watch it. What is too many people really counterintuitive, right? And I'll just add some numbers to what you have already thrown out. I was reading recently a recent study that really tracks these violent mass attacks, and what was revealed was that since the data has been captured. The last five years has resulted in 20 percent of all of those mass attacks as mass shootings, 20 percent have taken place in the last five years. And when you lay on top of that recent data showing that 20 20 saw more victims of mass shootings than any other year since the data has been compiled, it really is quite compelling. It's alarming. And I'll just add to that for anyone who monitors, reads the FBI's Uniform Crime Report. The Crime Report for 2020, which is the most recent report we have. It was released in twenty twenty one early twenty twenty one. This report revealed that crimes across the board were down. Right. And so this is no surprise to many people when you consider, as you've already pointed out, that we were in the midst of a of a massive national health emergency. People were at home in response to the global pandemic. Most of the population were working from home. But what is surprising is this while the overall crime report indicated that crime was down. The exception to that trend was in two areas aggravated assaults and homicides. And in these two crime areas, we actually saw an increase in the numbers. And so what I'm suggesting here is that when everyone was home, we saw an increase in the number of aggravated assaults and homicides. Probably many of those interpersonal violence individuals who knew one another, engaging in violent acts against one another. Now we're seeing people going back to the workplace, going back out into those areas of commerce. And again, we have the same stressors that have been at play on the population since the beginning of the pandemic. But now we're seeing all of that violence spill out again into our workplace schools and places of commerce. So certainly, it's a concern. We always have to keep our eye on the vulnerability of the population in general as a result of stressors again, that we've seen all talk quite a bit about stressors during our conversation today. And as all of those employees who have been home are now navigating this transition, that's often difficult transition back into the workplace. We have been working with clients to really be prepared for that influx and trying to keep those employees safe and really trying to again shore up the resilience and making sure that that we have what we can in place to to keep everyone safe.


Michael Moran [00:06:39] Terry, hold that thought. We're going to take a break to hear from our sponsor. OK, I'm back with Terry Patterson, former FBI agent and security and crisis consultant at Control Risks. We're talking about what COVID did to the really sad rate of workplace and its place of worship violence in the U.S. in particular. I'm Terry. Can you take us through what it's like to engage with a client? You know, whether that is a house of worship or, you know, a big company or a school system and try to get them ready to prevent these things and to spot the potential problem before it happens.


Terri Patterson [00:07:23] Sure, Michael, I think so. First, I think just to I'll I'll start with what is, you know, what I see as routine policies and procedures that I think every client should have in place, right? And that revolves around workplace violence prevention and ensuring that you have that. All of our clients have a solid and robust workplace violence prevention plan. And so what we have been spending a lot of time doing is going in reviewing those plans right now, especially again, as I mentioned before, as clients are finding that they're bringing people back, they're bring their employees back into the workplace after having been away for many months. They're finding that this is a good time to really review their policies, review their procedures and make the appropriate updates that they need. And so we're certainly helping with that as a result of that. Again, we have been advising on policies and procedures. We have been putting together guide books or playbooks so that each member of that crisis management team knows what their role is when it comes to workplace violence prevention, and they're able to engage appropriately and really early on in the process. Most of that revolves around identifying behaviors of concern, having a process in place to escalate those concerns. And then again, having at the corporate level, those executives who are responsible for managing and implementing that program. We've been providing a lot of training training to frontline supervisors in particular and human resource professionals really helping them again to recognize and understand the trends related to workplace violence and concerning behaviors, helping them to understand and to implement a good process by which problems and concerns can be escalated, either through the front line manager or anonymously, as has the employee might wish. And then again, to be able to address those concerns early and often. A lot of that training has been dealing also with just de-escalation, how it is that managers and human resource professionals should deal with and talk to employees who are in crisis. Because while today we're talking about really that dark side of stress and what can happen when you have lots of psychological stress compounded with basic personality or disposition or concerns and a personality that seems to go to violence for resolution of conflict? And then a whole host of other factors that come together to lead to violence. That's really what we're talking about today. But we also have to keep in mind that there are always those employees in the workplace who are just dealing with routine day to day stress and they are experiencing crises as well. So we want those frontline managers and human resource professionals to really be comfortable, engaging people when they're in a crisis. So we've been doing a lot of training around de-escalation as well. And so a lot of what we've been doing really is around prevention and then engagement. And then, of course, if all else fails, we really don't want to get to this side. But if all else fails, then of course, response. And so we certainly have been stepping in when when our clients do experience a crisis of some sort and that generally entails in conducting a threat assessment and then helping their client put together some threat mitigation strategies in order to keep the workplace safe.


Michael Moran [00:11:19] Let's talk for a second about how the H.R. departments or security departments and companies. Are they being proactive in terms of like serving people's social media? And is that part of this whole thing now? Because, you know, let's say 15 years ago, that would have been pretty unthinkable that your boss is snooping around and things like that.


Terri Patterson [00:11:42] Well, you know, I think that we have a variety of clients, of course, and clients are engaging in a lot of different mechanisms to try to identify risk early and try to identify concerning behaviors early. Certainly, we recommend educating the workforce, educating those front line managers, educating human resource professionals. That's always what we recommend first. There's a lot of research out there suggesting that bystanders, those individuals who are close to a person who will later engage in violence, there are bystanders, always who see a number of indicators that that would suggest that violence may be coming right and that violence may be around the corner. And so we always want to suggest we always want to recommend that training be pushed out and be implemented in order to identify some of those concerns early on. But in addition to that, of course, monitoring social media platforms and online forums for threat streams for deteriorating sentiment. I think in general, a lot of our clients are engaging in social media monitoring. I'm not suggesting that they're monitoring individual employees social media platforms, but I'm suggesting that in general, they're monitoring platforms for negative sentiment related to and coming back to the client company. So certainly that is something that is, I think, being utilized quite often as an intelligence function just to identify early some of those threat streams and and threat actors that may be out there. This is really right now. It's certainly pertinent because we all know that there is a lot of stress around social and political differences, ideological stressors that individuals are experiencing. We've seen a rise of violent extremism that poses a range of risk to businesses that go beyond the individual employee who is experiencing psychological stress as they come to work every day. And so this is also something that corporate leaders have to keep their eye on. And and certainly we're seeing the social media platforms being monitored, as you have suggested, as a way of trying to identify early some of those threats that would derive from ideologically motivated insiders or outsiders.


Michael Moran [00:14:21] I want to go to your behavioral psychology expertize, and let's think about COVID. As a experience we've all been through some accepting it more as reality than others, but it has affected just about every life on the planet. What is the difference now post-pandemic as people start coming back into the office place? What are the new things that people are being stressed by? What are the new flags that you've got your eye on to try to prevent people from starting to move down the line of something troubling?


Terri Patterson [00:14:57] Well, I think COVID 19, of course, has led to enhanced challenges on the workforce in a hole in a variety of ways that we've all heard about the shift to remote work and then the transition to hybrid models. And then more recently, of course, as you and I have discussed, this return to the workplace has led to increased levels of stress as employees navigate what seems to be a constantly shifting landscape. And so change is always we say change is good, it is good, but it's also stressful. And so we continue to hear about tensions and polarization. In addition to that, the tensions and polarization around what I just mentioned, social and political issues that is leading to discord within families and communities and now spilling over into the workplace as issues related to COVID 19 like mask mandates and vaccinations have also become politicized and are triggering associated ideological grievances. So we have all of these challenges that have really led to unprecedented issues that we've heard about again over the last two years and really have led to employee vulnerability at its highest. And that vulnerability in the in the best case scenario threatens productivity, threatens stability. And then, of course, in the worst case scenario, threatens the security of the workforce or the workplace rather and caught right in the middle, of course, of the employee. And there are the employers, the leaders who are trying to balance a safe and healthy. Environment, while also trying to respect the individual concerns and the needs of their employees. So we've been talking quite a bit about the stress that is associated with the pandemic. I certainly believe that the better we all understand those trends and the trends that we're going to continue to see, then the better we're going to be able to address the issues and continue to build productive and resilient workplaces. That's the goal, right? But again, as we know, we also are seeing and we will continue to see that, you know, stress can also lead to a really destructive and and violent threat as well. And so we see the manifestation of that every day when we turn on on the news. So I think I can't possibly overstate the concern that we have as we start bringing people in back into the workplace and we still have these unprecedented levels of stress. And while we're in flux until we really get settled in, I think we're going to continue to see alarming rates of just problematic behavior. Again, most of it hopefully around productivity, around various issues that are going to disrupt just the positive environment in the workplace. But again, we always have to keep our eye on those individuals who are overwhelmed by stress who have that disposition that tends to move them to violence as a result and moving to violence in order to deal with any kind of conflict. And that is our concern, of course. And so I can't overstress the importance of trying to manage overall the stress levels in the workplace, but also really trying to identify early and often those behavioral indicators of that trajectory to violence.


Michael Moran [00:18:42] How are you going to take a quick break? Listen to a word from our sponsor. All right, Terri Paterson, security and crisis expert and former FBI agent, I have one last question. The pandemic itself has sent well during certain stages of it, sent most of us who could to work remotely. The stress doesn't necessarily end, and there have been some people who even say it's become a more stressful world because you're never off, you're always on and always at the beck and call of your colleagues. And is there something special about the remote situation? Have you have done any consulting with companies on how to deal with that very unique kind of stress because we made, for instance, live in a world now forever where remote is a piece of it?


Terri Patterson [00:19:34] Yeah, I think that's absolutely right. And and remote work certainly isn't free from stress, right? We know that and we have talked about it quite a bit. We have we've seen increased domestic violence. Of course, we've heard a lot about that. We've seen increases in a whole wide range of issues, even as employees who are working remotely. We saw over half of the working age population reporting a decline in their mental wellness during the height of the pandemic, while most people were at home. We saw prescriptions for antidepressants increased 34 percent and anti-anxiety prescriptions rise 19 percent in 2020. And then, of course, we just continue to see what what psychologists refer to as the comorbidity of these mental illnesses, along with substance abuse, which leads to a variety of negative consequences, all while people were at home and working from the safety of their home. Right. And so certainly being at home brings a whole host of other issues we've had. We've heard from employees that they've had a difficult time turning work off when they're at home. We've heard employees say, and we've seen survey after survey that suggests that the stress of trying to navigate child care or or elder care or all of the household duties that would come with just staying at home with a full time job was also very stressful. And so certainly we have not seen working from home or remote work alleviate stress. Certainly the young, the youngest in our workforce, Generation Z, the Zoomers, we refer to them normal and millennials reported more symptoms of mental illness. Then they're they're more tenured counterparts while they were working remotely. And so certainly for them, as they're just starting out their career, they're trying to get settled into the workplace and really trying to make those connections, maybe find people who they can rely on for mentorship, as you and I had talked earlier. This was all disrupted with with COVID 19. And so they have had a particularly difficult time just trying to get started and get off the ground with their career. So I think this is something that our clients certainly continue to grapple with. How is it that they're able to find the right balance and have the structure that the workplace provides continue as they bring people back to the office, but then also being sensitive to the the flexibility that employees are saying they really need and they value. So I think that's going to continue to be a challenge. And then of course, we have these issues around a remote workforce and some of the challenges that it brings just in terms of issues like insider risk. Right. We've seen ongoing challenges as some of our clients have navigated issues around, of course, employee stress, compromised coping skills and then managing these hybrid models of remote and returned to work structures. Because there's the recognition that, you know, remote work is becoming a permanent reality for some segments of the workforce. And so these shifts are really requiring our clients to continue to examine their insider risk posture against the continuing need for flexibility and resilience building. And so we know, of course, based on years of research and experience, we know that there's a constellation of factors that influence insider risk. We know that there's a dynamic nature, those factors that can enhance the risk posed to businesses that are not adequately prepared. And we've long argued behavioral researchers that most threats can be prevented with early and or and robust responsiveness that addresses the risk well in advance of a malicious act. And so we certainly continue to experience a greater reliance on digital solutions to insider threat. But in case after case, we also see the need for a behavioral assessment of those early indicators of an emerging problem. And so I bring all of this up. Because again, when you have a remote workforce, it's harder to identify often those behavioral indicators and then you're giving people access that otherwise they wouldn't have in a remote environment. And so we just keep beating this drum around insider risk as well that comprehensive programs really should be put in place before the manifestation of anomalous behavior. And it really must incorporate behavioral experts to meet best practice and industry standards. So again, we're seeing a wide range of issues related to remote work, and I think we're going to continue to see those issues, issues around employee wellness, issues around culture and maintaining the culture of of of the of the workplace and the brand. And then, of course, all the way over to insider risk and that emerging threat that comes from having a remote workforce get trying to maintain control of of, you know, your information. So we're going to continue to monitor that. We're going to continue to provide support there as we have really for the last year and a half, Terry.


Michael Moran [00:25:25] This has just been fascinating. I wonder if if our readers wanted to continue to learn about this or follow your work, what would you suggest?


Terri Patterson [00:25:35] Well, Michael, I'm I'm always available, of course, on control risks. XCOM can find me. They are easily. I also have a profile on LinkedIn and certainly would welcome an ongoing discussion with anyone who finds this topic of interest.


Michael Moran [00:25:49] It's it's a sad irony that that workplace violence and school violence is a happy victim of COVID. And it's even sadder that now that the pandemic is relenting a bit, that we're seeing it come back. Of course, you can learn more about Microshare at WW W Microshare Daddario and its ever smart solutions that boost efficiency, enable cost savings and bring safety and reassurance to people inside of buildings very relevant to this conversation. You can also subscribe to the podcast Manifest Density there or download it on Google Play and iHeartRadio and iTunes and Spotify. We have not dropped off a Spotify yet, but that'll do it for this week on behalf of Microshare and all of its global employees. I'd like to say thank you again to to Terry Patterson and wish you all wellness and a good week. See you next week.

Manifest Density - Episode 59 - Menno Lammers - PropTech for Good

Manifest Density - Episode 59 - Menno Lammers - PropTech for Good

March 30, 2022


PropTech for Good

The pure benefits of better understanding the'"Built World.'

Menno is the founder of the PropTech for Good alliance. The PropTech for Good alliance connects CEOs, entrepreneurs, investors, innovators, and sustainability leaders from around the world to initiate meaningful collaborations, exchange knowledge and build thought leadership to create responsible, resilient, and regenerative environments. Menno is a mentor at REACH UK, executive sparring partner, and keynote speaker.

As a strategic advisor, Menno worked for companies like Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, Nemetschek Group, Heimstaden Nederland, Savills, Syntrus Achmea Real Estate & Finance, Rijksvastgoedbedrijf (part of the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations).

This bio work constitutes a fair-use of any copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US copyright law.

View original source here:

Sponsored by Microshare.

Listen to our other podcasts on the Manifest Density portal.

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Episode transcript:

The transcription of this episode is auto generated by a third-party source. While Microshare takes every precaution to insure that the content is accurate, errors can occur. Microshare, Inc.  is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information.

Michael Moran [00:00:01] This is manifest density. Hello, everyone, and welcome to this latest edition of Manifest Density, your host Michael Moran here from Denver, Colorado, to explore the intersection of COVID 19 global business and society. Manifest density, of course, is brought to you by the global smart building and ESG data company Microshare. Unleash the data. Well, today I speak with Menno Lammers, did I get that right Menno ?


Menno Lammers [00:00:30] Yes, you do, Menno Lammers from the Netherlands.


Michael Moran [00:00:34] Iceland, and you are in the Netherlands. You are the founder of Prop Tech for Good, which is a really interesting initiative, a social enterprise in the Netherlands. And I thought maybe we'd start today with just a little bit about you and how you came to prop tech for good.


Menno Lammers [00:00:53] Yes. Thank you. Thank you for the opportunity. And thank you for having me. Um yeah. What's my journey? You know, since 2005, I was involved in innovation in real estate and and I have a keen interest in digital developments as societal trends. And in 2015, I worked as an independent strategy and innovation consultant on the behalf of our leading international property management organization. And they asked me the question You know, how? How can we organize property management ten times faster, cheaper and better, like the moonshot thinking? And we worked on that, and at a certain moment that customer asked me, Hey, man, how can you research something for us in the in the UK because our headquarters is there and we have to find a way to land that moonshot? And then I dived into my international network and I found the word proptech. So it's a combination of property and technology. And no, no one in the Netherlands was. I had claimed it, but there were already some startups because I was I was also working for the government on a special special project, so I decided to just start with the product and sell it formally. It does not exist anymore because everything goes now to product for good. So I probably should. Also the first article in the Netherlands and at a certain moment, I am a bit of struggling because there is proptech is very pushed from a technology push, and I was always asking myself Why you know why? Why aren't we doing this? And so I decided where on on April two to start with the product for good movement. So I planted the seed. It was Earth Day and also the day of the birthday of my mother. So that was really something, you know, you plant the seed for the future and the products for goods is a global movement of people who are used to business as a force for good. And the alliance is built by real estate and technology. Businesses know the deficient areas in the business mills and the pioneers in that way and those who will actively drive dialog and action and change to reshape the built environment and those who use technology as a leopard to make a positive impact on societal challenges. So what we do is, you know, bringing tech and real estate together, but we we always start with a societal challenge, for example, health and wellbeing. So how the a healthy environment in offices or affordable housing or climate action? So that's always the starting point. And then we translate that. What how can real estate make that impact and how can technology being that lever for real estate to build environments to contribute to make that positive impact? So that's that's a bit of my journey. Always curious, you know, and and humble like and also like like Steve Jobs always said, you know, stay hungry. Stay foolish. That's what I like to do.


Michael Moran [00:04:16] Steve Jobs also said, make sure you change plugs in the cords every time you have a new models. You never said that publicly, of course. But anyway, so we are quite familiar with PropTech being one ourselves. Mm. And not only that, because we do installations for ESG data purposes. We're quite familiar with the potential value of data that didn't exist before for companies to understand their performance in terms of environmental, social and governance and all sorts of things like climate footprint for the well-being of people inside their buildings. What is from your standpoint, what is the benefit of prop tech that that can make it a societal good?


Menno Lammers [00:05:04] Yeah, you know what, what we did in in the last century's decades is being degenerative in that way. And now we have the tools and the technology to make a massive progression in that way, how we design, how we build, how we manage, how we operate, how we do the maintenance part. And that's that's a big challenge because it's still going about operation excellence. But we also have the opportunity to approach things on a different way to reduce, for example, carbon emissions because we can do a better logistics. And that's. Will be. So we connect those societal challenges, which with the technology, so it will be more integration and that will be the transition period to a more responsible, resilient and regenerative environment. And what that is, you know, we have to figure that out. First things first, but you will see that the regenerative movement will be a buzzword for the next years. But but the benefits from technology now is that we can measure we can really see what's the impact because we have to start somewhere. And when we get these signs, you know, we can we can optimize or we can rethink the processes we will see probably that we, you know, we're always proud. When we create something, we build something a great asset, you, our big tower or a skyscraper or something like that. But then we can see also what is our footprint when it's when we are running, that's that assets, but also when the embodied carbon, for example, you know what's what's in the lifecycle. So from digging into the ground, get your your towels or your route and how, yeah, what's the footprint also when it's end of life? So these kind of things we can measure, but we can also measure, you know, what's the what's the healthy environment in the building? And if people get less sick, you know, that's that's good for for everyone, for the employee, for the employer, but also for the environment as a whole, we can also see if people are happy, yes or no, you know, we can. You can answer the building, for example. Have some sort of. Yeah, it's a PR challenge, of course. But for example, if people are not that happy when they come in and when they smile, when they walk out, you know they have, they probably have a great day. You know, so there are a lot of opportunities. Also, some dark sites, of course, and we have to be aware of that. But I think we can make a massive progression in next year to do something for good.


