47 min read

🎧 #060: Jacinda Lofland on success with Tenant Engagement apps

“>There's this real opportunity, with the technology available today, to hear directly from tenants on what they want. "


—Jacinda Lofland

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Episode 60 is a conversation with Jacinda Lofland, Director of Strategy and Innovation at Nuveen Real Estate.

Summary

We talked about all things tenant or occupant engagement, including why it's important now, the use cases for dedicated engagement technologies, the lessons learned from Jacinda's work, deploying tenant apps across Nuveen's portfolio, and much, much more.

This is a fun and engaging change of pace and I think you're going to like it. Without further ado, please enjoy it next as Podcast Episode 60.

  1. Nuveen Real Estate (0:36)
  2. Remote Year (3:15)
  3. Selina (4:01)
  4. Influence by Robert B. Cialdini (24:56)
  5. Opower (25:10)
  6. Nexus Podcast 058: Darlene Pope (27:44)
  7. Nexus Podcast 032: Erik Ubels (43:08)

You can find Jacinda Lofland on LinkedIn.

Enjoy!

Highlights

  • How real estate is changing: it's no longer just a box... it's a product people use (7:15)
  • How engagement was done in the past, what is net promoter score, and how apps can help (16:57)
  • Use cases for tenant engagement apps (21:39)
  • Two major criteria for success with tenant apps and keys to success (31:42)
  • Roadmap to rolling out a tenant app (38:41)
  • Perspective on getting people to actually use the app: more important that there's optionality (43:05)
  • Whether the back of the house tech should merge with front of the house tech (48:28)

Music credit: Dream Big by Audiobinger—licensed under an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License.

Full transcript

Note: transcript was created using an imperfect machine learning tool and lightly edited by a human (so you can get the gist). Please forgive errors!

James Dice: [00:00:03] hello friends, welcome to the nexus podcast. I'm your host James dice each week. I fire questions that the leaders of the smart buildings industry to try to figure out where we're headed and how we can get there faster without all the marketing fluff. I'm pushing my learning to the limit. And I'm so glad to have you here following along.

Episode 60 is a conversation with Jacinda Lofland, Director of Strategy and Innovation at Nuveen Real Estate. We talked about all things, tenant or occupant engagement, including why it's important now, the use cases for dedicated engagement technologies, the lessons learned from Jacinda's work, deploying tenant apps across Nuveen's portfolio, and much, much more.

This is a fun and engaging change of pace and I think you're going to like it. Without further ado, please enjoy it next as Podcast Episode 60.

Hello Jacinda welcome to the show. Can you introduce yourself please?

Jacinda Lofland: [00:01:03] Sure. And thanks James. Really excited to be here. My name is Jacinda Lockland. my official title is director of strategy and innovation for Nuveen real estate. But I get super jazzed about customers and community. So that's my area of focus.

And for those that don't know, Nuveen real estate is a large global real estate asset manager. We have about $130 billion of real estate under management, about 40 billion of that is in retail, 35 billion in office 25 million in housing, 20 billion in industrial and 7 billion in alternative classes like self storage, single family rentals, medical office, excited

James Dice: [00:01:43] to be here.

I'm excited for you to be here. You and I met when you took the nexus foundations course last spring. So it's been fun getting to know you and hearing about everything Nuveen has going on. Can you talk a little bit about your background before Nuveen? How'd you get, get into the industry?

Jacinda Lofland: [00:02:00] Yeah. I wish I could say it was all really well orchestrated and planned, but that's not the case at all.

My first job out of college was at Pricewaterhouse Coopers. I was doing auditing very, very exciting stuff taking in time. But no, it was really, really great foundation for a career. Kind of understanding how everything ties back to the financials and regulatory reviews. I did that for a couple years, and then I went over to Tia craft.

So that is Nuveen real estate's parent company. And that's who I was.  By for a period of time doing commercial real estate investing on the west coast, I did mortgage originations and also some equity investments across those asset classes that I spoke to before. And then I left Tia and actually moved to Argentina, had like a quarter life crisis.