Michael Moran [00:08:18] We do a lot of this work already, and it's it's very interesting to see how it maps to the reporting requirements. The commercial real estate has the various certification programs. All of this stuff is kind of incentive for the building operators and owners and tenants to take advantage of these kind of data streams that didn't exist before. Mm-Hmm. You are someone who is helping channel technology into these demand areas, right? What do you do in terms of your conversations with people? How do you get them to understand the value of these things that you're proposing that they install?


Menno Lammers [00:09:09] It's a good question, and first of all, you know, we have to create awareness that it's already there, that it exists. And you and you have to create an environment where they can, where people come together and share what they are working on or what the issues are. And it's very important also and currently also working on on an on an interview blog. And I was thinking, you know, it's so important to. Tough to figure out what the real problem is, because what what you see now, what's happening is that. Real estate companies or the people working there reach out to me and say, Man, are we? We need a solution to reduce energy. And of course, there are many, many of these kind of solutions or we want to have insights about our footprint or we want to to create the governance structure for it to to to to achieve our our net zero pledge or something like that. And it sounds easy now because you can just bring in some solutions. And there are so many and it's growing every day. But really understand why they need it. And maybe you figure out that they they need more than only that solution. And probably they will, because what you see is happening is that most of the time it's a one figure one person thing. So one person has something on his plate. They reach out. They bring a solution in. They implement that at a certain moment in some departments challenge. And then they're going to see the the big, the big benefits. And then the CEO comes in to say, Hey, listen, we have to scale it up. But then things are going to shake because implementing a solution is one with creating a data driven organization. You also have to just kid. Yeah, to to scale up people. You probably also have to reorganize the organization. So and making them at least aware, of course, you don't want to scare them, but at least, you know, helping them to get those in science are very helpful and. Afterwards, they also say, you know, it's very nice that you told the story what you already saw or experienced in the last years because it helped me to think and to ask better questions also to the solution providers because it's easy to say, OK, yeah, you can solve my problem. Okay, let's buy things. Things are done. But if you really want to create a sustainable organization, it's more than just buying or, you know, use the platform. And that's it.


Michael Moran [00:12:33] So hold that thought, we're going to take a quick break to hear from our sponsor. Okay, we're back with Menno Lammas, we're talking about crop tech for good, which he founded. I want to ask you, is there a. A secret weapon that technology brings to the table in terms of understanding sustainability, because our experience is that the the E in the SG, let's look at it that way is pretty simple. You take it utility bills. You scrape utility bills with a web crawling spider. You can submeter. It's about consumption. That's a pretty simple data science challenge. It is no challenge, really, but it's the S and the G. Where to to automate things are tricky, and that's where we've been concentrating is the social aspects of of ESG, where you discussed a bit things like the environmental safety and wellness of the space, the quality of the air and the water, the ability of people to the building to be responsive to concerns. Those are the kinds of things that we have been deploying that bring data that's relevant to the needs of someone who's trying to pursue a sustainability initiative. What else is there, though, is there? Are there other things that a company can do?


Menno Lammers [00:14:04] One of the things you know, and maybe I can't say it right here, but is broaden the definition of technology because we're very focused on digital. And I think we, you know, it's it's also some sort of secret SaaS or, you know, which can really push things forward. But I think we also have to be aware that that technology doesn't solve all the problems. It doesn't bring us world peace. It can help. But but I think we also have to look at, you know, materials, you know, the more the physical, physical technology and the nature of technology. One of the things you know for on the technology side, where it can facilitate is I think it's very valuable also for making that transition and that transformation in your organization and also with your stakeholders is facilitating the inclusion Part D, as you know, that's that everybody can bring in their thoughts and their knowledge. I always give the example of, Hey, we want to we want to to maintain our our assets on a good way. Let's fly with drones. And then they say, Yeah, we have to hire someone. But maybe there is someone in the organization who loves to fly with drones in his private life or her private life. And maybe that's a great opportunity. But that's that's that's not the person you normally ask, because yeah, that person is doing something else. But I think, you know, unlocking that kind of value that that potential. That's also something we underrate underestimate. I think because we are so focused as real estate or industry on the physical building and getting our profits so we can reduce costs, you know, making the building more efficient in the operations or using less materials and that kind of things. And that's good. And we have to. But we will have also be aware that we are not reducing too much, that its collapse currently in there is something going on with the stadiums, you know, with the football players because the construction was not right. So we also have to be aware. So I think there are a lot of opportunities to make it better, but we are also very good. And that's the old paradigm, I think in reducing cost, make it more efficient, doing less. And of course, we have to use less, for example, concrete because it has a lot of negative impact. But yeah, that that's I think it's on the social side. More on inclusion.


Michael Moran [00:16:59] And now we need to wrap up this episode, but I wanted to make sure I gave you a chance to tell our listeners how they can follow your work and whether you're on social media.


Menno Lammers [00:17:09] Yeah. Now, of course, happy to to connect to LinkedIn and of course, subscribe to the to the newsletter on the pro-tax and proptech for good websites so you can get your monthly newsletter and stay at at the state had on the on the curve with the PropTech for future developments.


Michael Moran [00:17:32] Well, thank you again, Menno, and this is my chance to tell people that they can learn more about Microshare is getting the world safely back to work with our ever smart suite of products, ever smart solutions, boost efficiency, enables savings and bring safety and reassurance to people inside your building. You can learn more about that at. UWW, microshare I and you can subscribe to manifest density there or download it on Google Play and iHeartRadio and Spotify and iTunes and all sorts of places that'll do it for this week. On behalf of Microshare and all its global employees, I'd like to thank once again Menno Lammers for joining us. This is Michael Moran. Well, thank you for listening.

Manifest Density - Episode 58 - Andy Dengel - The science of indoor air quality

Manifest Density - Episode 58 - Andy Dengel - The science of indoor air quality

March 23, 2022


The science of indoor air quality
UK air quality expert Dr. Andy Dengel on an invisible threat

Andy is currently Director of Environment in the Building Technology Group at BRE.

He gained a PhD and postdoctoral research experience in chemistry at Imperial College London, publishing extensively on the structures, properties and catalytic oxidising abilities of transition metal complexes.

Andy then spent the next 16 years of his career working in and managing contract analytical laboratories. Starting with drinking water analysis, this took in food and consumer product analysis at a Public Analyst laboratory and latterly the operational/site management of a growing suite of contaminated land/water laboratories for ALcontrol.

Since joining BRE in 2006 Andy has led the IAQ and Chemical Assessment teams, and in 2008 also assumed overall responsibility for the other BRE environmental engineering and consultancy teams (HVAC, Air Pollution, Lighting and Environmental Noise) and in 2013 he became Deputy to the Director of BRE’s 70-strong Building Technology Group.

This bio work constitutes a fair-use of any copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US copyright law. View original source here: Andy Dengel


Episode transcript:

The transcription of this episode is auto generated by a third-party source. While Microshare takes every precaution to insure that the content is accurate, errors can occur. Microshare, Inc.  is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information.

Michael Moran [00:00:11] This is manifest density. Hello, everyone, and welcome to this edition of Manifest Entity, your host Michael Moran here, and we are here to explore the intersection of COVID 19 global business and society. And unfortunately, war, which has now entered the picture in Ukraine. Manifest density is brought to you by the global smart building in ESG data company Microshare. Unleash the data and today I speak with. I'm pleased to have with me, Dr. Andy Dingell, who is the director of the environment team at Barry, which is the kind of leading building research establishment in in the UK and has global reach and influence. Andy, welcome to the podcast.


Andy Dengel [00:01:13] Hello, Mike.


Michael Moran [00:01:17]  So, Andy, tell us a little about yourself and your work on indoor environments at spirit.


Andy Dengel [00:01:29] Yeah, sure. So I started off as a chemist, so my doctorate was in chemistry and then I went on to do a lot of analytical chemistry. In the last 15 years, I've been at body building research establishment and I've headed up what we loosely call prairie environment, but really, really concerns the indoor environments that we find ourselves living and working in learning in. So it's everything from indoor air quality through to ventilation and H-back and also lighting noise and other other parameters that can affect us when we're in the buildings. And in that we we do various types of work. We do a lot of research, both collaborative research but also commercial research. And there's R&D for people with products in this area. And we also do advisory work and sometimes to street testing of other products or materials to do the indoor air quality.


Michael Moran [00:02:25] So we were talking before the podcast began about the, you know, really new impetus that air quality has gained throughout the pandemic. Obviously, a virus travels through an airborne virus. It's going to be something that alarms you a bit about. The space you're in makes you wonder about what you might have considered a fairly neutral space. But air quality goes back well before the pandemic. Air quality as a as a capability, as a concern in indoor spaces. Can you give us a little background on where the science has come from?


Andy Dengel [00:03:06] Yes, absolutely. I mean, we've been involved here before and before I joined even the last twenty five years when he was some of the the IQ issues that come about and of course, traditionally equality came to the consciousness in terms of external air quality, air pollution and those sort of things. But then gradually over the last maybe 10, 15 years, people start to think, Well, we actually spend more time indoors. Some people spend all of their time indoors. And often they are. The indoor air quality indoors has a great, great potential to affect the health and well-being. So I say the last 15, 20 years, we've seen a gradual increase in awareness, I'd say, of indoor air quality. And of course, the internet and social media really take that to another level in a lot of people start to know, you know, listen to podcasts like they say they they can read things, they can access things and it's getting more on the agenda. And I think before the COVID pandemic, we were starting to see a lot of organizations, whether it be schools, medical corporate offices, whatever. So into place a bit more emphasis on the health and well-being of occupants. Because after all, if your employee isn't happy in their indoor environment, they won't perform as well. They may become ill and they may become absent. So we were starting to see that before the for the pandemic, but I think the pandemic has really thrust it even more into the spotlight.


Michael Moran [00:04:36] I want to look state state pre-pandemic for just a moment and talk about some of the research and some of the case studies that were were floating around before anybody really had it focused on COVID 19. I mean, a lot of these things had to do with preventing absenteeism, preventing the the ill effects of CO2 buildup, which which make people drowsy and toward the end of the day, for instance, could really hit productivity in a workforce. And then there was, you know, the pure health care or the health issues which which had to do with things like the humidity and temperature mix, which can affect the spread of disease. What are some of the factors that go into the pure? Air quality concerns that predated the pandemic.


Andy Dengel [00:05:31] Yeah, so I think a lot of what we used to do used to be reactive in a way which is a pity where people would contact us when they were experiencing problems enough in an office or a school or hospital. And normally that would be one or two or more people experiencing irritation or discomfort or ill health. Then, of course, you have this sort of psychosomatic factors in the so-called sick building syndrome where, you know, open plan always if three or four people become uncomfortable and attribute that to the indoor environment that can start to to spread. So we were starting to do that sort of work and we were developing protocols ready to go in and assess indoor air quality in indoor environments. And we often call it Iizuka, you know, taking everything into account. But there weren't many standards or guidelines for people to hang their hats on as such. There were a lot of schemes, so voluntary schemes such as Brianna, where you can raise a building for a whole load of factors, one of which is air quality ventilation, but very little proactive stuff. But we had, you know, started to look at ways of, yeah, for a reasonable amount of money to be able to go in and assess what's important. And that, first and foremost, would be things, as you said, the CO2 levels, the level of ventilation and also the effects that can come from, you know, too much ventilation or too little things like dampness or on the other hand, dryness of air is too dry and then particular sources of indoor pollutants bosses, for instance, which can make those effects, you know, two out of nine out of 10 people, but one person could be sensitive and have problems. So we were starting to look at that, but really don't know. So it was one to one basis, but I think we had the advent of more technology is going to thrust us all towards a point where there's more measurement going on.


Michael Moran [00:07:30] And you hold that thought we're going to take a break to hear from our sponsor. There will be a little dead air here, and I'll come back. OK, I'm back with Dr. Andy DeAngelo of the British I'm sorry, the building research establishment in the UK. Doctor, is there a. Kind of secret weapon for indoor air quality. We've now seen, as you were mentioning before, we took the break. Technology has really evolved. We've had a pandemic which certainly raised the awareness of the concerns that might be extended in indoor air. But I know iOttie, of course, allows for a certain amount of collection of data. But what's it seems like? There's a real challenge in connecting all the various elements that can affect indoor air quality into a responsive single unit. Is that about is that right?


Andy Dengel [00:08:33] Yes, because it can be quite complex, you know, on the level of CO2, that's reasonably straightforward. I mean, but even then, you know, there can be other factors. But you know, there are so many factors. So it really all comes down to something it a balance between. Energy efficiency, I'd say, in ventilation, because more and more we're seeing very airtight buildings relying on mechanical ventilation. And if that doesn't work properly or isn't designed properly, you can have problems. Of course, some places don't have that luxury and they'll still be problems because there's not the opportunity for the cross ventilation, etc. So to the whole thing really makes it quite difficult to know which premises you should look at. And there are certainly some important markers, but I think where is the the iottie and the ability to share data and collate data and do things with data is really going forward. The technology to have really robust and reliable sensors to do continuous monitoring is a little bit behind when it comes to economies, you know, in terms of financial economy, because really the more you spend, obviously the better you you'll be. But you know, some of the sensors do have limitations, and I think those limitations need to be at least understood before data is collected.


Michael Moran [00:09:59] You know, we had we've had several experiences at Microshare where clients have gone ahead and deployed air quality monitors, IoT monitors. And discovered the air was less than ideal, and their decision, rather than to take remedial steps, was to remove the air quality monitors and pretend like they'd never found this out. It's not a very progressive way to approach it, obviously. But is that a common problem? Is there is the is the reaction so complex that you find some people would just rather not know?


Andy Dengel [00:10:42] Yes, I think I think it's all about, first of all, deciding, you know, what you're trying to do and who you're going to share the data with and how much data because and then more importantly than anything, are you prepared to act on it? I think you just touched on the worst case scenario there they're acting on. It is removing the measurement. But it is important. And I think, you know, all sorts of organizations at the moment, I think, are wrestling with this problem in that, you know, if they're going to do this and they do, and if you do either well or you don't do so well anyway, there'll be lots of data. And if you're if you're sharing that with a with a lot of people, there's a lot of different little subjectivity. People will look at different things and you've got a problem. If, for instance, a red light starts flashing when there's, for instance, voices are deemed to be high and so on. So we're thinking, well, wait a minute, the air quality is not good. What's my employee or my landlord going to do about it when in fact, it could have been a false positive? Because, you know, for the sort of sensors we're talking about, they're not always as selected as he might wish. And things can actually trigger trigger responses. So I think there's a bigger piece here in terms of, you know, really thinking. Do I want to do this? How are we going to do it and how are we going to share data are all prepared to go the whole way and then work with the the people who have effectively been being monitored to try to show that you want to do something about it?


Michael Moran [00:12:17] You know, there was a pretty well-traveled story a few months back in the New York Times, where parents of children in the New York City Public Schools were sneaking air quality monitors into their lunchboxes and backpacks and then showing up at the Parent Teacher Association meetings and raising hell about the air quality in the schools. Is that is that indicative of what you think the COVID pandemic has done to people's realization about all this?


Andy Dengel [00:12:52] I think so. I think it is a real possibility and I say these things are quite affordable. You know, you can buy some some of some of these things, single parameter things for maybe under $500, I don't know. But even but in our in our experience, even ones that cost multiple hundreds of dollars or pounds, we'll still have limitations in and a lot of cases simply because the parameters that they are trying to measure are very complex in themselves. I think CO2, the sensors there, they're much more mature and at the end of the day, you're looking for one one, one compound or molecule. But if you're looking for bio seeds and you have a sense of the claims, look at total doses or tbose. That's pretty much impossible for that sort of sensor because there are so many different viruses that will give different responses. So it's a very complex parameter and similar.


Michael Moran [00:13:45] Can you define viruses? I don't think most of the audience will understand what that


Andy Dengel [00:13:48] yes, VOCs, volatile organic compounds. So it's a whole whole range of different chemicals that have to volatile always will be big vapor at room temperature. And they include anything from something like petrol. So if you think of petrol, that's a good example. You can smell the volatile organics and petrol go right through to lots of things we use in in our in our homes and in our offices, the cleaning products. And through to the furnishings of paints and varnishes. Air fresheners, you know, people may have may use plug in air fresheners. They emit VOCs, so there's a whole whole range of seasons. Some are potentially hazardous. Some are potentially irritable. Some won't be. But the point is in anyone's face, there may be dozens of different voices and so sensitive to look at so-called tbo AOC is really oversimplifying.


Michael Moran [00:14:50] Does there in any way virus come into this, I mean, things that travel through the air as well, which may not have a particular. Telltale odor sensors, are there sensors that can actually find these kind of things in the air?


Andy Dengel [00:15:11] Yeah, we don't know. I don't think at the very top level as we speak, people probably working on ways to, for instance, you know, to to detect COVID 19 in the air, for instance. I think there's been work done on surfaces, but the problem is you're really dealing with surrogates in a way it's a part of the particles. Viruses are particles in very small particle size range, which we call ultra fine particles. So if you can have a sense of it looks for ultra fine particles, that's particles under one micron. So. You know, there's an indication that if you can remove if, for instance, an air purifier or a piece of ventilation reduces the amount of ultrafine particles, then it's a pretty it's a pretty good assumption that you will be doing something to either remove or reduce the amount of virus particles in the air. But as we stand at the moment, there's nothing that I know certainly to be able to do in reducing buildings to actually sense virus particles. So you're really into the realms of, you know, looking at the closest surrogate, which in this case would be small particles.


Michael Moran [00:16:22] And there's, you know, one of the things I wanted to talk to you about is the reaction to an indication that air is substandard. So the Environmental Protection Agency in the U.S. has a as a kind of basic best practices guide on its website. And they they run through things like the obvious, which are, you know, open a window, you know, down to, you know, essentially having that tough conversation with your HVAC company to see whether there's something they can do with it. The one thing that stood out for me was they have a very they're they're not saying that air purifiers, even those with HEPA filters are particularly effective and they're not, you know, they're not saying they're useless, but it's not part of their recommended reaction to poor air quality. Why is that?


Andy Dengel [00:17:24] I think you know that on top of those, of course, with the things that you probably thought about before resource control, you know, there are things you could do in terms of hopefully reducing sources of air pollution, but coming onto the things like filters and other air purifiers. I think it's because they're all good in principle, but they all have to be used properly and sited properly and maintained properly. And I think that that's the thing where we're lagging behind. So, for instance, the HEPA filters need changing every so often. If you're going to sell air purifiers that are actually using Nuvei or Ozone or combinations of those things to change the chemistry of the air, then you've always you've got problems that you might produce, byproducts you don't want. And certainly in the UK, the Sage Group, which advise the government on COVID and other issues, are saying be very careful before you tax things simply because. There's a chance that you may you may cause other problems. We'd like to see more standards for these sort of things, both filter systems and they have HEROFi assembly so that people can have some confidence but know that their only one. I think only one part of the armament or the armory, if you like to combat bad air quality, I think it's the combination has to be. Things like opening windows, if you can, but then being careful, you don't do so if there's pollution outside. There's a lot of occupant behavior and the way people use buildings. There's a bit about source control. I think if all those fail, then of course you do need to start. First of all, monitoring to some extent and then using some sort of, you know, ventilation or air purification technology on top of what's already there. But I think it's I'm not saying it's the last resort. But I think there's a there's a sort of a hierarchy of things you might want to try and do before you got to that to that extent, because it can be hard to do it in large buildings and complex buildings.


Michael Moran [00:19:26] And you mentioned something interesting the the open the window thing. You know, obviously you've got to be selective. If you're in Beijing, you don't open the window. There is, I mean, early in my career, I would say an Associated Press reporter in a city in the U.S., Newark, New Jersey, not notable for its clear air. And in fact, the State Department of Environmental Protection noted that the place where the Associated Press put the bureau, which was at the confluence of some rail yards, the runways at Newark airport and three interstate highways was measured as the worst air in the state. Luckily, because of the Associated Press penchant for trying to save money, we used to say You can't spell cheap without AP. We had no windows anyway, so we couldn't open the windows. But no, but I can totally relate to that because you would walk outside the door and realize that you were surrounded by particulate matter. You know, that brings up an interesting question what is someone to do in an environment which exist all over the world? Places like Mumbai and Beijing and many industrial cities where the air quality outside is is almost certainly worse than whatever you're experiencing inside is. How do you unravel those kind of conundrums?


Andy Dengel [00:20:55] And I think that is the big problem when it comes to, you know, just having to shut the windows and knowing when you can open the windows. In other words, almost monitoring or, you know, when there's a time when there's no air pollution outside, so you get some ventilation. But then the rest of the time just keeping it out. I think that that's the big problem here. It was different. All buildings are different. All localities are different. And then, you know, we have the other problem where people are encouraged to open windows, but because they're in high storey buildings, the health and safety regulations say you can only open the windows 10 centimeters. So the opportunity for sort of cross ventilation and proper ventilation is very small because it is only a very small OpenTable amount of windows, so it really is, you know, it can be a varied problem, depending where you are. But it definitely comes down to, I think, more public awareness. And some of that is out there on the internet. But I just we we we feel it needs to be more targeted and almost brought into school curricula because it's such an important thing. You know, bad air quality, as we know, can have the potential to cause health effects, and some of the worst damage can be done to respiratory systems, you know, when people are young. And some of that, some of those things that they may experience due to bad air quality and then, you know, go and live with them for the rest of their lives. So there's some very good work done in this country in the UK by the Royal College of Physicians and also the Royal College of Pediatricians and Child and Child Health. Big studies looking at, you know, scientific indoor air quality and air quality and its effects on people throughout their lives and starting to look at how we can educate people to do the best they can to to limit their exposure.


Michael Moran [00:22:52] Andy, hold on right there, we're going to take one more break. OK, we're back with Dr. Randy DeAngelo of the building research establishment in the UK. Any right before the break, we were talking about the studies that were now being mounted to look at the real long term health effects of poor air quality, of course, in my youth. I remember very well in the U.S. it was those kind of studies of outdoor air pollution that led to things like the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act as a twin and really kind of in the start of the environmental movement back in the 70s and 80s. Are we now seeing a regulation that's inevitable? I know there is some in the U.K., there's some in in specific jurisdictions in the United States like New York City and some of the more progressive cities around the country. But are we likely now to see much more focus from regulators on indoor air quality?


Andy Dengel [00:23:59] I think we're getting towards that. But I say it's always it's always difficult because if you going to do that, you then you need to be able to incentivize house builders and other developers to think more about it. But I think we're starting to see the need to look more indoor outdoor air because as you said, we've known about it a long time and there is a monitoring zone in the UK now, and I'm sure that's the case in the US and other places. Lots of monitoring of outdoor air to the point where you can go on to government website in the UK and find out, you know, the particle level will be an O2 level at any one time near to where you live. But there just isn't the data indoors, and I think this is being recognized by certainly the government departments I talked to. You know, where's the large study that starts to really look at indoor air quality and measuring? The last one that I know of was done by the Bay Area cells 20 25 years ago when we monitored 900 houses for a whole range of parameters that gave some good indications of the salt levels you can get in houses. But of course, twenty five years has seen a whole new way of building more modern methods of construction, the air efficient natural indoor energy efficiency agenda. So things have changed and there are studies out there, but they tend to become just very small samples of houses or or one development. So I think there's very much a call for bigger studies and then link that to the to the effects on health and well-being more. And I think we need quick studies that happened immediately rather than three to four year collaborative research. It's brilliant. But you can often take two years to conceive it and then four years to do the research and another year to disseminate. I don't think we necessarily want to take that long. I think some stuff needs to be done now. To look at the real situation and what what government can then do and use its regulation and use its incentivization to promote change.


Michael Moran [00:26:08] And I want to ask a question, it's not about air quality, I know your your title is about the IS reference. Sorry, your title references indoor environments generally, and there's a lot more to indoor environments than air. One of the things that also has been subject to study over the years is the extent to which high decibels or the wrong lumens brightness. You know, getting that kind of a mix wrong can be very damaging to people as well. Could you talk about that for a second?


Andy Dengel [00:26:45] You are very important, so a lot like, for instance, is very important for many reasons, not only in having the right amount of light and the right spectrum of light. If you like to do the tasks which you need to do, whether that be reading or some other wherever Typekit might be. And also, there are some big influences on the amount of sunlight the daylight people get. Effects on circadian rhythms. And also, of course, the thing people forget is, you know, too much sunlight into a building then causes heating and thermal discomfort. Settings and lighting is very, very important. And also. A sound and a noise, and there are two two main things here, there's there's plenty about what we call background noise or environmental noise, and then there's. Acute noise due to certain processes, and I think often the more important one is because you can often do something if you know there's going to be some particular noise in there, loud people can take some action. But it's really the background level of background noise and the the frequencies involved that can can cause problems in in workplaces and homes. So very important to take those into consideration, as well as things like ventilation and equality in a holistic. Assessment, and I know that in the UK, there are some moves towards having some some standards which really take in all of these parameters in an overall assessment of an indoor space so that, you know, so that nothing gets left out. Because if you treat one and leave the other three, you can have problems.


Michael Moran [00:28:27] I think just as with the pandemic, air quality has become something that people pay attention to tinnitus and issues of hearing loss have have become more focused upon in recent years. I suffer from it myself, I should say, which is not surprising. I spent years in very loud cities and played rock and roll in a band. I ride motorcycles. I covered wars when I was a journalist. I mean, I've been in some pretty loud environments and you know, there's a persistent ring. And I think there's a lot of people now that have this issue and it's become a much more front and center issue. Is that something that you're seeing employers be concerned about because there's not tonight specifically, but just let decibel levels background noise? Is there a demand in the market? I guess is the way I should ask it for it, for the kind of measurements that would help people prevent these problems.


Andy Dengel [00:29:34] Overall, not suffice to say, it's another thing that comes into the good. These things are measured for if people want credit for an environmental assessment scheme and they sometimes measure when people have already come forward with problems. Unfortunately, the sort of proactive measurement is quite rare in my experience. And so it's not my particular specialty acoustics, but certainly a lot of what goes in the design stage and stuff like that. And as I said, to get credits for four environmental schemes in terms of actually in occupation measurement. Certainly, I would. I'd say not enough is done. Some some projects have employees will do this, but often in my experience, it's people who are exposed to very loud sounds, for instance, you know, in a workshop or a lab or a factory. They will then have hearing tests as part of their occupational health. But I think we're missing a lot of other people who are exposed, not through, not through the incident to their occupation exposure at work, if you like. So I guess my answer is we probably need to do more and a much more proactive basis.


Michael Moran [00:30:48] Any of this has been tremendously fascinating, I could continue forever. And thinking about all the train stations and fire stations I've lived next to in London and New York and other cities in the course of my life and damage that probably did. But in any case, would you give the audience a sense of how they could learn more about these issues and follow your work at? Very.


Andy Dengel [00:31:18] Yes, certainly, I mean, the first of will very quickly say is that we some of we see some of the worst cases. So if I've painted a bad picture, you know, always that concern is something to think about. And if you need more information, please go to our website, which is W WW dot Beharie Group dot com. And under testing, you'll see a section on indoor environments that will give you some information and also some some publications that we've done on things like ensuring good air quality and good lighting for for health and well-being. And there's a lot more on on the website connecting that with our aspects of the built environment.


Michael Moran [00:32:03] Thank you, Doctor. I'll ask one more question if you were going to read one study on the importance of air quality. What would it be in your recommendation?


Andy Dengel [00:32:16] And there's there's a report called Every Breath We Take is the RCP, so if you if you put in Royal College of Physicians, Physicians, RCP, I'm sure it's called every, every breath we take. That's a sort of it was about 2016, but it really sets the scene about air quotes. And although most of it's not outdoor air quality, it references the importance of indoor air quality. And in fact, it's led to another report since when I say every breath we take by the RCP. We'll give you a very good understanding of both air quality and its potential effects on people's physical and mental health.


Michael Moran [00:32:58] Well, thank you so much, Dr. Andy Tangle theory, of course, you can learn more about microshare and how we're helping get the world safely back to work with our every smart suite of products, including every smart air, which is directly related to this conversation, every smart, clean, smart space. You can also subscribe to Manifest Density on the website or download it on iTunes, Google Play, iHeartRadio, Spotify and other platforms. But that'll do it for this week. And on behalf of Microshare and its global employees, I want to thank Dr. Randy Dango again and say, This is Mike Moran saying so long. Be well and thank you for listening.


Manifest Density - Episode 57 - Stacey Higgenbothom - IoT and the COVID-19 moment

Manifest Density - Episode 57 - Stacey Higgenbothom - IoT and the COVID-19 moment

March 14, 2022


IoT and the COVID-19 moment
Tech journalist and IoT trend-setter Stacey Higgenbothom on IoT's COVID relevance

Stacey Higginbotham is a freelance writer who has spent the last 15 years covering technology and finance for publications such as Fortune, Gigaom, The Deal, The Bond Buyer and BusinessWeek. Stacey covers the Internet of things, semiconductors, and artificial intelligence.

Check out Stacey on IoT


Episode transcript:

The transcription of this episode is auto generated by a third-party source. While Microshare takes every precaution to insure that the content is accurate, errors can occur. Microshare, Inc.  is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information.

Michael Moran [00:00:00] This is manifest density. Hello, everyone, and welcome to this edition of Manifest Density, your host Michael Moran here, and we are going to explore the intersection of COVID 19, global business society and technology today. Manifest density is brought to you by the global smart building and ESG data company Microshare. Unleash the data. Today, we're going to talk technology. In fact, we're going to talk about the Internet of Things, and I'm very, very pleased to have today. Stacy Higginbotham, who is the curator and writer of Stacy on IoT really, really well circulated newsletter. So it's a real pleasure to welcome you to manifest density. 

Stacey Higgenbothom [00:00:43] Thank you for having me. I'm really excited. 

Michael Moran [00:00:46] Stacy, we follow you here. Microshare fairly religiously. I get your newsletter, forwarded it to me all the time. And so it's it's overdue that I reached out. Had you on the program, 

Stacey Higgenbothom [00:00:58] you could sign up for it directly. 

Michael Moran [00:01:01] Yeah, I know I do. Actually, I get it. But you know what that's like? I get about 350 emails a day. It's overwhelming. How does one become a journalist who covers the Internet of Things? What was your journey? 

Stacey Higgenbothom [00:01:13] Oh, it was meant to say time consuming because I've been a tech journalist for probably about 20 years, a little over that now. And I started out covering semiconductors because I was was actually a reporter for a local Austin paper, and semiconductors was a big business. So I did that and then I went into networking and then I went into wireless and cloud computing and databases. And around 2012, all of those things started to come together in what we were calling the Internet of Things. And we were really excited about it. And I had. Basically, all the technical elements, so it was kind of fun for me because all of a sudden I went from this person who babbled on about spectrum policy and like new wireless standards at parties to somebody who could talk about really cool gadgets. And so like, my stock went up tremendously, and that is basically how I started covering the Internet of Things. So for the sake 

Michael Moran [00:02:12] of those who listen to this podcast and don't always dove into the technology, give us a quick definition from you from apart from on high, I should say, of what the Internet of Things is and how it's kind of evolved over the last 12 years or so. 

Stacey Higgenbothom [00:02:31] Yes. And before before I got into it, it was called M to M. So I'm not going to say that it was like the Internet of Things has always been here in some ways, or as as long as there's been wireless connectivity and computing. So basically, my definition of the IoT is when cheap computing, ubiquitous wireless and cheap sensors all came together in a way around it. It started out around smartphones was the renaissance of this. But all of that comes together and it makes the invisible visible. And I am so excited about this opportunity because we can do so much with the information if we can just figure out how to grab it cheaply, how to behave ethically with it, and how to deliver insights that can really help us. I look at it is helping us fix the climate. I think it's really important to helping people live better, maybe more fulfilling lives. I don't want to go that far and really just help us be the best versions of ourselves. So that sounds really super optimistic, but it's also very concrete. 

Michael Moran [00:03:45] Yeah, I mean, so I mean, I try really hard, except for the sponsorship slots to keep microshare out of this podcast. If you listen, you know that. But this is so directly relevant to what we do because in effect, what we've tried to do is take the complexity out of iOttie and make. My CEO Ron ROCs likes to say our customers don't even know how to spell iOttie. So ultimately, the idea is that you have a an outcome rather than a technology product. Do you have data that's telling you whether the air quality is sufficient or data that's telling you how many people are in a room or whether the water temperature is is being calibrated properly so that you don't get Legionnaires disease or, you know, those types of data feeds that never existed before, you know, and in the world that we operate in. You know, I like to say, you know, we take these what we're once inert brick and mortar assets and we create vital signs we create. We show you that actually, this is a living breathing entity. This this building, it's got air, it's got a circulatory system, it's got a plumbing system, so it's got a digestive system. So ultimately, we can kind of track the condition and the operations and the wellness of the environment. And that's huge and think. And it also has that, as you referred to this incredible sustainability application in terms of knowing how you're treating the people in your space or knowing how much energy you're using and whether it's used efficiently, things like that. I mean, is this something that was it? It is. Those are the kind of things that were imagined in the beginning or has this kind of evolved with things like the pandemic and recessions and. 

Stacey Higgenbothom [00:05:31] Things have definitely evolved with the pandemic. I think in the beginning, I mean, if we look all the way back, I actually just had someone on my podcast who created the term IoT all the way back in 1985. So his name was Peter Lewis, and he was the one of the founders of Cellular one. And basically, he he back in 1985, was like, Hey, we've got this thing called the ARPANET. I've got mobile phone connectivity now. It's like, Let's let's sign up traffic lights and air conditioning and building and power grids, all to the cellular network so they can give their status. This is his vision 37 years ago. And I think we've always needed something like this, but it has been so hard again because sensors were expensive, wireless connectivity was expensive. The computing for the analytics was expensive, so I think we've always needed more information because that's what we do as people, right? We just didn't have a way to get it economically and feasibly. So you could only monitor super important things. 

Michael Moran [00:06:43] OK, Stacey, we're going to take a break, perhaps a superfluous break since I've already talked about that sponsor. But to hear from our sponsor? OK, I am back with Stacey Higginbotham, who covers the Internet of Things from I o to T. Stacey, we're talking about how it's evolved over the years and the ubiquity of it potentially to create data in all sorts of places and spaces. But of course, that also means it's a big ubiquity, makes it an enormous target for cybercrime and hacking and all sorts of mischief. The IoT, it strikes me, had a pretty bad reputation in its early years because people were just hooking it up to their corporate networks. There's this famous story about the the fish feeder in a tank in some kind of an aquarium. 

Stacey Higgenbothom [00:07:34] I call this the fish. The fish tank that was heard around the world. 

Michael Moran [00:07:39] Oh yeah. Tell us that story. It's funny. 

Stacey Higgenbothom [00:07:42] So this is this is probably I want to say it was from a Verizon security report, either in 2008, I think it was 2013, and a casino in Vegas had a fish tank monitor and that was on there. We'll just call it an OT network because it was just a sensor. Don't work, but it somehow connected to their I.T. network. So hackers were able to get in through the fish tank and then get into the rest of the casino network. A similar example that people always talk about is target. Their big data breach, and I don't. It was a while ago, probably same timeframe. Those hackers came in through the H-back system and then ended up in their point of sale system. So yes, we used to stick all kinds of things. We're like, Oh, I just put it on the internet, or let's just buy a network DVR and things. I mean, it sounds so ridiculous. But even as far back as 2013, when we were writing about this, we had to tell people to stop using hard coded passwords in their, you know, routing equipment, which now I would look at somebody like why? That's the craziest thing ever. So we've gotten a lot more sophisticated on the security side. I think what we're realizing, though, is as we try to lock this down, that we don't have the right security models in place. So we're starting to see them evolve like zero trust security and and that'll be really important going forward. But also equally important is getting rid of all that other stuff. We can't actually leave that on the network. It's yeah. 

Michael Moran [00:09:17] So I had just moved this weekend to a new place and had to set up my Wi-Fi. And lo and behold, the password was password and the username was user. And the only thing they could have done to make that less secure was perhaps translate that into Russian. Make it easier. I mean, it's astounding. But so we've taken this approach to IoT security, which is very common now, which is you don't expect anybody to use their internal network. Of course, you don't want to your treasury anywhere near an IoT device. What you do is you create a LoRaWAN or Zigbee or some kind of internal, you know, low way, low bandwidth, low net cost, low end with network that essentially is completely disconnected from any kind of IP or anything that's that sensitive and run everything. There is kind of a closed loop. And, you know, I always think of that as early days of the internet. I was at, which was the kind of pioneer at NBC News on the internet, and I was wondering why I couldn't get Andrea Mitchell and all these high profile correspondents to, you know, pay attention to what we were doing because we were breaking news on their beats. And it turned out that NBC News didn't allow them to go on the internet. It was astounding. They had the old, you know, dumb terminal approach to things because they were afraid that CBS would hack in and find out what's on nightly news. 

Stacey Higgenbothom [00:10:54] Oh my gosh, I can't imagine being a reporter and not having access to the internet. 

Michael Moran [00:10:58] Well, I'm an old man now, but there was a time when the internet didn't exist, and I was, you know, one of the evangelists at NBC to try to get them to open the channel for their journalists. So they obviously did, and now they're very good at it. But it reminds me that approach. It's almost like we're going back to the future, right? We're creating now many networks to kind of quarantine the corporate network away and make the the IoT devices more secure. Is that a long term solution? 

Stacey Higgenbothom [00:11:31] I have no idea, but I will say this, we have historically just very broadly speaking, try to make the world flat in, you know, if you think about technology in the internet at large, you think about like Facebook before it was super evil. They were to say, Hey, everybody can be who they are on the internet. No layers, very flat. We all talk to one another. That doesn't go well. I think we all want this, this utopia where everything's connected and it's easy. But I think adding that friction is probably important because humans are not all awesome people that you want to sit next to for a long period of time. Right? Or trust with your secrets and data. So I think this is a start. I actually did a story about it that just ran today on the web site was in last week's newsletter about the end of general purpose wireless networks, which talks actually to the specific thing, which is, we're going to have many, many, many networks and we're going to have to have ways to bring data from one to the other in ways that feel secure. And that is like way above my pay grade figuring all that out. 

Michael Moran [00:12:45] Yeah, and that's about mine as well, though, that's precisely where the name of the company I work for came from Microshare, there's actually this incredibly complex back end that shares data in a very specific, carefully curated way with different types of stakeholders, with each of whom are assigned different permissions and ownership levels. And, you know, microshare had that has lived with the curse of being out in front of the market and in some cases, because who's going to buy that right? Right now, it's there's a data market data market out there, but it tends to be all about, you know, advertising and people selling your data without your really knowing it. 

Stacey Higgenbothom [00:13:32] That's one of my greatest disappointments is that that we've we had a chance that we still do. If you look at technology, you know, think about the launch of broadband back in, I don't know, 2000, when we start having dial up, right? It enabled all these companies and the underlying technology was not the key. It was what you did with it. And then we built the business models around that tied to advertising. And when I look at that and I see that coming to IoT, it's frustrating because the data is both more personal. So it feels much more insulting to get an ad for the fact that you were, you know, I don't know, Stacey, you only walked 2000 feet yesterday. You need to eat a salad, you know, just something that feels a little too intrusive and possibly judge. And then this idea that we could do so much more with it if we could figure out a different business model and we enabled trust. And this is trust from security, but trust also from the data that people have. So I feel like if we actually want the IoT to be what it can be, we need to dump the ad business model. And it's really hard to get away from that kind of highly lucrative flow of cash, but we got to figure it out. 