It was like, oh my gosh, I, I need to change. I got to do something different. And I had studied abroad there and really was sad that I lost my Spanish. So I went to Argentina without a job. Not for trying. I had applied to a ton of remote jobs and jobs in Argentina and they were like, you don't speak Spanish.

So no, thank you. But I ended up getting really lucky after I moved there and I worked for a startup called Remote Year. And what we did was we organized travel programs for digital nomads to go to 12 different cities over the course of a year and have a community that they were traveling with.

We set up their accommodations, a coworking space. We had local teams on the ground in each of those cities organizing networking events and social cultural events. And I was their first finance hire and was probably completely unqualified for some of the things there were conversations. People were like, oh yeah, like, how do we want to set up this international structure and like entities?

And I'm looking around like, oh yeah. Oh, that's on me. Okay, cool. Got it. I'll I'll go follow up. Let me back to you guys. But no, in all seriousness it was it was an amazing opportunity. Yeah. Learned a ton. I worked my butt off did that for a couple of years. And then I worked for a company called Selena for less than a year.

Very similar model to work, but it hospitality. So converting hope hotels into you know, kind of more community-based spaces. You'd have kind of nicer apartment style rooms, and then you'd also have a ton of dorms, but everybody would go to the same sort of a restaurant or a coworking space there.

So I helped with their international growth plans and then took a little break and came back to Nuveen real estate and a very different role here. I CA I kind of call myself a change, you know, champion or professional disruptor at this point in time. So.

James Dice: [00:04:28] Nice. Nice. And do I have it right? That while you were at remote year, you were also re like traveling around as well?

Or is it just.

Jacinda Lofland: [00:04:39] No, I was it wasn't and that was the amazing thing. I did get to spend a lot of time in Argentina, which is very near and dear to my heart. But I spent a lot of time throughout Latin America and Columbia, Mexico, Peru. And then I got to go over to Europe as well, and I never made it over to APAC and that's a regret of mine.

But yeah, I was very lucky. And like I said, we had these amazing local teams on the grounds in these different cities. So when I went there, I had someone to, you know, give me great recommendations. It was, I couldn't have found a better place to land during that period of my life. It was awesome.

James Dice: [00:05:13] Really cool.

Really cool. All right. So where'd you get this passion related to occupant experience slash community or that.

Jacinda Lofland: [00:05:21] Yeah, I think, I think a lot of it was finding that community and remote year going to different cities, but kind of immediately being able to plug into these coworking spaces or have these folks that I can reach out to and kind of grow from there.

And I just get really excited. Like technology gets me excited because of the transparency that it can provide. Right. And because there's an opportunity for people to have access to information and to share their voice. And I just think that the commercial real estate industry is so big and there's so many different layers within it.

You've got portfolio management, asset management, property management, kind of the leadership and decision makers that occupiers. And then You have the people that are using the buildings and those are the people that we all spend time thinking about, but a lot of time it's just trying to guess at what they want.

And I just think that there's this real opportunity, with the technology that we have available today, to hear directly from them on what they want. and I, I'm a people person. I kind of look back and I'm like, I don't know how I actually did finance for so long because I just love people. And I get excited about trying to find ways to like help people do do their jobs the way that they want to and, and achieve their maximum kind of productivity and the goals that they want.

So, that's what, that's what gets me up every morning. That's my favorite part of the job.

James Dice: [00:06:40] That's awesome. That's awesome. Well, obviously since you nerd a nerd out about that, we're going to nerd out about that on the podcast. So thanks for coming on to, to teach a little bit, Why don't we start by like S like, obviously we're going to, we're going to dive into how technology can help with, with all of that stuff.

You're passionate about why don't we start with like, Real estate is changing. I think what you told me before is it's no longer a box. Can you kind of set the stage for this diving in?

Jacinda Lofland: [00:07:11] Yeah, so for a really long time as I see it, leases were signed for 10 plus years and landlords gave the space or the box to occupiers, and they gave them a TI allowance.

So a tenant improvement allowance to fix it out the way that they wanted. And that was it. Then for the next 10 years the occupier was in that space. And I think that things are changing, people are needing more flexibility. Occupiers are looking for help and understanding how people are utilizing that space and the best way to design that space, both physically and digitally.