Michael Moran [00:14:53] Yeah, and, you know, regulators are not going to do it because they were they would have. All right. Well, let's hold on, pause there and take a break to hear from our sponsor. OK, I'm back having a fascinating conversation with Stacey Higginbotham, the journalist who covers the Internet of Things. Her newsletter is really a must read for iOttie, and I hope you guys will go and sign up. Stacey, I wanted to talk about a little bit about the kind of confluence of COVID, which from our perspective, it made. It made the kind of nice to have internal environmental sensors a must have in some cases. So where we find that we're talking to a whole new group of people, not just facilities managers, not just it, but people like H.R. and people like CFOs who were wondering how much of their real estate portfolio was actually being used and which ones to get rid of which which buildings are sick buildings. You know, they're they're looking for data. They're looking for ways to make these big strategic decisions. How, you know, we also same time you've got this much larger trend that hopefully will outlast the pandemic on sustainability and environmental social governance practices, where IoT is once again quite relevant. You can create data streams that help you prove out your sustainability initiatives or help you report on how you're performing or what are you seeing out there. That's innovative. That's interesting. 

Stacey Higgenbothom [00:16:31] Oh, so many things. So you're right. COVID COVID definitely accelerated people's IoT deployments for a couple reasons. One. Everybody was going remote ray. So now you had to have the tools for them to be able to access whatever their job used to be, and that was a forcing function on that front and on the health care front. What I think is also relevant, and I don't know if it's because companies started seeing the data from like people counting or whatever they were doing with, we'll call it digital transformation. But basically, I'm just thinking, hey, slap at a bunch of sensors around in building up some applications that can use that sensor data to help make decisions, right? So once they did that for COVID, they saw potentially other things they could do with it. The other thing that I think is kind of tied to this and I don't know which is the cause of which is the effect is basically what I'm saying here is we had a really brutal series of suburbs in California with wildfires, which drove a lot of people to think about things like indoor air quality and made climate change in your face, in your face, I guess. And when that happened, we saw people recognizing the fact that their buildings could be more efficient and tied with that Kobe data that they were already getting or data tied to like people in the space, that sort of thing. We got a big push for sustainability in buildings. And I think. There's a stat and I can't remember where it's from, but it's basically like 40 percent of our carbon emissions come from buildings. I see that stat on every other press release right now because it is a very top of mind for both people buying stuff and for people trying to sell stuff. And I'm super excited about this because one, I think it is going to be great for energy efficiency, but to it gets us beyond asset tracking as a viable use case for the IoT. So I am all for anything that moves us beyond those first few things that people were really excited about 

Michael Moran [00:18:44] so that the early so yeah, that's unpretty is that stat, I'm pretty sure. 

Stacey Higgenbothom [00:18:50] OK, there you go. 

Michael Moran [00:18:51] Thank you. Principles of responsible investing. It's the United Nations principles, and that's where I think that comes from. And it's it's a kind of mash up of commercial real estate at 29 percent. You can tell I've quoted this before, and the rest of it is construction and development. So, but yeah, when you put it together, it's 40 percent of global emissions. That's gargantuan, right? Yeah, that's not picking on the couch. But ultimately, what about you know, what we're finding is that the kind of sustainability iOttie one to one point, oh, really wasn't about sensors. It was the technology was really web crawling spiders that looked at your utility bills and kind of uploaded that information to make it convenient. It really didn't change anything. There's no way you're going. You could you could do that and still burn inefficiently, you know, from now until the next century. But that was kind of the 1.0, the 2.0 to me, which is really not there yet. We are doing it. But I think once again, this is microshare out ahead of the market is in the social component of ESG, the social meaning, you know, how people are treated, whether buildings are responsive, whether they're safe, whether you know the quality of the air and the quality the water in the building is is being properly maintained, although those calibration kind of things that were taken for granted before the pandemic are now susceptible to IoT. And that could be a really powerful accelerant of, you know, not necessarily climate. Not everything in ESG is climate, remember, but of, you know, making a humane, safe, you know, performing workplace. 

Stacey Higgenbothom [00:20:42] Sure. Now I'm curious what you mean when you say a safe, humane performance workplace, because that implies that prior to this they weren't. 

Michael Moran [00:20:51] Well, I don't think anybody who has ever worked in an office building and felt like they needed a Snickers bar and a cup of coffee at 4:30 realized that they were being poisoned by carbon. 

Stacey Higgenbothom [00:21:05] Got it. OK, so 

Michael Moran [00:21:07] so this part of the you know, the reality that the pandemic has made people realize indoor spaces are not simply big, open empty places, there's things around you, there's the humidity, there's the temperature, there is carbon buildup, there are particulates in the air. Right, right. The extent to which you can know, for instance, for sure how many times a conference room was used today and whether it was cleaned. Right. Those are all things that are susceptible to data. And so ultimately, how many people are in the cafeteria right now? Do you really want to go in and waste a half an hour standing in line for coffee? Or you want to wait 20 minutes? Look at your phone app and say, Oh, there's no one there. I'm going now. And these are the kind of elements that I think I think the pandemic has kind of raised awareness of the value of these kind of things. 

Stacey Higgenbothom [00:22:03] I think the economics associated with this information have changed both the importance and the economics. So and I say that because of COVID, because you suddenly have possibly fewer workers, but you also recognize that keeping your workers means keeping them safe or keeping them at their desks means keeping them uninfected. So you have to track high quality indoor air, right? You have to make sure that's a thing in prior to that. There were companies doing this sort of thing, but they were they were. A lot of them were in Europe. Some of them were in China because air pollution is a bigger deal over there. But basically, they were sorry. But with COVID, it suddenly became important to companies to have that. Tracking and facilities management internal to their operations in some of this gets to the bottom line with technology, as we have a lot of things available to us, we can track all kinds of crazy stuff, but a lot of times we don't care about it until we have to. And that usually is based on some sort of economic incentive and for good or ill. I think that's what happened with COVID. 

Michael Moran [00:23:24] So we're seeing now. I want to stay with air quality because it's an interesting use case, which we've seen several instances where a company recognizes the value of knowing about the quality of the air. And that's partly because productivity falls when the air quality is bad. But it's also because people now, as you said, retention and recruitment. People want to know these things because they don't want to spend most of their week sitting in a poisonous room, right? So but what do you do? This has been the great conundrum with air quality. All right. Let's say you have an air quality monitoring system installed in your building, and there's persistent bad air in one area and you've tried all the easy things opening windows, you know, tweaking the facts. Nothing's working. That's the I think that's the great conundrum. It's the warnings there. The economic incentive then becomes take the damn things out. We don't know, and we don't want to know. 

Stacey Higgenbothom [00:24:28] Well, so in I think I think that's kind of the challenge with iOttie without a use, without a clearly defined use case is that you'll start seeing things that you don't necessarily understand or you don't want to have to understand because fixing them is going to be expensive or a problem. And we actually see this with things like air quality monitoring outside of the outside, not just inside. So it's very well known that schools generate a lot of air pollution because parents come by and pick up their children and leave their engines idling. And to solve that problem, you would have to either. I mean, they tell people to turn off their engines, but you might also have to make Bible school leagues. And so in your example of having bad indoor air quality in a specific area, the onus then becomes from detecting the problem to figuring out why it's happening and then fixing it in. That's not a technology issue, right? That's a business or operational or societal issue. And I think a lot of times when we talk about technology, we forget. Even technologists who are building it, they forget that they're just a tool and we have to have all these other things around it to actually do what the tool is supposed to do. 

Michael Moran [00:25:53] What do you think the role of regulators are in all of this? I have seen there have been a smattering of reports about New York City. I think in the UK, in the school systems there now, at least checking air quality doesn't mean they're monitoring it. But I think they do a test now and then what do you think we're going to see a world where regulators get involved in this? 

Stacey Higgenbothom [00:26:18] I hope we do. And I say this because right now we have so many environmental or OSHA type regulations that we can't actually. Right now, they're they're checked by an inspector coming. If you look at like the EPA, they actually notify their factories before they show up in the factories. They're like, Oh, the EPA is coming to check our emissions tomorrow. Let's fix that. Oh, I think the same way we've managed things like cold chain, especially around food production or drug production, we could do that for environmental something in the air quality sensing. We just have to have the rules and then the stuff in place. And so I think I honestly do think it. I don't know why. Well, I do know why. So we should have sensors in place on, you know, any sort of manufacturing plant that the EPA is monitoring, right? And they should have a line into that sensor data so they can track it on an ongoing basis. Why don't we have responsive fines when things get out of whack? It's not impossible. Businesses are already doing it themselves. So I think the regulatory side, we have the laws, but we might be better off just moving to enforcement of the existing laws. And then, yes, I do think we need more laws around the types of things. We're going to hold people accountable for the types of outcomes that get generated. And it's really complicated. 

Michael Moran [00:27:56] Yeah. So, Stacey, I wanted to ask one last question. What is the coolest? iOttie use case you've seen in the last year, what really kind of made you go wow 

Stacey Higgenbothom [00:28:11] in the last year on the enterprise or consumer side, 

Michael Moran [00:28:16] I just pick one. It doesn't matter, but enterprise will be fine. But consumers crucial to. 

Stacey Higgenbothom [00:28:25] Sorry. This is a hard one, because pandemic timing messes everything. I think the coolest thing I have seen and I think this was in 2020, but I'm not sure. Our. Density is a company that makes people motion tracking sensors for piercing density is a company that makes motion tracking. No density is a company that's made people counting sensors, and they do it using some proprietary algorithms and some infrared and thing I think is so cool about it is it's very accurate and it's also privacy first. And I've seen a lot of very cool things coming on the kind of RF sensing front that I think have a lot more potential than video cameras for basic tracking in ways that do not infringe on people's privacy. And I'm super excited about that. 

Michael Moran [00:29:27] Yeah, we we went down that road as well with with Bluetooth based contact tracing wearables, and it was precisely because it didn't collect PII, which is personally identifiable information that it was successful. And you know, the other thing because the alternative with the smartphone tracking and we didn't like that for all sorts of reasons. We have clients on the world where smartphones are not necessarily ubiquitous. Plus, you're a manufacturer, you can't have a smartphone on the floor because it's firstly, it's dangerous because it's distracting and they the batteries run out. And so it defeats the whole contact tracing concept. So, yeah, we did. We did a bunch of stuff that was and I learned a new word sue. Anonymized. So as opposed to being anonymous, which means that you could never be uncovered, so to speak. The idea of contact tracing is if somebody reports a symptom, they can do a reverse database query and then unmask the various wearables to know who has been exposed to this person over the last week and tell them to get tested. So there had to be somebody who had the ability to find out, OK, what badge was John wearing? Because John needs to get tested before it comes back to the office. So it's, you know, we've had zero shutdowns in any of the places we deployed it. And but that was a major issue for us. The PII was, you know, you you download something onto your smartphone and your boss is not just tracking you work is tracking you everywhere. Right? So that's not cool. And no one wanted it. No one would download it. 

Stacey Higgenbothom [00:31:12] Yeah. 

Michael Moran [00:31:13] There were all sorts of challenges that that led to the success of our product, which was universal contact tracing, especially in manufacturing environments where you just you can't send people home and still make revenue. So that was a really important kind of mid-pandemic success for us and got a lot of attention. And still, interestingly, because of the persistence of COVID where it's being renewed, what we thought was like a one year battlefield innovation turns out now people were in their third year of the contracts thanks to Delta and on the Crown, which, you know, we frankly would rather see this going away. It's not a huge chunk of our revenue, but 

Stacey Higgenbothom [00:31:59] are they pulling in other data or using it for it? Because I think there's once you see broadly like where people cluster, I think there's some interesting opportunities around scheduling lunches or, you know, 

Michael Moran [00:32:10] we are actually there's new applications often, you know, these are the brainchild of the client. So in the nursing home industry in the UK, we've done a several year study with contact tracing wearables in 16 nursing homes and that's been now expanded to 64. They call them care homes in the UK. And so, yes, this was very valuable to know when someone had symptoms who had they've been in touch with. But then the the nursing home administrators realized, OK, it's also prevented several people from wandering off campus, which, you know, the whole U.S. version of the silver alert someone with dementia. So they get an alert when somebody breaks the defense. And then the other part of it was they also noticed that in some nursing homes, the contact tracing wearables that were assigned to the staff were sitting in a break room and a suspicious circle. Turns out they were playing poker most of the day. And so this got the the kind of unpleasant nickname of slacker tracker. Now that's that's just kind of funny in the in the general world. But in a nursing home, part of the the therapeutic care of an elderly person is human contact. So the nursing home owners were realizing they're not even going and making rounds and saying hello to these people, and that means they're being basically storehouse. So that's become, you know, a really significant development project for us, and I think it's going to be, you know, part of the future. And again, it doesn't collect anybody's PII. But the it is possible to know how badge number eight three three three four is being worn by Joe Schmo, right? And that's part of the the value of it. So there comes a point where privacy, if you're going to get value and efficiency, there has to be transparency in that interaction. Sorry. There has to be transparency in that interaction, but ultimately there is a trade off with any technology. 

Stacey Higgenbothom [00:34:34] It's true, although I don't expect that level of privacy at work, so I'm OK with slacker trackers. 

Michael Moran [00:34:43] Well, we used to have slackers trackers in the 20th century. They were called your boss and they just kind of would show up over your shoulder every once in a while and say. Why are you reading about the New York Yankees right now? That's the kind of stuff that happened all the time. So now we're just getting efficient next year. 

Stacey Higgenbothom [00:35:01] You're outing yourself here. I like it. All right, 

Michael Moran [00:35:06] Stacy. It's been an enormous pleasure talking to you have gone way over. But because this is my podcast, it can be as long as I want. So ha. 

Stacey Higgenbothom [00:35:14] And because I'm on the podcast, on my podcast runs an hour, I mean, what did you think was going to happen? There you 

Michael Moran [00:35:19] go. All right. So I wanted to give you an opportunity to tell the audience where they can follow your work and how they could sign up for our newsletter. 

Stacey Higgenbothom [00:35:29] Sure. Thank you. Y'all can find me at Stacy on IoT, or you can find and download the Internet of Things podcast wherever you get your podcasts. 

Michael Moran [00:35:42] That's great. And of course, you know you can learn more about how microshare has helped get the world's safety back to work with ever smart suite of products. Sorry. With our ever smart suite of products, ever smart solutions, boost efficiency, enable cost savings and bring safety and reassurance to people inside your building portfolio. I would like to also remind you you could sign up for the podcast on our website. WW W Microshare Daddario and you can also find it on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeartRadio. Every place where you can find audio, you can probably find this once again. Stacy, thank you for joining us. It's been a real pleasure. 

Stacey Higgenbothom [00:36:21] Thanks for having me. 

Michael Moran [00:36:22] And that'll do it for this week on behalf of all our global employees. This is Michael Moran at Microshare saying So long be well and thank you for listening. 

Manifest Density - Episode 56 - Robert Baldock - Innovation during a global pandemic

Manifest Density - Episode 56 - Robert Baldock - Innovation during a global pandemic

March 3, 2022


Innovation during a global pandemic

Robert Baldock, Founder and MD of the Clustre Innovation Network, on a bright side of COVID-19.

Robert has 45 years of experience of conceiving innovative solutions, as well as selling and delivering them to major institutions.

Most of his career was spent at Accenture where he became one of the firm’s youngest-ever partners. Prior to leaving, he was Global Managing Partner responsible for the growth and success of Accenture’s Customer Relationship Management, Mergers & Acquisitions, and e-Commerce businesses within the financial services industry, where he achieved a global revenue target of £900m.

Upon leaving Accenture, Robert was the Global Leader of the Financial Services Industry practice within EDS where he grew an already large $3.4bn, 15,000 person outsourcing and consulting business. He was a top 40 leader within EDS.

Today he is the Managing Director of Clustre - the innovation brokers. He now helps major companies solve their most complex problems with certainty and speed by connecting these problem owners with companies with a proven track record of solving these problems, time and time again.

hyperlink to his linkedin:

Sponsored by Microshare.

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Episode transcript:

The transcription of this episode is auto generated by a third-party source. While Microshare takes every precaution to insure that the content is accurate, errors can occur. Microshare, Inc.  is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information.

Michael Moran [00:00:17] This is manifest density. Hello, everyone, and welcome to the latest edition of Manifest Density, your host Michael Moran here to explore the intersection of COVID 19 global business and society benefits. Density is brought to you by the global smart building and ESG data company Microshare. Unleash the data. Well, today I'm unleashing Robert Bolduc, who is the managing director of Cluster the Innovation Network. Robert, welcome.


Robert Baldock [00:00:53] Welcome to you. Thank you, Michael, for having me.


Michael Moran [00:00:56] Well, Robert, you're based in London, of course, and your mission and the mission of cluster is quite an innovative one. Why don't you give us just start out by giving us a sense of what it is that cluster does and how you got involved in this?


Robert Baldock [00:01:13] So I should describe myself first as someone who's have a lifelong passion for innovation. I'm an out of the box thinker, and I always try to see if there's a smart, clever way of solving a problem rather than the standard way. Notwithstanding that, I spent the first 23 three years of my professional life with this large firm called Accenture, whose proud boasts at the time 20 client with the problem was We can solve every problem there is. We're a mile wide in capability. And for a long time that that was sufficient to be a mile wide and capability. But as the world got more more complicated and technology more and more sophisticated, it started to show us and in particular that if you're going to solve a complex problem you need to have at your disposal people who have solved that problem. Time and time again, so switch forward to 10 years ago when I'd left these big companies behind me. I started to think that the the way in which big companies should be solving their most complex problems was not by turning to the large companies like Accenture and IBM and Capgemini, but actually to try to put their faith of trust in some of these smaller niche companies that were popping up left, right and center who would apply very innovative thinking and solutions to these very complex problems. That said, if you buy into that argument, who would you turn to if you're a large corporation? Which of these thousands of companies offering to to solve your every problem quickly? Would you turn to if you've never come across before, never knew that existed and indeed was slightly nervous about whether they could actually do what they promised? And so we 10 years ago conceived this business cluster as a business that words, on one hand, listen to a client who felt that they had a problem. They were willing to be seen sold by one of these niche firms and would trust us enough to introduce them to just that firm. And so in life, we play a dual role. We help large companies meet small, niche players who are very well placed to help those large companies solve that particular complex problem, in our words, with certainty and speed.


Michael Moran [00:03:40] So you are kind of a human crowdsource.


Robert Baldock [00:03:45] Well, it's less about the crowd. Some people describe as laughing is the business version of Tinder is that we make companies get together rather than individuals.


Michael Moran [00:03:57] And so you essentially there was a very innovative firm here that's now must be 15 to 20 years old. Angie's List. I'm sure you're familiar with yes, of course, which is a service that essentially acted as a reputation broker for tradesmen. Yeah. And and was very successful, and I haven't really followed them lately, but I imagine they've branched out into other things. How do you how do you identify the smaller companies that that make the grade?


Robert Baldock [00:04:33] So I'd love to say that whenever we see a space where we need to have someone on our books that is a deep expert in that space, let's take artificial intelligence, for example. Actually, that's a bad example because they actually I'll explain how we found the best firm in that field in a minute because we did it the proper way. Would you believe it's true recommendation? Someone will say to us, you've got to meet this from here, they are just out of the world, amazing at what they do. And so we meet with them because if someone has recommended to us, why wouldn't we go and see them? And if we see what we like, we then basically say, right, we'll only represent you if you can introduce us to three large corporate clients that you have taken all the way to success. We will interview those three large corporate clients, and unless they give us a 10 out of 10 each, they'll give us a 10 out of 10. We won't represent you because we cannot risk you not giving one of our clients and 10 out of 10 service. Now that's that has been the norm by and large. But what we basically saw in the imminent interest in air technology this over 25 years. By the way, we said maybe we should approach this differently. So a friend of mine had recently compiled a database of some four thousand eighty seven companies who all said they knew a thing or two about A.I.. Now, there was no way I could sift through four thousand eighty seven companies, one by one. But he said, luckily, I've got a little search engine as well. So to cut a long story short, I went from four thousand eighty seven to twenty five to 10 to five two three two one, and I ended up taking on board the one of those four thousand eighty seven companies to to represent them as an all honest opinion. The best, though, there is an AI consultant.


Michael Moran [00:06:30] Well, Robert, hold that thought, we're going to take a quick break to hear from our friends at Microshare. And we're back with Robert Bolduc, who is the managing managing director of Cluster Innovation Network in London. Robert, you know, I've had the experience of vetting big companies for various jobs that the company I worked for wanted to have. So we we when I was with Nouriel Roubini years ago, we decided to hire a PR firm. And I remember the experience of sitting in the conference room and watching the young people from Ogilvy and Mather and Edelman and Ruder Finn one after another. These phalanxes of young, bright people kind of file into our conference room and then some senior guy would present what they're going to do for us. And we all we kind of knew right there that we were never going to see that senior guy again. It was going to be one of these young people who looked it looked a bit like, you know, the the the veteran surgeon making his rounds with students traveling along behind. And, you know, when they cut you open, it was going to be one of those students.


Robert Baldock [00:07:45] So what do I do next, boss?


Michael Moran [00:07:47] Yeah. So I mean, why? Why does the small company model that you are pursuing Trump these bigger, you know, big four accounting or infamous global firms?


Robert Baldock [00:08:03] Actually, you've partly answered that question yourself, Michael. Well, actually, when I was with Accenture, our proposal was what you saw was what you got. That is not the norm, as you rightly said yourself, you know, they went in there, the superstars, they dazzle you and then basically you get a bunch of young kids signed up to do the job. What you tend to find with these niche companies, the scale ups as they call them, is you absolutely because all they've got is what you see. They're small and they don't have people fronting them. But secondly, because they're small, they're hungry, they're agile, they're nimble. They bend and adjust much more rapidly, much more appropriately to the needs of the client than a big company will ever do.


Michael Moran [00:08:51] That makes a lot of sense, I think. I mean, just from my experience here at Microshare as opposed to the corporate career I've had before. You know, we tried not to be bespoke, but you almost have to be. Yeah, when you're when you're dealing with complex things like smart building technology or, you know, the contact tracing wearables. Of course, that was a giant experiment when we when we launched it. So you really co-development some of these things with your clients. And that's that's both a a challenge from a business model standpoint, but it's also really builds loyalty and trust among the client service provider relationship. So I totally see where that happens. I want to turn the conversation to one of the expertize is that you list on your website when it is sustainability. Obviously, you know, the ESG, the environmental social government term is everywhere in the financial press these days, and it's its equivalent CSR corporate social responsibility is also everywhere. How do you define sustainability and what kind of a filter do you apply when you're trying to find the right people to recommend?


Robert Baldock [00:10:12] So there are a number of terms are inextricably linked. You've not used a number of other terms that get used on net zero climate change, et cetera. So for only the second time in my professional life. We've come across a a need to change, which has been embraced by and large by every single company on this planet. You can describe that need as we've got to get to net zero. We've got to reduce our carbon emissions for the sake of this planet. But there's there's a broader need than that, which is we need to make sure that we are creating a good business, one that's contributing not just the economy, but to the environment, to the welfare of all manner of people that we touch on a day to day business. And so this this move, this drive to become sustainable is is a move to change the way you approach your business so that everything you touch people, companies, the environment, products, cetera are creating a positive effect rather than necessarily perhaps a detrimental effect.


Michael Moran [00:11:31] Do you feel as though you're getting. Back feedback from the corporate world that suggests they're taking this seriously for the right reasons, or is this really a box they have to check to avoid reputational damage or regulatory issues?


Robert Baldock [00:11:48] Well, guess what, you get you, you do get both. We've sort of got a rule of thumb, which is if the large corporate has appointed a chief sustainability officer. And if that person reports direct to the chief executive, you know, they're taking it seriously. Secondly, if every other word that the chief executive mutters is either sustainable or climate change or net zero or diversity, you know they're taking it seriously because, you know, those words are being recorded. And unlike politicians, promises they will live up to them. They have to because the stakeholders expect them to. Yes, there are some people that basically come out and say we will be net zero by 2050, 2016, 2017. I don't think some of those people have really thought it through as to what's really involved. So you do get a mixture, but there's a there's a tidal effect here and those are taking it seriously, almost forcing those who are taking it less seriously to take it more seriously.


Michael Moran [00:12:56] Robert, hold on a second. We're going to call. Go for a word from the sponsor and we'll be right back. OK, I'm back with Robert Belder, the managing director of Cluster Innovation Network. Robert, you are at the nexus of innovation. If I could put it that way. What is what are you seeing out there? That's not in the newspapers and in the in the financial media every day that seems to be really new and exciting.


Robert Baldock [00:13:31] Well, let's look at what COVID caused. That was actually beneficial. So I talk about the U.S. put on the March 23rd, 2019, we were all ordered to work from home. We have to leave our offices with very little notice and work from home. Can you imagine the scramble that that caused for companies to change their work mode from owning an office to no one in an office and all that they had to do in order to make that possible? And that was achieved in a very short period of time. Compare and contrast that to anyone trying to get anything done quickly in the past. There was all sorts of processes and forms and obstacles, and they got brushed out of the way, pushed out of the way by COVID. And one of the things that we expect to continue now that we never had before is this whole notion of hybrid working, it being OK to work from home. You've being trusted to work from home and not watch Netflix. And it's forced us to find ways of collaborating where we are not in the same space. Whereas before the only way we can imagine collaboration was all being in the same space. So what COVID has done is it's made us reinvent the way we do work and basically get rid of some of the obstacles to getting things done more quickly. And so our hope is notwithstanding, you know, there's a lot of exciting things going on about with A.I., with data, with sensors, with no code apps that we've broken the back of slowness and this in itself in the same way some people joke. It's COVID drove digitization. More than anything else, we'd like to think that COVID has also driven up speed and removed obstacles to change.


Michael Moran [00:15:48] You know, some of the guests I've had on some, some fairly well known thinkers have tackled issues like the effect on the labor markets. Of course, in the US, there's this ongoing mystery about what's going on in the labor markets here, still very tight despite the low unemployment rate. There's also questions about how it affects global supply chains and kind of redefined in some way the whole concept of national security. I had the chief defense correspondent, the New York Times, on a couple of episodes back and I put him this question. You know, we've spent billions and billions of dollars to protect ourselves from foreign invasion. And lo and behold, we get it foreign invasion. And not only did we not, we're we're not prepared for it, but we couldn't even unite to fight it,


Robert Baldock [00:16:41] or we couldn't even find out what the best answer was and all follow suit.


Michael Moran [00:16:46] Yeah. And you know, he conceded that the the Pentagon, for instance, is now classifying global pandemic as a as a an enemy. If you want to put it that way. So what is it done socially? To innovators, I mean, I mean, innovation, when you think of innovation, you think of Edison in his laboratory with his collaborators, you think of people who are in collaboration with other great minds. How had had COVID affected that process?


Robert Baldock [00:17:23] I've got the best possible story to tell. You had Michael. So one of the companies may represent is go flux. They are innovation consultants. And in the good old days that you got in that room, you got out your stickers and you brainstormed a solution to the problem. Now it's March 23rd or thereafter and you can't get in the same room again. And who knows for how long? So does that kill innovation stand that? No, when you're innovators, you innovate. And so what this firm did was basically work out how to innovate when you want in the same room. And what would you know, Michael? They bid for a project that they would never bid for before. It would never won before, but they ended up working with a global confectionery company, helping them to conceive new products and services. This global confectionery company is headquartered in Chicago. They've never been to the client. I've never met them face to face. But they basically were able to convince them that we can show you how to innovate on a distributed basis. Another example is the copy that that was used so effectively here in the UK to warn you if you've been in close proximity to someone testing positive for COVID. This was developed by one of our firms in six weeks flat using 75 people working in 75 different locations around the world. This was an app that was developed literally 24 by seven. When they went to bed in London, they passed it over to Asia and they said, keep working on it. But they weren't working on it from a single office in Asia. They were working from their homes. So if you're smart and clever, you, you, you basically reconfigure. And that's what firms did, the smart ones we convicted.


Michael Moran [00:19:12] Yeah, I'm I can't not fail to mention the fact that we did that exact thing at the beginning of the pandemic when we we repurposed an asset zoning sensor into a wearable contact tracing solution, which had the additional advantage of not being on your cell phone. So the battery never died and it didn't scrape up your PII.


Robert Baldock [00:19:38] Well, on top of that, the cloud that you're mentioning had a role that banned the use of mobile phones in their factories, so they had to find a new mobile phone based solution to ensure that they kept their employees safe and you guys rode to the rescue.


Michael Moran [00:19:54] That's right, and I'm happy to say we're allowed to say who that is. It's GlaxoSmithKline's, and we're now in, I think, 21 factories around the world of theirs to help them keep up and running and producing pharmaceuticals, which takes density. You can't get around density in a factory like that.


Robert Baldock [00:20:12] Guess what? My and I told you about the process we go through to vet people. We talked to three of their clients before we decided to represent microshare. We spoke to, among others, GSK and we got a ten out of ten from GSK.


Michael Moran [00:20:24] That's great. And we've had we've just done a slam dunk self-promotional moment there. Robert, listen, this has been fascinating. I want to give you an opportunity to tell people, how would they learn more about cluster and about your own work?


Robert Baldock [00:20:41] So very simply, of course, they just go to our website WW w dot cluster spelt c l t r e dot net. And then the next thing they might want to do is just sign up to receive our monthly newsletter because in our monthly newsletter, we'll have thought leadership pieces. We'll have notification of future events and your own child's promote did a great job for us on on sensing as a service and one of our events. And then you can also read the write ups of past events. Each of our events are literally showing people in the art of the possible. We've had people like Nassr talking about at our events about how they've gone outside of Nasser to find solutions to their problems. So go to our website. Sign up for our newsletter, see what catches your eye, attend this and learn.


Michael Moran [00:21:36] Thank you, Robert. That is great, and of course, you can learn more about microshare and how we helped get the world safely back to work during the early stages of the pandemic with our suite of products, ever smart solutions, boost efficiency, enable cost savings and bring safety and reassurance to the people inside your buildings, even as it produces data that is very relevant to sustainability and ESG. You can learn more about these things on the MICROSHARE website WW Dot Microshare Dot Io and there you can subscribe to Manifest Density downloaded on iTunes, Google Play, iHeartRadio, Spotify and many other audio platforms. And that's going to do it for this week on behalf of Microshare and all its global employees. I want to thank once again Robert Waldeck, and this is Michael Moran saying so long. Be well and thank you for listening.

Manifest Density - Episode 55 - Gina Sanchez - COVID, inflation and the markets

Manifest Density - Episode 55 - Gina Sanchez - COVID, inflation and the markets

February 22, 2022


COVID, inflation and the markets

Gina Sanchez, CEO of Chantico Global and prominent business analyst, discusses the late pandemic market volatility.

Gina Sanchez is the Chief Executive Officer of Chantico Global and Chief Market Strategist for Lido Advisors.

Chantico Global was spun out of Roubini Global Economics in 2013. Ms. Sanchez was the Director of Equity and Asset Allocation for Roubini Global Economics. Currently, Chantico Global collaborates with Oxford Economics, the world’s largest economics consultancy. Ms. Sanchez also currently serves as a Trustee of the Los Angeles County Employee Retirement Association. Ms. Sanchez also serves as Chief Market Strategist for Lido Advisors, a $5.4 billion national investment advisor based in Los Angeles.

Prior to joining RGE, Ms. Sanchez spent four years as an institutional asset manager, serving at the California Endowment, a US$3 billion Los Angeles-based foundation, as managing director of public investments and at the Ford Foundation, a US$10 billion New York-based foundation, as director of public investments. In both roles, she was responsible for making asset allocation and manager selection recommendations for all external public managers, including both total return and absolute return strategies. In addition, she was a portfolio manager and strategist for eight years at American Century Investment Management in Mountain View, Calif.

She also worked in emerging markets research at JPMorgan in New York. She is frequently quoted in the media and was a recipient of Institutional Investor’s 2009 Foundations and Endowments Rising Stars Award.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Harvard University and a master’s in international policy studies from Stanford University.

Follow Gina Sanchez on Twitter @GinaVSanchez.

This bio work constitutes a fair-use of any copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US copyright law. View original source here:


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Episode transcript

The transcription of this episode is auto generated by a third-party source. While Microshare takes every precaution to insure that the content is accurate, errors can occur. Microshare, Inc.  is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information.

Michael Moran [00:00:04] Well, Gina, it is a pleasure to have you here. We, of course, go way back to the Roubini days. It's great to see you and have you on the podcast. Tell me, you know, for the sake of the audience. How did you get into asset allocation and and you've become quite a market prognosticator. What's what's your background? And tell us a little about what you're doing.

Gina Sanchez [00:00:28] So, you know, I started my my professional career, you know, coming out as a newly minted economist out of out of Harvard. And I kind of went up through the ranks, you know, on the sell side of J.P. Morgan, on the buy side in American century as a portfolio manager running asset allocation money. And on the institutional side at the California Diamond and the Ford Foundation. And so once I had had all of those perspectives soda from, you know, through the life of a security from from offering all the way to buying and holding and investing for long periods of time, you know, I felt that that asset allocation, consulting it rabbinical economics, where we had the benefit of overlapping three wonderful years of fascinating times and stories. And then I launched my own asset allocation consultancy, which was actually spun out of Roubini Global Economics. And you know, one of the things that we do is a core business as we help our clients think about the long term trends that will have an impact on both the opportunities and the risks of the portfolio opportunities that they see. So we're trying to put everything in some kind of context so that our investor clients can make sound decisions about a what is the opportunity look like? And B, what are the risks that are either evolving or changing or what are just the basic risks that they're taking in making these decisions? So I spend a lot of my time, you know, taking a step back and helping, you know, put an investment or, you know, fund opportunity into a broader context of demographic opportunity, migration or shifts, you know, and what has happened in the pandemic has been one of the fascinating studies of, you know, pivot points for for the markets. And so, you know, I love what I do, but I've come to it from a very, very kind of granular perspective having, like I said, come up through the chain of of the securities industry all the way out to the investors perspective.

Michael Moran [00:02:44] So Gina, I kind of strangely got a lot of credit from my my, my former colleagues that control risk because they dug out a 2014. Would they do an annual thing called risk map, which is a kind of global look around at what might happen? And I had pandemics on there, and it was mostly because of SaaS and mayors, the Middle East respiratory syndrome. And so I had asked the the obvious question, which is not brilliant, but just obvious. You know, what's the next pandemic and what could it be? And they were like, Oh my God, that was so prescient. Well, no, it was just it's it's just the way forecasting goes. Sometimes you get it right, and sometimes you predict that Hillary Clinton is going to be the next president. But ultimately, you're in the business now of figuring out how to apportion investment to make it both optimize growth and minimize risk sort of seeking alpha. How do you deal with the pandemic in that regard? I mean, how how surprising was it to you and what is it done to your business?

Gina Sanchez [00:03:53] So, you know, with the pandemic has actually had a lot of really significant effects, I think, and some of them will not be appreciated, probably for another decade. And the reason I say that is that, you know, when pandemics happen historically. So, you know, when there are large scale pandemics and this really doesn't qualify as a large scale pandemic, but it will have an enormous impact in terms of the effects of long COVID and the number of people who will be disabled as a result of the pandemic in some way shape or form where their productivity is hampered. You know, pandemics are very different from wars. Wars destroy labor and they destroy capital. Pandemics only destroy labor that they leave their capital in place. And ultimately, after pandemics. It's not that unusual to see wage growth, which we are actually seeing right now. And and from a from a societal standpoint, it's not that unusual to see sort of a renaissance effects. I mean, you know, the Renaissance came after, you know, the plague. And so, you know, you will see sort of these, you know, efforts at innovation. You know, the societies, businesses, corporations start to think about fragility and robustness and how can we improve those? You know, but the other thing that you tend to see is you tend to see societal navel gazing and that societal navel gazing can take many forms. And, you know, probably the first time we really felt it was during the George Floyd, you know, that kind of period after the the tragic George Floyd murder. And that was that we happened to have a huge population work population for whom collective action normally has a very high price. It's very difficult to organize these things where you were stuck at home, you didn't really have a whole lot else to do. A lot of people had lost their jobs. And so the price of collective action fell and suddenly you had this enormous outpouring of protests. And so this notion that has been simmering for decades and I would argue centuries, this notion of of sustainability and how we treat each other and how we treat workers and racial justice and gender justice, all of these issues actually exploded to the fore that have been simmering in the background. I mean, we've had yes, we've had sustainability funds in various forms and under various names like socially responsible investing and, you know, screening methods. Since 1928, we literally that was when the Pioneer Fund was was established. But, you know, they never really caught traction. They were always sort of this sideshow in the investment market. You know, I ran a socially responsible investing fund and sorry fund for American Century Investment Management. You know, in from 2001 until 2006. And so, you know, but but it was never central. And what one of the things that the pandemic did was it actually

Gina Sanchez [00:07:00] brought

Gina Sanchez [00:07:01] forward this notion that we we need to be able to metro's eyes and track and understand the impacts that we have in terms of how we treat labor. You know, our our our workplaces safe, who are all the stakeholders involved, this notion of stakeholder capitalism rather than sort of shareholder primacy as the key. You know, all of these issues, they were already on the table for discussion before the pandemic. But I think the pandemic really allowed the population, the global population, the mind space to prioritize it. And as a result, I think the market has shifted inexorably. We suddenly see the SEC stepping in to have, you know, a greater say in what is going to be mandatory, what kind of disclosures we should have, what represents materiality. Europe was farther along on that. But really what it did was it actually forced the conversation to formalization. And so it I think it's it's it

Gina Sanchez [00:08:04] has forever changed what

Gina Sanchez [00:08:06] risks are, how risks are priced and what due diligence has to include. So I think that's been an interesting kind of outcome of the pandemic, but there are other kind of impacts as well, like the long term investments we've made into the biosciences and into technology. One for, you know, because we were trying to get a vaccine quickly, the other because we were trying to to, you know, repair the fragility that that, you know, working the work environment with the work environment. We're also now channeling a lot of investment into the supply chain and trying to create a more robust supply chain. Those investments are the kinds of investments that can have returns for five decades. You know, I liken it to sort of the the. Packs that you had when when you know, the United States decided that we might have a nuclear bomb in the 50s and we have to figure out a way to be able to evacuate mass evacuate people out of cities, and they built out that they passed the U.S. Highways Act and built out the the the road systems that eventually opened up the suburbs and created a real estate boom for five decades. I think you're going to see that in the biosciences. I think you're going to see that in the in the information space as we build out the cloud. And I think you're going to see that in the logistics space and it could have long ranging impacts to to trade and to and to how we sort of conduct business going forward. So that is a very long answer with a lot of meaty topics, but that that is what I see as as having been kind of changed forever

Gina Sanchez [00:09:48] changed as a result of the pandemic.