So while there are still a large number of occupiers that know that they do want a space in that location for, for, you know, 10 or plus years, and we've had a lot of leases signed like that, even in the last year, there is also, I think, a growing percentage of occupiers that are wanting things to look flexible in different ways.

So that could be shorter lease term links, or it could be having shared amenities so that they're not spending the money to build out a big conference room or event space, but they're able to leverage that amenity within a building and share that with other occupiers. So I really do think that things are shifting, some really big shifts.

I might be kind of jumping ahead here, but before it was like, here's your box and send us rent.  You know, a lot less collaboration and ongoing engagement, by observation from landlords and occupiers.

James Dice: [00:08:43] Totally. Totally. Yeah. I think a previous, previous guest, Aaron Lapsley said something along the lines of buildings are not bonds.

it's not like a set it and forget it here's your box anymore. Right. And, and one of the other things you've told me is like, it it's it. We need to start thinking about it as a product. So what do you mean by the product aspect? The shift towards a.

Jacinda Lofland: [00:09:06] Yeah, I think that in addition to physics cool space, there are either digital products or service layers that we can be adding on for our occupiers to better optimize and to have the utilization kind of be maximized at the same time while we're trying to maximize utilization and kind of, you know, sharing economy trends and flexibility.

We're also trying to minimize energy use, you know, and so those two things kind of those I'd say like major challenges that we're facing alongside our occupiers, managing to the sort of sustainability commitments that we've made and that they've made, but also taking a step back and saying, Hey, the workplace is a tool and a toolkit to attract and retain talent that the human capital challenge is, is the most expensive and complicated one for any company.

And so, like I said, taking a step back and thinking about. Real estate and other products, whether it's, you know, workplace as a service, as an example or rolling out kind of digital amenities and infrastructure, to help solve those problems.

James Dice: [00:10:12] Totally. And does the pandemic have an impact on this?

Like basically it needs to be a better product and motivate people to come back. Is that a piece of this.

Jacinda Lofland: [00:10:22] Yeah, definitely. So I think the technology has been there for a while. We've had, you know, cloud-based solutions, you know, for more than just the last year and a half and, strong wifi and the digital infrastructure that's needed is making its way into more and more places.

I was a big user of zoom years ago. Now it's just been, it's a lot more commonplace. So I think that what's changed dramatically in the last year and a half has been more around the adoption side of things and people understanding that there really is this viable alternative to the default in office that has been kind of more customary.

Now you hear companies talking about defaulting to digital. What I think is really exciting is making the workplace a place that people want to go into despite their commute. And, despite maybe, some of the, time away from family or some of the other trade-offs I worked in a fully remote environment when I was at remote year in Salina.

And we did go back to time in person. I was traveling and spending time with those teams onsite. I'd get my team together at least twice a year. And, you know, cause we found that time in person to be super meaningful. But when I was going into the office, it was always because I wanted to, and I just get really excited about providing the things that make people want to go into the office every day.

James Dice: [00:11:46] And then, so you mentioned Nuveen's, I think it's not zero carbon. You mentioned energy efficiency, right. And our managing energy Nuveen has a net zero carbon by 2040, I think goal. Right? So it's basically, that's awesome by the way, but managing the two of those, right. We're trying to manage energy and we're trying to make people happy and, and balancing that those two.

Jacinda Lofland: [00:12:10] Definitely. Yeah. Nuveen real estate has made a commitment, for net zero carbon by 2040. And, there's a lot of different components to that. kind of electrification of the grid. But energy management is, is a big part of that one that we can, you know, focus on now and together with our occupiers.

Like I said to that, you know, sustainability is kind of top of mind for them as well. So that's a huge, huge priority and focus of our company right now. And kind of another reason I get excited,  to, to dig into this sort of stuff and try to, hit the sweet spot between delivering on that, but then also making sure that we are, having fun, active, engaging places.

James Dice: [00:12:52] Totally. And so this shift towards the product, right? What, what types of buildings you guys have a bunch of different types of buildings, like you said in your portfolio, what types of buildings is this shift?