Michael Moran [00:09:51] So obviously, it microshare they really hope that smart building technology is part of that problem of unpicking the fragility of workspaces. And I think it is. But going forward, as we look at the impact of the recession, that was a very unusual recession that COVID caused, as you said it destroyed labor, but no capital. What is unique about a lot of people I've spoken to who are not economists and not really financially, not financial services people, but regular people were really shocked that this wasn't just a replay of 2008, and they had really girded themselves for that

Gina Sanchez [00:10:35] that, you know? Yeah, yeah. And there's a reason for that. You know, 2008 was the result of a of a lending system that was broken and the systemic risk, the systematic risk that existed

Gina Sanchez [00:10:50] in the in

Gina Sanchez [00:10:51] the industry was was really, really, you know, high, but we hadn't priced it correctly. And that's why 2008 happened. This pandemic was the result of an of a an unexpected health disaster that actually created a health policy response. And that health policy response was that in order to protect the population, we're going to engage in a series of restrictive actions that will keep people from interacting. But in doing so also lock down the economy. And so in many ways, the economic kind of the economic disruption that we experienced was. Was really, you know, a matter of policy design, not a matter of sort of releasing the valve of of some risk that was building in the system. And so because it was contrived in many ways by policymakers, what it created was it created this whole kind of bubble of pent up demand, right? Because by shutting down, for example, restaurants, shutting down theaters, shutting down any place where people gather, you effectively shut down the those businesses, but not because people didn't demand to go to those businesses. And when we reopened, we saw that that pent up demand showing up in and huge earnings growth. So, you know, that recession was in many ways by by policymakers hands. It wasn't because it naturally would have occurred. You know, and so we are experiencing right now growth in the United States that is, you know, completely unsustainable because we're just catching up with that pandemic, that pandemic, pent up demand, the desire to go shopping, the desire to buy new clothes. You know that, you know, turns out you can't live in your yoga past. It was fine for the first six months, but then you're like, You know, I really need new clothes, but you couldn't easily go out to buy them. And so all of that pent up demand tells us that that we

Gina Sanchez [00:13:02] effectively just pushed demand out forward. We locked it up for a period of time. We caused a lot of job loss and actually, quite frankly, a lot of angst in the economy for people who really needed those, those companies to be open, those restaurants and those, you know, bars and and other forms of entertainment to be open in order to garner a wage. But the end result is we've actually also seen wage growth. People in that sort of social reflection are saying, Hey, I think I need to get paid more. I think I need more stability in my job, et cetera, et cetera. So we're actually seeing a

Gina Sanchez [00:13:35] rethinking of the gig economy coming out of the recession. We're seeing a demand for wages that we haven't seen it in. And it has been, like I said, the collective action quality that we don't have because unionization is really down. It's been declining for four or five decades. And so you know, what we are experiencing is couldn't necessarily have been predicted, but the result will actually be a wealthier and more income rich labor population. And the result of that could actually be some incredibly strong demand over time that we haven't seen because wage growth is just hasn't been there. And so while we.

Michael Moran [00:14:18] Yeah, so so you know, I just have to I can't pass this up. I mean,

Gina Sanchez [00:14:22] I

Michael Moran [00:14:23] would have nothing would have caused more angst in my house than a yoga pants period for me. So I just have to say that. But there were sweatpants, I have to admit. But looking back at this now, dear, if you look at the the theories that have been floated as to the mysterious disappearance of the of the workforce, particularly in the U.S. where labor markets have tightened, there are there are as many explanations for this as there are economists. Almost there are some people, you know, spent some time predicting that as soon as the stimulus was lifted that these people would flow back to work because they had to get back to work, basically and make some money. Others have said that this is kind of a. On the other end of the spectrum, a real social psychological shift that people have had enough. It's almost like that moment in network and that old movie that won an Oscar in the 70s, where the guy opens the window and said, I've had enough, I can't take anymore. That is how, you know, there's this kind of collective reaction against the sharper end of capitalism, which is telling them, Come back to work on a fire, you. I don't care if it's safe or not. So where do you come down in there? What's your theory about why so many workers seem to have decided to sit on their hands for now?

Gina Sanchez [00:15:44] So I think there are two parts to that labor tightness. There is the great resignation, which is that that notion that you just described right, the retaliation against the sharp edge of capitalism. And then there is the great, you know, that then there are people who are effectively retiring, right? And I think that's a great retirement is an unappreciated aspect, which is that there are people who were underserved and were working well past their kind of what their rich, planned retirement age would be. And they either have said, You know what, I have figured out how to live within my means and I'm not going to work anymore. That segment of the labor we've been, we've been moving along the Beveridge curve for some time. You know, in Economist Speak, which is to say that there are people in the labor force that were on the verge of retirement for the last decade that chose not to retire that during the pandemic, effectively said And now I'm done. This has made me realize that if these are going to be my last years on Earth, I don't want to spend them greeting at Wal-Mart. And so, you know, you have you have lost that segment. And so I think that the that the labor population will forever be smaller, slightly smaller. And if you look at the demographics that is going to continue to be the case, more people will age out than will actually be born into the labor markets over the next 20 years. And so you can expect this. This is just the beginning of that pressure. Then you have that segment of the population that, as you mentioned, are just sitting on their hands and are saying, Hey, this is unreasonable. You can't expect me to take these kinds of risks. You're not paying me enough. Right? That part of the market is actually experiencing a stepwise shift up in their in their salaries. We have seen wage growth in the last six months that far exceeds inflation, and that will not continue. Most of that stepwise adjustment will be replaced by a slow and steady growth over time. Over the next decade or so, that pressure will go away as people sort of find the right, find the right wage that they feel compensates them for the jobs that they do. But I think that wages will be forever higher and margins will start to compress. And that's just, you know, that's margins have been at their all time high and they have been expanding for about 30 years. So it's not that unreasonable to think that we're probably going to go in the other direction to the next couple of decades.

Michael Moran [00:18:35] So that brings up nicely the next topic. And I know this franchise can't go on all day, but I could go on all day with you. Phenix Yamaha But ultimately, inflation has obviously become a huge issue. Some driven by the dynamics you just described in the labor force. Some of it is driven by supply chain tightness that you've described earlier the disruption of your hand. But there's also the whole greenness quest, right? So, you know, I've always been been just almost angered by people who pretend that that's going to be free, right? That that there's going to be some transition to zero to to a net zero economy, and that all the green jobs that are created are going to completely replace the jobs that are eliminated and that it'll all basically be cheaper because oil should be more expensive than the Sun, right? That's a pretty simplistic way of looking at the transition, but that's going to continue to stoke inflation. So I guess that's a long winded way of asking the question. What's your thinking on inflation in the medium term? Is this going to stick around?

Gina Sanchez [00:19:48] So I see three kind of sources of inflation, and those three sources have different like staying power. So let's start with the one that I think will dissipate the most quickly, and that's the source of inflation happening from the great resignation. Right? I think that the wage growth that we're experiencing from that segment of the economy banding together and saying, I, you know, I can't take it anymore. That will be probably a one time step wise move up in wages, which will

Gina Sanchez [00:20:24] which will flow through to inflation

Gina Sanchez [00:20:25] as seven percent inflation, but will not

Gina Sanchez [00:20:30] maintain.

Gina Sanchez [00:20:31] We will not see seven percent inflation forever. Wages won't grow that fast. And so I think once we have achieved that, that segment of inflation is going to go back to one and a half, two percent inflation. That is just the nature of the beast. Once we have passed this, we will forget it, and that happens more often than not. You know, I work with analysts who have never seen a down market. It is incredible how short our memories are. And I think that that that part of the inflation story is not going to be persistent. I think within 12 months, we will no longer be talking about wage inflation. The second part and source of inflation is coming from the supply chain, right, that you've described this notion that the supply chain turned out to be quite fragile. That last mile, that last mile notion is is failing, and we are now spending significantly more to ensure. We can get goods to the, you know, to their, you know, inventory into the stores so that they can be sold at T times like the holidays and so know that we're investing to create more fragility. We're also, by the way, globalizing as a result of that, we're talking more about near shoring and on shoring. We haven't had that talk. You know, it's globalization. We've been beating the globalization drum since the 80s. And so now we're talking about going in the other direction and instead of outsourcing to the Philippines, we're going to outsource to Iowa so that we can find cheap labor because it turns out to be actually inflation around the world is starting to make it more reasonable to actually outsource to, you know, North Dakota, Iowa places where we don't actually have a lot of economic activity and growth and where wages are actually fairly low and the cost of living is somewhat low. And so if you're going to have a call center, why not do it there? And I think that that the investments into remote working in the cloud and the ability to do that will hasten that. I think we could actually have this huge resurgence of Main Street. I think that that Middle America could get an enormous boost as a result of on shoring that part of the inflationary aspect will probably linger because some of that on shoring means that you're now paying U.S. workers instead of workers offshore. You're going to provide benefits and you're going to abide by U.S. Department of Labor Regulations Safety Regulations. You're going to apply by the environmental, by, by, by environmental standards. And so yes, absolutely. Some of that just by virtue of stepping back into the regulation space in the United States, you will have higher costs as a result of that. So that could actually linger. You know, the last segment that we see is sort of this growing demand world where we're reopening and where the economy is is heating up meeting with supply constraints in the commodity space, which commodities been, you know, have been a terrible investment for the last decade. Suddenly, they're having their year in the Sun, where oil prices are going up, agricultural prices are going up, industrial metal prices are going up, livestock prices are going up. And we're seeing that that has been the darling of the economy and is very bloody January market. Anybody investing in commodities has been laughing their way to the bank. And so that segment, however, again, that slice of inflation is a source is probably only a 12 to 18 month story. It's that middle, that middle story that that that I think probably has the greatest impact, which is the that the globalization, the near shoring in the onshore and now the element that you talk about, which is this notion of of of

Gina Sanchez [00:24:27] getting greener and getting more sustainable

Gina Sanchez [00:24:29] and getting more responsible and as investments. You are absolutely right that that will add cost because so far we've had a mass, really a mass segment of corporate America free riding on the commons of social infrastructure and, you know, effectively kind of creating all these external costs that that municipalities and governments have been forced to to deal with and that we effectively pay for through our taxes that that scope will not continue, that we're going to see a lot more internalization of external costs. And so from the sustainability perspective, I think that will also add cost to the picture. But what it should do in theory is it should actually help to reduce bad actors, right? If there's a cost associated with being a bad actor in theory, that mechanism should fix that problem. We'll see how it works out. I can talk to you in a decade, but those things, I think, are those are the kind of sources of cost that I see, some of which will linger, some of which will go away.

Michael Moran [00:25:43] So, Gina, I can't thank you enough for the time I wanted to for the sake of our audience, give you an opportunity to tell folks, where could they follow your work and your analysis?

Gina Sanchez [00:25:56] Absolutely. You're always you can always come to WWE. We got a chance to go global dot com. You can read our news blog there. All of our media appearances are their podcasts or. And so, you know, I think that that's probably the best place you can. Follow me on Twitter at GTV Sanchez. You can follow chanty Global on Twitter Atlantico Global, or you can find me on LinkedIn. There's a lot of places that you can connect with me personally and with the company global.

Michael Moran [00:26:28] And I just have to add there you can also see Gina regularly on CNBC on it's heard on the street. Is that where you're usually appearing?

Gina Sanchez [00:26:37] IPO on the exchange these days I just change shows and I'm so excited and I love Kelly Evans as a host, so it's better. Just a fantastic new assignment for me. But you can now catch me on the exchange at 1:30 p.m. Eastern, 10:30 a.m. Pacific. And you know, there's always something fun to be shared on Friday mornings. All right.

Michael Moran [00:27:01] And Gina Sanchez, thank you so much, and I will ask you one last question. Is it true that you were an Olympian?

Gina Sanchez [00:27:10] And I was not an Olympian. I was an Olympic judge. I actually, as an

Gina Sanchez [00:27:16] athlete, only ever made the world team in kayaking, but I was actually a judge for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. I was the chief of the finish line so that that is my claim to fame with regard to the Olympics. So every Olympics, I am always excited. And I will be watching the opening ceremonies this evening.

Michael Moran [00:27:39] That's great. And what a slacker only made the world team. You know, it's been a pleasure. I hope to talk to you soon again, maybe before that decade, you say.

Gina Sanchez [00:27:52] Maybe thank you. I really appreciate it.

Manifest Density - Episode 54 - Christiaan Page - COVID and the Winter Olympics

Manifest Density - Episode 54 - Christiaan Page - COVID and the Winter Olympics

February 16, 2022


COVID and the Winter Olympics

The IOC's Senior Advisor Christiaan Page, a leading sports technologist, speaks of the challenges the pandemic has placed on the 2022 winter Games.

Christiaan Page has been involved in the world of sporting events and Games Technology for nearly 3 decades, making him an absolute authority in the field. His job is to provide innovative technology solutions to providers in the sporting and event industry.

With 27 years of experience under his belt, he worked closely within the Olympic Games and Sporting events industry, catering to them with forward-thinking and intuitive new technologies. In order to pursue his work, Christiaan followed the Olympic Games throughout the years, experiencing life in the past 5 hosting cities, but also having lived in 13 different countries!

A passionate, dedicated and vibrant individual, Christiaan lives by his favorite keywords: “Live, Learn, Legacy”, strongly believing that through living your dreams and learning as much as you can, you’ll ultimately be able to leave a lasting legacy.

Christiaan is also an active public speaker who motivates audiences through workshops and presentations. Feel free to get in touch to find out more:

Sponsored by Microshare.

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The podcast can also be accessed on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, PlayerFM, Listen Notes, Spotify, Stitcher, iHeartRadio, Tune In, Podcast Addict, Himalaya, Deezer, and on Podbean.



Episode transcript:

The transcription of this episode is auto generated by a third-party source. While Microshare takes every precaution to insure that the content is accurate, errors can occur. Microshare, Inc.  is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information.

Michael Moran [00:00:01] This is manifest density. Hello, everyone, and welcome to this edition of Manifest Density, your host Michael Moran here, and we will explore the intersection, as always, of COVID 19. Global business and society. And this week, I'm very, very excited about our conversation today, coming straight from Beijing site of this year's Winter Olympics, and our guest is Christiaan Page, who's the founder of Legacy Sport based in Lausanne, Switzerland. Just like the International Olympic Committee, and Christiaan has been involved in sporting events and technology for three decades since Sydney 2000. For those of you who were born after 2000, as many of my listeners probably were, it's scary. Thought you really know your way around games, summer and winter. And now here you are at a game and at the games at a time of global pandemic. Obviously, we saw that play out in the Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Now we're seeing China's approach to this. And first, I want to just introduce you and give you a chance to tell us how you are dealing with every level of the technology that makes these games happen. How is it going and give us a sense of how you got into this industry?

Christiaan Page [00:01:26] Right. Well, first of all, thanks for having me on the show. Great to be here. And yeah, it is scary, scary opening. When you say yes, some of the lessons maybe may not have been around in Sydney 2000, but great to have you with us as well. So my involvement with the games obviously started back in Sydney 2000. I started my career, as you mentioned three decades ago. Now, actually my first one was an outside broadcast. You know, I was actually traveling. I was on a week's holiday backpacking and ran into a friend and I said, What are you doing tomorrow? And he said, I'm doing an outside broadcast and said, What's that? And he said, Oh, well, what you know, can I said, can I put my hand on a set kind of come along? And he said, Well, sure, why not? So I got there. I was shown how to roll cables. I was absolutely kind of mind blown by the fact he had those all these trucks and cameras and people running everywhere. And so they gave me a Two-Way radio, which obviously, as anyone knows, who works at events. Once you get it to a radio, kind of someone important. Anyway, I got to do all the running, and that was over a week by the end of that week. They offered me a job and said, Look, we're going to pay you. Do you want to come and work for us? And that was how I started. I think the journey has continued. Probably very similar vein. I've always managed to put my hand up. I think that's one of the things that has I love about the career that I've had and the opportunities that are presented themselves. I think it's also a little bit about being outside your comfort zone and saying, Well, yeah, I can have a go at doing that. And and I think there's the opportunities of a bigger, bigger and I've been able to, you know, work with great teams who've made it possible to do some, you know, some really great work. So as you mentioned, the technology piece is key to that. I've always had a fascination with technology and I think what we what it enables and what it drives in terms of modern events, broadcast and production is how we engage with our audience. And I think the technologies as they've evolved over the years and I've seen these changes has expanded. I think, you know, with the digital explosion, all those elements, we've really seen some real change in how we engage with our audiences.

Michael Moran [00:03:41] Christiaan, these Olympic Games obviously have a particular challenge. There's the usual logistical challenges which we spoke about before we started recording from my days in broadcast. I mean, to do a live broadcast from anywhere is it is a challenge to do it from on a global basis around the world from a place like China is an extra challenge. And now you layer on top of that, a global pandemic and a government that has been as vigilant and and strict as any on the planet with regard to that pandemic. How is that complicated the job and have you seen any interesting technological attempts to to ease the way?

Christiaan Page [00:04:26] Yeah, that's a great question. Look, the the the I have to say, first off, I think the efforts made by the Chinese government to enable us to still facilitate and have the games has been phenomenal. You know, they've got a zero policy, zero tolerance policy to COVID. You know, everybody is treated, you know, from, you know, any any detection of the virus. So and they, you know, the rigorous nature of the testing means that they do really catch everything as it comes through technologically. I think what we've seen is the processing. I'm going to say, if you look at behind the scenes, you know, the the the processing of just the testing and the volumes of testing that's required, you know, I'm tested every day. I have my PCR test. So it's not just a little antigen test, it's a full proper genetic test that they conduct every day. And they track all of this for not just the games population, but the whole population of what's going on in and working in around the games. And one of the really clever things and this is something the IOC did in partnership with the Chinese by boycotting the organizing committee and the Chinese government was to build the playbooks. And these playbooks really were sort of, you know, threaten to devour the definition, if you like, of how we were going to do this together. And what they did was they created two sort of definitions of a closed loop, which is effectively the bubble within the venues and then the outer loop, which is for everybody outside, basically who's been through to a 21 day quarantine and then they go out into and can go out into the general population of of of Beijing. But technologically, think about all of the tracking of all that data. That there's a lot of personal data is a lot of information that has to be recorded and protected. So a lot of systems behind the scenes in making sure that that has happened. You've also then got to integrate that with travel schedules. You know, I think from when I started my journey, I came out here at the beginning of January. Two weeks before that, I started doing recordings of my health records. Before that, I had to have a couple of tests, a PCR test that had to be recorded and sent to the organizations. You know, this is for everybody who's working on the games and we're talking, you know, thousands of athletes. We're talking thousands of my colleagues who work and work in sport and deliver the games. The broadcast is everybody behind the scenes. And then you've got this interesting sort of blend where you've got this crossover of, you know, the local team people based here in Beijing. They had to come inside the loop. So they've actually kind of committed to being inside the actual closed loop away from family and friends for the duration of the games and for the build up. So all of this is all tracked and managed through apps, so we can actually see what's going on and we can actually record all of our daily activities. So lots of lots of coordination, if that makes sense.

Michael Moran [00:07:26] So Christian, I want to make sure that people understand not everybody's watching the Olympics like I do because I'm a skier. Yep, but there is when you say closed loop, we're talking Green Zone in Iraq, kind of closed when you go in and you don't leave that loop unless something terrible happens. You need to go to a hospital, probably, or when you leave, when you leave that back, right, the games are over and you're you're broken down and you're moving to the next step next city. So yeah, that's a that's a real corny.

Christiaan Page [00:07:55] Yeah, absolutely, that's exactly right. So, you know, we we are in, you know, sealed vehicles, for example, so we travel literally from our bubble of our hotel, which is again, we cannot go outside the perimeter. We which we're fine with. We're in a compound of several hotels so we can interact with each other. We've got the restaurants, but all the stocks that have come in and also a part of that bubble. And if they're not, then they're in hazmat suits. So it really is well-protected. And I think it's one of the really quite amazing things that has been achieved so far for this games. If we look at the way it worked in Tokyo as well, the efforts made by the playbooks, all of these conditions, if you like, or policies and procedures and always this playbook guidance ensured that we had like a 0.2 percent impact of COVID on the game population in Tokyo. When you think of that, that's tens of thousands of people. So this really worked and I think we were fortunate that we had Tokyo. We went a little bit further here in in China with the with the policies that are in place here. But yeah, very much bubble to bubble even in the venues we've got, you know, separate areas within the venues where we can operate. And there's there's quite clear delineation as to whether the spectators from outside the venue are from from outside the loop and where we can operate within the loop safely. But you can imagine how difficult it is to bring all of this together operationally. And I think that's one of the things one of the greatest challenges for us in this games delivery, certainly.

Michael Moran [00:09:31] OK, Christiaan, hold just a second while we take a quick break to hear from our sponsor. All right. I'm back with Christian Page, who is helping to manage the tech, the layers of technology that are making the Winter Olympic Games in Beijing possible. Christiaan, you have been doing this, for ages, and I don't want to be insulting, I have to know,

Christiaan Page [00:09:56] but no, no, no, no, it's not at all. Yeah.

Michael Moran [00:09:59] So think back to some of the other cities that have hosted these games. I know Rio was a recent host and we've had cities like Seoul. Could this possibly have been pulled off by Lake Placid or by a small city like Sochi? Could they have pulled off the technological and epidemiological miracle that is happening in Beijing?

Christiaan Page [00:10:29] Good question. You know, I think every House City has and will dig deep to deliver the games, I think that the one unique thing about the games is that it's always comes with some level of challenge that we don't expect. And it's always quite remarkable and amazes me how the the games population and the way in which the movement, if you like, sort of harnesses that capability of people's willingness to not only get in and get it done, but to just do great work to deliver the games if I think of every game as everyone has had its own unique challenge. And if I look back in, you know, for what was it? Rio was a good example. We had the Zika virus will be looked at medical conditions, which was a real issue for many people traveling into the country. That had a real concern, and rightly so. It had a big impact. Plus, you had an economic crisis within the country, which really had a dramatic effect on how the games were going to be delivered. Such Saatchi had its own unique challenges, and I think you bring that cultural challenges. It's not just the culture of the country, but it's the culture, the way people work. And that's what again, I think actually one of the best bits about what I do is that we get to experience these cultures not only the organizational culture, but the cultures of the of the host nation. In a really, you get to see it all. And you get to have two and you really have to understand it to enable your delivery. You know, there's a great talk I watched long time ago, but necessarily the, you know, to paraphrase and summarize it and basically said, you know, you really need to ask the people where you're working, you know, how do you deliver stuff here? So I think what we what we benefit from in Tokyo, you know, again, you know, the Japanese people were the hosts and they made it work within the confines of constructs of their culture and the way they operated in much the same way they've done here and in Beijing, there was an adaptation. I think that's one of the great things of being human and what we do. We adapt. And I would say that every host nation I've been in or worked in, delivered the games they've adapted to deliver the games and delivered not just, you know, not just, oh yeah, it was OK, but really. And my experience has been that, you know, all the games have been great in one way or another. And I think that's something unique about the Olympics and what I do. So that makes sense.

Michael Moran [00:13:03] Yeah, absolutely. And there's been obviously every time you have reengaged in this process and normally it's every two years, I guess, because the winter and summer games have traditionally been on alternate two year pattern. Right?

Christiaan Page [00:13:20] Yeah. What we start our engagement actually about seven years out from from from appointment that which normally happens about nine years out. We start that process when you start building the organizing committee around seven and then it kind of ramps up from there. So we're quite often overlapping from a planning perspective. You know, I've been involved with the games for with Paris already in Milan-Cortina, which is coming up for me before I finish the other games. So it's it's it is a it's a it's a constantly rolling program, if you like in that.

Michael Moran [00:13:52] Typically those are those are many generations of technological innovation there too, because if you start, if you're planning the guests, let's say 2032 games right now and you have no conception really of how signals will be carried of, what kind of technologies will be extant and how people receive them or even experience everybody could be in virtual reality at that point.

Christiaan Page [00:14:20] Yeah. Oh, look, I mean, it's super exciting when you think about what could be. We love that. And certainly in our technology circles, we were always thinking, OK, how do we how do we build a framework? I mean, fundamentally, that's what we're doing. We're building a framework in which the games operate. And when I talk about what I do, mostly it's about enabling us to have ways to engage with the audience, and that audience is constantly changing and how the audience engages with data and information. You know, I think great example, the London 2012 Games, if we think back that the planning cycle for that started in probably two thousand seven, I think it was 2008, the iPhone was released. So all of a sudden you had this new device that kind of at its infancy was like, Oh yeah, that's cool. You know, you can. You got these app things and it's much better than, you know, sort of tapping to tap on your BlackBerry. But it very quickly became obvious that we needed developers to develop ways to engage with applications. So when we think about mobile web and apps now. When you think about how you engage with suddenly results systems, it's all through an application that sits on your on your smartphone. Back then it was, oh, actually no, everything was done through the web. So we saw this massive migration to mobile with an app. So we had to then implement new systems and develop new applications. That would enable us, though it hadn't been planned for when the games were launched, and certainly we were building the program for technology. So that's one example. Another great example is how technology has moved on with fiber optic systems and all of that sort of stuff. That's one of the probably the biggest implementation tools that we've got now, which to some people has in fiber optics always been around. Well, yes. But the ability to rapidly deploy it. I had a team of about 20 people responsible for pulling in one strand of fiber into the equestrian venue into back in 2004 for the Athens games. And this, quite literally, it was a very fragile piece of fiber optic cable that had to be handled with quite literally the gloves. We had to fly in a specialist crew to terminate it. But that enabled us to send signals around an equestrian venue for cross-country. So nowadays it's kind of like drums of it and you just throw it out. So those little things that make that enable us to to to get the information and carry, as you said, transport signals and so on and so forth certainly makes a big difference. There's two simple examples of how how tech is change.

Michael Moran [00:16:52] That's fascinating to me. So when you were doing your first games at Sydney, I was the international editor at MSNBC in the United States. And as you will know, well, NBC News is the network that always dominates the Olympics. In the U.S., there were people at NBC at the highest levels who I won't name, who were saying No one's ever going to watch the Olympics on their phone. What are you crazy?

Christiaan Page [00:17:16] Yeah, absolutely. Let me tell you.

Michael Moran [00:17:19] And we just had to think big in the ways that they talked in those days. It was all going to be on the big screen on the television and the secondary. And now, of course, they have turned around, as has everybody. All right. Let me take a break to hear from our sponsor. We'll move from the metaverse back to Earth in just a moment. OK, I'm back with Christian Page of Legacy Sport, Christian, so any time you have the Olympics, you have international politics and geopolitics and economics and all sorts of things converging. Now we have the pandemic on top of it all pandemic itself. Whether you look at it through the lens of the Chinese government or through the incredibly stupid debates in the West over things like masks and vaccines, it's been tremendously politicized. And then, of course, you've got the whole Leni Riefenstahl thing. The Olympics, you know, is it going to be used as a effort to, you know, advance China's profile in the what they call in in in the political science world and a model competition democracy versus state run economies. Every country does it. Of course, you know, from the most charming things that were happening in Rio two to the L.A. Olympics, which was very triumphalist. What are you seeing there? How does the technology play into that? And is the technology that China is using to film this for their own reasons? Also run through your networks and through your note.

Christiaan Page [00:18:56] Sure. And I think the you know, this is again my personal observation of the games and how it how it is is delivered in each host country. I think it's quite uniquely and I think the speech, if you've got an opportunity to watch the opening speech by President Bach, you know, I think his his core message was around. Look at my observation was it was around, you know, we can't pull it off. We've got to work hard to not politicize sport and especially the Olympic Games because it is one of the, you know, I love the reference he made around how we hold on to we have a village and Olympic Village which hosts all of the nation athletes under one roof. And isn't this a great metaphor for what we can potentially do in the world? And I really hold true to that. I think this is one of the unique things about the Olympic Movement. It does tend to and my experience of it, especially at an operational level where I know the delivery level, we just get in and get it done. And one of the things I love about it is that you, you overcome many of the the one of those narratives that are going on around the world to why are we here? Well, we're here to deliver great sport event. We're here to build a stage for the world's best athletes, wherever they from to come and do their very best. So I think being a part of that makes it much easier to be big, realize that you speak of something bigger than the individual and to enable that. And I think technologically what that what we have is the ability to distribute all of that content. The host broadcaster is responsible for making sure that all of the this is captured and terms of everything that you see from a broadcast perspective goes through the host broadcaster and the rights holding broadcasters. So the framework is already in place. So that doesn't change specifically from country to country and what is shared, I found it's always fascinating. You sit in a host country and try and watch any, any sport that's going on. That doesn't include the host nation. It's very different on that. Host the host nation's broadcast, let's be honest. And that's the way it's designed. And I think that that is two ways. Again, we engage our audience based on what they are wanting to view. A really good example was during the Tokyo Games, and I heard this from through one of the rights holders from Australia. You know, they and again, this is a really technologically how how we've seen evolution is the streaming capabilities being enabling people to watch whichever sport they were actually really interested in. What they wanted to actually participate in was their sport. So streaming enables us to then take a single feed and feed that to a channel directly rather than it going through production and the sort of a mixed feed of a bit of everything waiting for that feed of what it is you want to watch. So you can watch just directly on that channel, that particular sport. So what happened during the because we were in the pandemic and Australia was during lockdown during Tokyo Games, and I remember the Syrians, my family, they said, Oh, look, you know, the local rights holders actually putting on a bunch more channels, they actually were able to then tap straight into those streams and be able to enable the audience to watch directly what they wanted. They had greater demand. They were able to not only hear from their audience directly because they were saying, you know, the audience was able to feed back to the rights holder and say, Hey, please give us more of this. But they were also able then to deliver on that because of the way the the the broadcast has evolved. It isn't just a single programing feed with a bit of everything. It actually has the ability to split it up. So those are the sort of things that make it easier to engage with the audiences at a local level as well as globally.

Michael Moran [00:22:42] It's such a beautiful thing, too, because like, like you, Christiaan, I've lived around the world and I've experienced what it's like to watch the games in Germany and the UK and in Southeast Asia and the United States. And the old model was you only saw what happened to the athletes from the UK if you were watching the UK broadcaster. Right?

Christiaan Page [00:23:01] Absolutely. Yeah, it was probably

Michael Moran [00:23:03] more open minded than the U.S. The U.S. was one dramatic, you know, kind of little mini series after another about the tragedy in an athlete's life that they overcame. And and you never heard about someone who was a fascinating athlete from another country or another continent. So it's really nice to have that diversity and to be able to see biathlon or the loose right? Yeah. So I have to ask you one last question. I'm a bit of an Olympics nerd, but I've been watching some of the coverage and they they're on and on about this robot that serves drinks in the press room.

Christiaan Page [00:23:38] Yes.

Michael Moran [00:23:39] And apparently it's a it's a it's a bar with no stick and you can literally order a mixed drink. And this thing that looks like it should be building Toyota's will grab it and start shaking. And it's. Pretty cool.

Christiaan Page [00:23:57] Yeah, look, it's and you know what, it's got the longest cure. You believe it. It makes cocktails and it literally has a queue running out the door. It is very cool. They've actually there's quite a lot of automation. We've seen also in the in the main press center where you actually and the athletes village, where meals are actually delivered directly to the table using automation systems. That would probably be. I think the thing that I would probably compare them to is like the picking systems that you would have in a in a mass distribution warehouse. They're basically going in and picking the components and making the meals and then delivering directly to the table. You know, I hope it's you know, what I hope is that we don't replace the waiters and waitresses because I think you still need that human engagement. It's something nice to get in your way. When you when you weigh person comes up against, you know, what would you like? Here's the specials. But it is really cool. There was actually some other we saw some other robots obviously were in quarantine, so those first few days in hotels. And you know, I I actually lost my and I needed some water and I got a knock on my door. And actually there was a robot actually delivering my water. It was an automated delivery machines with a smiley face on top. I had to ask them to send something back so they could video it and send to my daughters back home in Switzerland. So I say, check this out. This is really cool. So yeah, there's lots of, I think these little subtle advances, whether it be making a cocktail or delivering a bottle of water to your room. They certainly demonstrate how technology is certainly evolving and enabling us to do even the day to day tasks.

Michael Moran [00:25:35] But it's somehow, I can't imagine sidling up to that bar and telling that that steel arm, my latest heart. Well, listen, we're going to have to wrap up this. Perhaps the most fascinating edition of manifest density any ever. But let let me ask you how our listeners would would track your your next move and understand you know what you're doing and what legacy sports doing.

Christiaan Page [00:26:06] Sure, do appreciate that. And yeah, it's been really enjoyed being having this conversation. I think they're important conversations to have, so we're here to help get better at deeper understandings of the different areas of technology and how how we interface with the world. And it's great to have this opportunity. So thanks for coming on the show with regards to my vote where you can reach me. You can get me up. Legacy Sport dot com. I'm a very much a also an amateur writer. I do quite a lot of blog writing and we've hosted a few podcasts and so on. But I'm also very active on social media, so you can follow me on LinkedIn and also on Facebook. I probably need to catch up on some of the more the younger ones, actually. Again, this is evolution, right? We see how that that our social media channels open up. But so, for example, I do countdowns I've done for the last few games. I did 100 days of summer where I did a just a daily blog. And for the countdown to these winter, I did 30 winter night. So just writing stories and narratives about what's happening behind the scenes. And so if you're interested in following on that, please check me out. My name's Christian page with a Christian with two eyes. So if you look me up by all means are happy to connect.

Michael Moran [00:27:23] Well, Christian, this has just been fascinating. I thank you so much and I remind our listeners that, of course, they can learn more about how microshare helped get the world safely back to work with our ever smart suite of products that includes universal contact tracing and all sorts of very smart solutions that help focus on the wellness, safety and monitoring of physical plant in your buildings around the world. You can see all that stuff on Microshare Dot I O, and you can subscribe to Manifest Density there or download it on iTunes, Google Play, iHeartRadio, Spotify. There's all sorts of places you can get it, and that's going to do it for this week on behalf of Microshare and its global employees, I want to first say good luck to every single athlete that is at the Beijing Olympics. I've known professional athletes and amateur champions. I'm not one myself, but I do have such respect for the amount of heart and toil that goes into getting to an Olympics Games. So I was very happy to see it wasn't canceled. I'd also like to thank Chris and Paige again and say, This is Michael Moran so long. Be well and thank you for listening.


Manifest Density - Episode 53 - Dennis Owens - The local politics of the pandemic

Manifest Density - Episode 53 - Dennis Owens - The local politics of the pandemic

February 8, 2022

The local politics of the pandemic

Dennis Owens of ABC 27, a local Pennsylvania news network, joins us this week on Manifest Density. Michael and Dennis discuss the many ways COVID has changed everything in Pennsylvania, where Dennis covers the statehouse for a living.

Guest bio:

Since 1993, Dennis has been a part of the ABC27 team and he's played many roles at the station. He began as a weekend sports anchor under legendary Sports Director Gregg Mace. In that position, he reported on Super Bowls, World Series, Bowl Game, NASCAR races and Spring Training baseball, and Penn State football. But he's most proud of co-creating Friday Night Football, a show that still airs and showcases the athletes, cheerleaders and bands that make Friday nights special across Central Pennsylvania.

In 1999, Dennis switched to news and co-anchored Live at Five, which spotlighted his ability to connect with viewers and the community. Whether it was jumping out of airplanes, attending the local fair, or learning to make Easter eggs, Dennis' warmth and personality and his love of the Midstate were always on display.

Dennis also answered the call to the anchor desk. First with Valerie Pritchett at 7 pm and then Alicia Richards at 6 pm.

But Dennis is also a passionate story teller and journalist. He has been nominated for more than 70 Regional Emmy Awards, winning 15, including Best Anchor in the Mid-Atlantic Region. He has also won the prestigious Edward R. Murrow Award for his reporting on the influence of lobbyists in Harrisburg.

He is a familiar face at the State Capitol and one of the most respected television reporters on that beat. His state government reports appear daily on several stations across the commonwealth. He is also the host and co-producer of This Week in Pennsylvania, the only statewide political talk show in PA. His guests include, governors, senators, congressmen and women, and a who's-who of political powerbrokers in Pennsylvania.

Dennis is a Philadelphia native and LaSalle University graduate. The eternal optimist, he is a proud fan of Philly sports, as painful as that can be. He and his family reside in Cumberland County, outside Harrisburg.


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Episode transcript:

The transcription of this episode is auto generated by a third-party source. Microshare takes every precaution to insure that the content is accurate, errors can occur. Microshare, Inc.  is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information.