Jacinda Lofland: [00:13:02] Largely buildings that are touching, she kind of going to all the way to consumers. And so residential has been B to C business to consumer, you know, multi-family and apartment assets for a long time. But what we're seeing now is office and retail going from B to B, to B, to B, to C business, to business, to consumers.

And, you know, I think the simplest way that I can put that is that, you know, you could have the CFO sign a 10 year lease for a building, but if their employees are not coming into that building every day and utilizing the space then you know, they're probably not getting their money's worth. So how can, how can we be thinking about serving those end users, those consumers in the office space as opposed to kind of that more, bond.

Engagement before, we do have such a large portfolio that all of our occupiers are in very different places. Some of them do want the whole building for the next 10 years and they're managing utilization and they that's part of their real estate, state strategy.

Other ones I think are embracing different, you know, more flexible ways of working. And so our job is to enable what they're looking for at the end of the day. And so the things that we're learning are just kind of alongside them are the new ways of doing things. And,  in addition to what we've been doing before, what are some of the other products and services that, that our occupiers are looking for?

James Dice: [00:14:27] So this, this shift, you mentioned collecting data from occupants, like how well is the product working basically is how I'm thinking about it. Talk about how you like, figure that out now and then like, kind of like where you're headed. As far as collecting that data, surveying these occupants, trying to figure out how well the product is actually meeting the needs of those consumers.

Jacinda Lofland: [00:14:51] Yeah. I think just to kind of start with a lot of the conversation to date has been around the financial performance of assets and leasing, right? So do you have people renewing their leases or signing new leases? So that's kind of what the industry focus has been around and, you know, what's your occupancy compared to the building across the street?

I think that surveying around things like net promoter score or other satisfaction with property management, with responsiveness, with communication, those can be leading indicators for leasing, right? Because if people are, You know, engaged in utilizing the space like amenity utilization is another really big one.

If we do have the shared conference room or this fitness center, are people utilizing it if they are there, they're finding value in that. And I think that those sorts of leading indicators around what, future leasing activity would look like are, really, really excited and really an important part of the conversation.

So that's kind of a big push that we've got is to kind of look at some of those things and, and act on them even more importantly, right? Like if we're getting feedback and it seems like, you know, someone goes into their tenant engagement app and they, have the opportunity to kind of put from zero to five stars, the bike storage, right.

And like, we get an average score back and it's saying, you know, to what's, you know, what's going on with the bike storage, like, what are we doing to fix that? Like there should, you know, there should be actual insights for us to continue to try to improve the customer expense.

James Dice: [00:16:18] And are you saying like the status quo and the industry is to not really do any of that surveying or is that done in some other way right now?

Jacinda Lofland: [00:16:28] There are definitely, different surveys that are done. I think that we're getting to the place, so, you know, you can hire third parties to do these surveys. Some will do it through, you know, sending an Excel file to an office manager, others through like a survey monkey tool.

It's all being done in quite different ways. It's just, you kind of consolidating that information all into one place, across a portfolio as large as ours, is a big step. And then just driving accountability, right? Like these are things that like we, our expectation is that our property managers are looking and responding to these things.

But again, that layer of transparency, that technology enables us being able to kind of collect this a little bit more directly dashboard and have conversations with the property managers around it, I think is is the next step.

James Dice: [00:17:17] You mentioned net promoter score. I don't have any idea what that is. A lot of other people don't either, but what is that?

Jacinda Lofland: [00:17:23] Good question. I've had to Google this more than one time, just to make sure that I'm getting it, getting it right. Net promoter score, so basically you ask a customer of yours, would you recommend X, Y, and Z product, or would you recommend this building to a friend or colleague? And on a scale of 0 to 10, they say, you know, zero,

no, not at all, 10, yes, definitely. The 9s and 10s are called promoters. People that say like, yes, you know, 9 or 10, I would recommend this 1s and 6s are detractors and then 7 and 8 are just kind of, neutral. And what you do is you take the percentage of promoters. So the people that elected 9 and 10 and subtract the percentage of detractors 0 to six to come up with a number between negative 100 and 100.