Michael Moran: [00:00:00] This is manifest density. Hello, everyone, and welcome to this latest edition of Manifest Density, your host Michael [00:00:08][7.7]

Michael Moran: [00:00:08] Moran here to explore [00:00:09][0.7]

Michael Moran: [00:00:09] the intersection of COVID 19 global business and society. They just have to say Brown, J-just past and have we all been living Groundhog Day for these last two years? Appropriately enough, my guest today is a journalist from Groundhog Day Spiritual Home, Pennsylvania. Dennis owns Dennis, is the capital reporter in Harrisburg, which is the state capital for ABC. 27. Did I get that right, Dennis? [00:00:40][30.2]

Dennis Owens: [00:00:40] You absolutely did. I have covered Groundhogs Day in Punxsutawney a couple of times in my career. [00:00:45][5.1]

Michael Moran: [00:00:46] Well, that's wonderful. And I think pretty much everybody, thanks to Bill Murray as an idea of what exactly packed ceremony, very authentic. So with no further ado, Dennis, welcome to this podcast! As everyone would know, this is brought to you by the global smart building in ESG data company Microshare. Unleash the data as they say, but I want to jump right in and unleash you, Dennis. We're going to talk really about Covid's impact on local politics, and when I say local for our international audience, I'm talking about state level politics in the United States and specifically the state of Pennsylvania, which you've probably noticed is a pretty important electoral state and one which has a very interesting demographic split between all sorts of industrial and service workers and wealthy suburbs of various cities like Billy, but also real, some real farmland and mountain regions. So it's kind of a little country in and of itself. But before we get to that, Dennis, I want to ask how did you end up in Harrisburg, the state capital? And what was your route into broadcast journalism? [00:01:56][70.2]

Dennis Owens: [00:01:57] Well, I'm a Philadelphia native. I went to LaSalle College and in those days, not to sound like biblical in those days, but it was as far as broadcast journalism is concerned, it was an effort to go. It might as well have been biblical times. You had to go to a smaller market to get your start. I went to Bakersfield, California, which is a small little rural place in the San Joaquin Valley. But as a Philly native and I was a sportscaster, by the way, and as a Philly native, I wanted to get back to the Northeast and the opportunity presented itself in Harrisburg. I took it, came back here thinking I'd be in Harrisburg for one or two years and then maybe get to Baltimore, Philadelphia or Pittsburgh, get to one of the bigger markets. But while here I found a couple of things one, I liked the area and two within my station, I began to do different things. So they promoted me five o'clock anchor, where we did a light and lively show. I would jump out of airplanes and race cars, live on television, and then became the Six O'Clock news anchor and capital reporter. So I'm kind of the equivalent if I can use a sports analogy to the utility infielder that can kind of play lots of different positions, which I would do live football games and then also moderate political debates, whatever it is the station needs. And as I looked up on Groundhogs Day, I've been here now in May. It will be 29 years, but I'm I'm kind of a unicorn in the sense of a television. State politics reporter. I also anchor what state politics is a kind of a black hole in the journalism industry. So lots of people cover national politics, of course, big cities, people cover big city politics and in Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh. But most people don't even know what state politics really does. And the irony there is it impacts their everyday life. I'm also a host of the only statewide political talk show this week in Pennsylvania, and every week we have to get newsmakers from across from across the state. Two weeks ago, we had a governor. We've had U.S. senators, congressmen. Basically, politicos in that show airs across Pennsylvania, which for those of your viewers. Not only is Pennsylvania home to Three Mile Island, which I know you're international viewers will remember, but it's kind of radioactive politically because the the U.S. Senate may hang in the balance this year. That is who controls the US Senate. And we have a Republican senator by the name of Pat Toomey, who is retiring. It is an open seat and it is a free for all in this state as people try to take that state they have already spent. Now is in May, the general elections in November. But number of candidates in the Senate race alone have already spent $15 million. Add that the seat is up for grabs and lots of people are trying to grab it. [00:04:47][169.7]

Michael Moran: [00:04:48] Well, Dennis, I want to extend the sports analogy just a bit that warmed my heart. Your Bakersfield sojourn. I came out of newspapers in the back in the day. Newspapers looked a lot like the American. Baseball system, there were minor league, there was a level it's exactly right. And I went to the Sarasota Herald Tribune and then I went to the St. Petersburg Times, which was kind of a AAA, and I always wondered what if I'd stayed at one of those places? They're really wonderful newspapers and places to stay, but I ended up getting sucked into the vortex of Washington and then international news. But that's for another day for our listeners who aren't familiar. Another reason state politics in America state capital politics is so important is because these are the people who draw the lines that determine where the districts that people represent are actually located. The Republican Party over the last several decades has been extremely successful in capturing statehouses, even in competitive states like Pennsylvania. And so that's another level of relevance for those of you overseas are going, Why should I care? [00:05:55][67.1]

Dennis Owens: [00:05:56] Well, and and there's great intrigue right now in Pennsylvania. But our conversation is timely because on this very day when we taped this on February 4th, we the Legislative Reapportionment Commission is set to release its maps of where the State House and Senate boundaries are. It is likely headed for the state Supreme Court, which interestingly enough, though the Legislature is controlled and dominated by Republicans, and as you said, the last couple of times they've redrawn boundaries, both congressional and state. It's basically been controlled by Republicans. Republicans had the governor's office, the Legislature and the Supreme Court. While the the worm has turned, as they say, the governor here is Democrat and the state Supreme Court is five to two Democrat. And if the groups can't come to an agreement on how to draw the lines, they end up in the Supreme Court, and that is likely for both the maps, even though there was a lot of talk for a year. It's a small it's like one of my favorite scenes from movie Austin Powers is when there's a guy on a steamroller moving at half a mile an hour, and Austin Powers is about 100 feet in front of him and is acting as if he's about to be run over by a speeding train and never gets out of the way. Well, we know reapportionment happens every 10 years. This time it was quote unquote supposed to be different because of the public input and transparency. And the fact of the matter is they're going to get drawn by the Supreme Court in both levels, and that's going to happen here in the next couple of weeks. [00:07:19][83.0]

Michael Moran: [00:07:20] And so we're seeing we see this playing out across the United States. The idea that some nonpartisan panel could draw these up is is a nonsense. These days, there's no such thing as nonpartisan in this country anymore, anyway, no more political stuff in that regard. I want to get to the COVID aspect here. Now you take this atmosphere of partizanship and competition and high stakes. You stir in a global pandemic. That's what's happened in every country, in the world and in every state in the United States. We talked a little briefly before the podcast about how Pennsylvania has has seen this incredible effect that the pandemic has had on its politics and its citizens. What's the what's the big picture? How does how has COVID affected the job you have to do and the the politics of your state? [00:08:16][55.7]

Dennis Owens: [00:08:16] Well, there is a bitter fight, a bitter divide over COVID. We have, as I mentioned, a Republican legislature and a Democratic governor. I would venture to guess that Pennsylvania was one of the more restrictive states during coronavirus. Governor Wolf ordered a number of shut downs. He ordered businesses shut down and ordered his Department of Community and Economic Development Secretary to decide which businesses were quote unquote essential and which were nonessential. And this just rankled Republicans. They gave them all. They had grace for a couple of weeks in the first couple of weeks of pandemic. We don't know what's going on. Let's let's figure it out. But as restaurants were shut down and told that you have to know, for instance, the minutia and the rules where you cannot serve food at the bar, you must wear masks into a restaurant. But then, of course, people mask off at the table. There's lots of rules that people question the logic of them, and Republicans got increasingly upset with the shutdowns, and I remember doing some stories and you'll agree. So the mom and pop flower shop in May was shut down, not allowed to do business, even though they said, Hey, we can arrange flowers and deliberate steps. You're shut down. You're not deemed essential. But yet, Lowe's and Home Depot are selling flowers at Mother's Day at a record clip. And clearly, this frustrated Republicans and there were mask mandates and school shutdowns. And so they put a constitutional amendment before the voters the Republican Legislature did. And to do that, it's now no easy process. You have to pass the same identical bill in two consecutive sessions. On the ballot for people to vote on, and they did that and the basically it was. Should emergency powers only last for 21 days and after 21 days? Does the governor have to come to the Legislature to get approval to continue the emergency declaration that is allowing him to shut things down? And that passed overwhelmingly. I think people were frustrated at the shutdown. Rightly or wrongly, the governor was the face of of the shutdowns. And I know, you know, the restaurant lobby, which was the restaurant folks were crushed. I mean, they lost business, they lost employees. People were out of work. It was just a very difficult thing and it was a very clear and visible dividing line between Republicans and Democrats. I remember Republicans had a number of rallies on the steps of the Capitol open pay rallies and of course, you know, people not wearing masks. And a local state senator rose to a degree of prominence on a number of fronts. This is one of them. The shutdowns are resisting. The shutdowns and mandates was one of them. Senator Doug Mastriano is running for governor as we speak as a Republican. He also furthered the concept that the election of 2020 was stolen. He is a friend of Donald Trump. He led bus tour bus loads of people down to the rally that ultimately became the riot of January 6th. Well, he has risen to prominence here in Pennsylvania. Many people think he's one of the favorites in the Republican side to. And polls suggest that too, by the way, to win the Republican nomination to run for governor. So there was tension between our governor, the Democratic governor and the Republican Legislature. All along the the pandemic only exacerbated it. He vetoed another bill yesterday. I have jokingly called him Uncle Vito as an Vito is the most. He has done more vetoes than any governor in recent history as Republicans tried to do things. And he shuts down, and that's why they have done an end run around him with a number of constitutional amendments. [00:11:59][222.7]

Michael Moran: [00:12:02] And if there was I mean, Pennsylvania was also a kind of hot spot spot for the vote counting controversy that followed the election in 2020. But let me just take a break a moment and we're going to come right back to you to hear from our sponsor. Let's hold that thought while we take a second to pay the bills. We'll be right back. [00:12:21][19.7]

Ad: [00:12:22] Manifest density is brought to you by Microshare, offering turnkey smart facility solutions for the COVID 19 era. Microshare enables global businesses to get back to work quickly and safely locks in resilience for the long run. Learn more at Microshare Dorado. [00:12:36][13.8]

Michael Moran: [00:12:40] OK, I'm back with Dennis Owens, who is an ABC 27 Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, anchor and host of several different programs, but mostly his expertize is covering state politics from Harrisburg, the state capital. Dennis, I know there have been a lot of very, very passionate debates over various aspects of the reaction from governments to COVID, the state legislature in Pennsylvania, like many. Weighed the idea of giving businesses a blanket liability protection if they basically used the job that people had as leverage and made them come back to work or be fired. Where has that landed in Pennsylvania? Because that's been something that has been very draconian in some states and in others, they've taken a very labor friendly approach. What's Pennsylvania? [00:13:34][54.5]

Dennis Owens: [00:13:35] Well, Republicans in the Legislature certainly supported it. The governor vetoed it, so it passed and the governor vetoed it, and he felt people should be able to exercise their right to sue. He didn't want to take that away from anyone. And of course, Republicans complained that he is beholden to the trial lawyers here in Pennsylvania, and they are one of his largest contributors, and he didn't want to do anything that would upset them. So taking away people's ability to sue is not something that would sit well with either the trial bar or with with the governor. And I guess he envisioned companies making people work, getting sick, dying and then and then not being held accountable. So of course, the Republican side of that or the supporters side of that is we need to get back to work. We need to get people back to work. And it's not our fault. There's a pandemic. And you know, I think what will be interesting, Mike and I know your journalist and I think the story that's out there to be done and I haven't seen it be done yet. And now that we have about a two year data collection of this pandemic, I wonder about the top five restrictive states in America and Pennsylvania may very well be one of them and the least five restrictive states in America. And what's their deaths per 100000? Because I have a feeling two years out, two years into this pandemic? I don't know that there's going to be a great difference. I don't know. I'd like to see the data. I think it's a great story and I think it should be done. It's a story that should be done because it's it will it will help guide future pandemics. And do you shut down or do you just protect the vulnerable populations in nursing homes or the vulnerable populations? [00:15:17][102.3]

Michael Moran: [00:15:18] There has been some data on that. I mean, the the the thing that has confounded the epidemiology community is that the the data isn't consistent. So, you know, California's numbers are not appreciably better than those in Texas or Florida, where they've taken a very libertarian view toward masks and where you have a much higher population of people who are who are unwilling to be vaccinated. But but the interesting numbers are not so much. The infection rates, which are very inconsistent, but the death rates and those have begun to conform to what you would expect because Delta and Omicron deceits my own analysis. I'm not an epidemiologist. I just play went on the on a podcast. But good luck with that. Yeah, but the the two variants that have been most prevalent the last six months have been have been shown to be resisted pretty well in terms of serious illness by vaccines. So now you're starting to see some of what we expected that people who didn't get vaccinated did actually suffer more. And so now you're seeing that like the southeast, where there's very low, low vaccination rates. And you know, there are death tolls are climbing, but you have to also throw into numbers like that something like New Jersey, the densest state in the country, also very restrictive. But they've got seven million people, 7.5 million, maybe even eight packed into a space the size of a Colorado county. Right. So so you can't look at these numbers as well. [00:17:07][109.0]

Dennis Owens: [00:17:08] Zero. And you also have places like Florida and California where the people can be outside more than in the Northeast, for instance, and that might. But that's why I'm saying two years in, you've had a couple of seasons. And and what's the data telling us? Because I suspect. I don't know that there's a bit of difference between the ones that were Uber shut down states and the ones that weren't. And if that's the case. Dot, dot, dot. And I'm not saying it is because I don't have the numbers in front of me, but if that is the case, you know, maybe the next time we're less shut down happy and more protect the people specifically, they need to be protected. [00:17:41][33.7]

Michael Moran: [00:17:42] Well, that's what's happening in Europe. Of course. Now Europe has started to lift restrictions completely, and [00:17:48][5.5]

Dennis Owens: [00:17:48] that's what Denmark did. [00:17:49][0.9]

Michael Moran: [00:17:50] The theory behind that is, OK, we're we've we've tried to defeat this the way the Chinese did and anybody's watching the Olympics. It's like it's like an epidemiological tyranny. But if you look at Europe right now, what they've decided is, OK, remember that term herd immunity? That's where we're going. We have to do it because this thing's not going away until we get there. And that's the new U.K. law that basically removed all restrictions that seems to be happening now across continental Europe. [00:18:19][29.0]

Dennis Owens: [00:18:19] So and I and I have three school age kids, including a daughter in high school and right after the Christmas break, like everybody had it, it was a cold. My one son had it. He became an Xbox champion in the several days he had to stay home. But it was not as bad as previous illnesses and colds he has had to have. Herd immunity means that for a moment I should note my kids are Vaxart and boosted, which is rare for underage people in this country. But because the booster were only about a third of adults and much lower than that on kids. But if for the vaccine and boosted it means a cold herd immunity, we move on. That sounds like a good deal to me. [00:19:00][40.6]

Michael Moran: [00:19:01] Yep, and my little herd is also immune by that definition. Thank you. So I will get to the next question in just a second, but I want to hold that thought and hear from one of our many sponsors. [00:19:13][12.7]

Ad: [00:19:16] Manifest density is brought to you by Microshare, offering turnkey smart facility solutions for the COVID 19 era. Microshare enables global businesses to get back to work quickly and safely locks in resilience for the long run. Learn more at Microshare Dorado. [00:19:31][14.2]

Michael Moran: [00:19:32] OK, I am back with Dennis Owen's broadcast journalist and state politics expert. He focuses at ABC 27 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on the Pennsylvania politics, and we're talking about COVID 19 and how that has roiled politics. Now, Dennis, you as a state politics reporter, I hope you're not one of these people. Like those who go to Washington who never, ever again sees an actual human being, only sees people who are politicians and their aides and flacks and and lobbyists. All these things we've been talking about have been we're viewing through the kind of prism of the debate in a state legislature. But what's the how is all of this kind of filtering out into the populous in Pennsylvania? What what kind of vibe are you getting about how people are feeling about this and how that's affecting the prospects of Democrats and Republicans for the next election? [00:20:28][56.0]

Dennis Owens: [00:20:29] Well, again, I think there is there has been a great divide. You had Republicans and Trump Republicans specifically that were resisting, shall we say, some of the science of the masks and the shutdowns and saying that's government overreach and tyranny. And Democrats, it seemed to be more going along with the idea of masks. The city of Philadelphia, for instance, which is heavily democratic, still has lots of of shutdowns. And I just saw the Inquirer today suggesting that that's going to last for a couple of months more. I think Pennsylvania is like the rest of the country, though I've not been in the rest of the country, is pretty much tired of this whole thing. There's been obviously fits and starts. There's been times when you think it was over. You know, think about it in. In June of last year, the state statewide, there were about hundred and four cases of just infections statewide. By January, that number is seven thousand a day. So, you know, you think it's over, it's not over. Here comes back. I think what I said is the hope for result of hopefully everybody gets a cold, we get herd immunity and this thing is mostly put in the rearview mirror. I think that's what Denmark basically said last week. They said, we're putting it in the same category as the flu. I think that's the hope sooner rather than later. But again, I think in democratic areas, it's it's still mask up and maintain distance. Maybe stay in the house and not go to that Super Bowl party that you might want to otherwise go to. As for the it's interesting because I just reported literally right before I came on this podcast that because some question about it. Last year, Gov. Wolf gave his budget address virtually first time in the history of Pennsylvania. We've been doing these things since the 7500 year. Obviously, they weren't going to do virtual in seventeen hundreds, but for the first time ever, a budget address was not before the General Assembly. This year, he is going to go back to it and it's Tuesday. The budget address is this Tuesday, and he will go back to doing it in person. Another fight that's happening is last year, the legislation put $7 billion aside from federal money to use it for the future. While the future is now and the governor saying he wants to spend it, and the Republicans are saying, Well, we don't really have $7 billion, we don't have that money. It's already been accounted for. If we just do this standard spending we're expected to spend between now and that money runs out in December 31st of 2024. So there is no front on which there isn't a fight going on between the Republican lawmakers and the Democratic governor and Democrats. [00:22:58][148.7]

Michael Moran: [00:22:59] And so much of it revolves around COVID. So that that's a perfect lead in to that last question I have for you. It's kind of a double question because we're running out of time here on manifest density. The future is now here to Dennis. So you you have a job that is traditionally very much a kind of button holing handshaking, Hey, how are you doing, John? What's going on in there type of job? You know, you have to interact with people. And then, of course, you know, you're always the desire, at least, is to stand in front of the statehouse and do a piece to the camera while you're reporting. And how is COVID? And the pandemic itself affected the day to day of being a reporter in a major state capital? [00:23:44][44.7]

Dennis Owens: [00:23:45] Well, on the one hand, I will be completely candid with you. I have flannel pajama bottoms, a shirt, tie and jacket on for this Zoom interview, though you didn't get the camera to work. But Zoom Zoom has opened things up because for this week in Pennsylvania, for instance, I have to interview newsmakers to get them to come into the studio, as I used to have to do for a Friday three o'clock taping was very difficult. They're out of town on Friday, so it limited now with a Zoom. I can get some of the biggest names on Zoom and the Good. The thing about Zoom that everybody has gone to Zoom is that the viewers now accept it and I'm going to zoom before pandemic. People would say it looks like crap that sounds like you can't do that, but now everybody accepts it. [00:24:28][43.0]

Michael Moran: [00:24:29] You remember the Blair Witch Project Project? [00:24:31][2.4]

Dennis Owens: [00:24:32] Oh, yeah, yeah, exactly. [00:24:33][0.8]

Michael Moran: [00:24:34] And I was still in broadcast when that came out, and it suddenly all these kind of really slick, high production value producers were going, We need a shaky camera. I think is because it looked supposedly authentic. [00:24:45][11.8]

Dennis Owens: [00:24:46] So if we can find them, a shaky camera is called Get a photographer from the market. No. One thirty four who hasn't learned the craft yet. It's, you know, it's it's kind of funny. But but on the other hand, the negative the downside to your point, and it is getting a little bit better as the capital return starts to turn for rhythm. People are coming back, but so much of what I get is like I'll walk through the capital and talk to nine people and have seven stories in the process of those conversations that don't really happen when somebody is on a zoom with you. I mean, they'll give you a soundbite and they'll talk to you about a story. But the real the real news is gathered people to people, as you accurately pointed out, and the people just haven't been here for the most part. But as I said, the swallows are returning to the to the to the State House a bit. I do see things getting better as we head toward the spring. [00:25:37][51.0]

Michael Moran: [00:25:39] OK, so we're going to mix that metaphor with Capistrano and Punxsutawney. [00:25:42][3.1]

Dennis Owens: [00:25:44] It's much nicer in Capistrano. I've been to both, but Punxsutawney has a charm one day of the year, but it's usually a pretty chilly on February 2nd. But almost everybody in attendance has some liquid warmth, if you know what I'm saying. [00:25:58][13.5]

Michael Moran: [00:26:00] All right. Well, I'm going to start to wrap it up here. Dennis, this has been a really fascinating conversation. How would people other than obviously those of you in the Harrisburg metropolitan area who can watch Dennis on television and perhaps across Pennsylvania? But beyond that, that area, how would people follow what you do and the work that's going on and Pennsylvania politics? [00:26:21][21.6]

Dennis Owens: [00:26:22] Real simple. Thank you for the opportunity this week in Pennsylvania. Dot com. That's my weekly politics show. ABC 27 dot com is my station that I work for, and my work is on there. And then I am a the only social media avail myself to really heavily is Twitter. It's Owens underscore ABC. Twenty seven. [00:26:42][20.3]

Michael Moran: [00:26:44] OK. Dennis, and I'm going to remind people that they can learn more about our sponsor Microshare and how it has helped to get the world safely back to work, ever smoked solutions, boost efficiency, enable cost savings and bring safety and reassurance to the people inside your buildings. You can learn more about every smart air clean, every smart space in a whole other suite of products on the Microshare website. That's WW w microshare down there, and you can subscribe to Manifest Density or download it onto Google Play. I talk radio Spotify or complain about it. We like comments that go for it, but it's available on a number of audio platforms that I didn't mention, and that will pretty much do it for this week. On behalf of Microshare and all of its global employees, this is Michael Moran thanking Dennis Owens again and saying so long. Be well and thank you for listening. [00:26:44][0.0]




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