And I think that you know, that it's probably hopefully somewhat similar to, what is your overall satisfaction with the property? But I think that sometimes even just asking questions a little bit differently, might glean new insights and the nice thing about net promoter scores and a lot of consumer products that is kind of the best practice.

And so you can start to see, you know, how are people thinking about real estate or this product that we're offering within the building compared to how they might other consumer driven, products.

James Dice: [00:18:35] So you can start to compare it to like other benchmarks, interesting. So after we've now set the stage here, what I want to do is like, talk about how technology can help, right?

And one of the things that you've done a lot with is tenant experience apps. Are tenant experience apps the way that the industry is sort of. approaching this problem at this point of engaging occupants?

Jacinda Lofland: [00:18:59] Well, even though I'm super biased, because this is a project that I've really dug my hands into during my last couple of years with Nuveen, I think it is a solution.

One of the things that I loved from your course is focusing on the use cases, as opposed to a technology. The technology is not the end all be all, but what problems are you solving? And we've been able to solve through these tenant engagement apps, like problems around communication, right?

Now there is a single source of truth for building information. And so there's no kind of, where should I go? it's all right there. You know, problems around productivity. And so for us, trying to enable certain use cases around mobile access and visitor management, I can kind of get into more specific use cases and run through that, and attraction and retention. So programs and perks and these sorts of things being made available to the app. Again, knowing that people are any company's biggest asset. What are some of the things that we're doing within those engagement apps that hopefully are supporting people, right?

And making their workplace whether it's, you know, physical that day or a digital experience, one that helps them engage and stay motivated.

James Dice: [00:20:07] Cool. Yeah. I want to dive into the use cases. It sounds like though, before we get to the use cases, you, you went towards an application because you wanted to engage with occupants in a digital way.

Is that, is that the reason like the job to be done?

Jacinda Lofland: [00:20:24] Yeah. And we noticed that there was kind of like there were different places that we might be sending people. So, you know, oh, we set out this email communication. If you have a work order, go to this application. And if you're looking to resit or registered visitor, here's this process.

And so what we wanted to do was just consolidate and have there be that single source of truth. So as we're adapting our product set and what's available to tenants that they don't have to be looking in different places to find those things, they go to the same place, but that there's new features coming up and new information.

And so that was. That was kind of the main impetus for this. And like I said, also just having that direct line of communication and transparency. I mean, you hit on that too, but being able to survey our tenants before we, you know, let's say that we've got a retail space downstairs that's available, what would you like to see in that space?

Like, do you want to see a restaurant? Would you like to see you know, convenience store and pulling them on that so that we can go and try to find the right retailer and say to that retailer to, Hey, we're hearing from the people that are in this building everyday that they're really looking for something here.

This is not only going to be helping solve a problem for them, but you know, it's a good indicator that your sales are going to be pretty strong in this.

James Dice: [00:21:33] Totally interesting. Okay. All right. Let's, Let's dive into use cases. How do you think about, because like, there's a lot of use cases that these apps enable, right?

How do you think about the list? Is, are there some of them more important than others and which ones have you deployed? Kind of give us a download.

Jacinda Lofland: [00:21:52] Yeah. Okay. So my centering question, I'll probably repeat this a few times just because it's so easy to get like, excited and caught up in things, but what problems can we help our customers solve?

That is a center in question, or kind of put differently what use cases can we enable for them that will provide the most value? And that is a different answer at every asset, right? There's a different answer for every person, quite frankly, right? And so like, we're going to have different prioritization, have different assets.

And then I kind of bucket things into those three categories. So communication, simple things like letting building users know what amenities are available through the tenant experience apps. We've had people be like, oh my God, I had no idea that we had a bike storage room, you know? And that simply could have been because it used to be something that was shared with the office manager.

Maybe there was turnover in that office manager left, or maybe that person was completely inundated. And that individual was onboarded at a time where that information wasn't shared. So again, kind of just that go-to place or that, you know, you have Evie charging available at your property, making sure that there's, that sort of central repository of the amenities that are available in this space.

Time-sensitive announcements are really important. So we have a number of assets in DC, and this is just an easy example that are located right by the white house and right by the mall there. And so there are a lot of protests and different activities that take place. And so just making sure that the building users are aware like, Hey, the street's going to be blocked off in front, you know?

So time sensitive announcements like that. COVID protocols, this was obviously really helpful to have in place during the course of the pandemic. Occupier feedback, like I was saying, some of the tactical stuff around you know, specific things, what would you like to see here, but also the sort of customer sentiment that we were talking about before and the communication around sustainability. And New York's a really good example here. So I'm with Local Law 97 and a number of other laws, we are like I said, very focused on reducing carbon emissions, not just because of our commitment because of regulation in different cities. And so communicating with tenants, there are certain things that are controllable by us as the building owner and manager.

And then there's a lot of things when it comes to energy efficiency that really aren't controllable by our occupiers. So engaging with them and having that communication, even if it's just sharing and you know, this is kind of our, our plan is to start saying, okay, so last month of the building as a whole was using this much energy, this is what we did the month before.

And kind of starting to have people understand month over month you know, starting big picture. And then maybe we get to a place where it makes sense to start engaging at the floor level brainstorming here, but like having there be competitions between different floors and things like that.

And then understanding based off of those initial communications, which occupiers want to engage more around that and who wants to dive into that. Even more granular and can we have a conversation and can we help them find a more affordable source of energy for their space? Those are the doors that we want to open.

So that kind of like in my mind, all sits in the communication category. I can pause or I can jump to productivity and attraction retention. Do you have any questions on that though?

James Dice: [00:24:52] Before I forget, I wanted to tell you there's this book by Robert Cialdini called Influence. And in that book it's like the six weapons of influence and you can use them as a weapon or not, right?

You can use them for good. In this case, you'd be using them for good, right? He has a case study in there of, and I think the startup Opower use this research, they use research on just basically telling people this is the residential energy management, but they basically said, you use 7% more than the other people in your neighborhood, last month,

right? And that like drove down energy consumption and the neighborhood a ton, and they didn't really even do anything. They just put like that little bit on their utility bill every month. So there might be something to pull from there when you guys end up engaging the occupants in that way.

But anyway, please proceed.

Jacinda Lofland: [00:25:40] No, that's great. I mean, I think information is power, right? And people don't always have the context to know how they're performing compared to other people. My partner was reading a really interesting book. He works in the healthcare space and I mean, so just to translate this to many other industries and  they did somebody to fill in with doctors and just kind of benchmarking and saying, Hey, you perform this surgery on average 30% more than the other doctors.

And so that might have a doctor being like, oh, wow, okay is a C-section necessary? Is that something that I might be defaulting to a little bit more? And so I really do think that information is powerful. It's powerful for us as a company, understanding how we're performing compared to our peers and what areas that we have opportunities to improve on.

And so, so yeah, kind of back to that whole transparency and, and really using it as a prompt for collaboration, again, kind of to the extent that our customers want. Right. Because at the end of the day, like we're just trying to provide them value. And if they see value in that group, You know, let's engage more there.

The other sort of broad category that I think about is, is productivity. So, mobile access, visitor management, and kind of automation of that. So instead of maybe having to go through, you know, the email process before, or, you know, it's up to the office manager, but sometimes it might just be easier instead of having an office manager register, register all the visitors for everybody to just have people be able to do that in a sort of automated way.

It sends an email to the visitor. They've got a QR code that works between a certain period of time. Okay. Amenity booking and billing. So, you know, again, sometimes there are occupiers that would prefer to have the office manager do this, especially if it's attached to additional charges, but in a number of our assets, we have these amenities that are not with an additional charge.

And so having people reserve that conference room for that visitor, for that team meeting being able to do that in the app. Work orders as well. Food order ahead. So, you know, it can be the difference between just having that granola bar or, Hey, I can go or this and grab it really quick before my meeting in 20 minutes.

And I think that Darlene Pope on a recent podcast that you had was saying that they did some analysis for a company and saving people five minutes every day saved that client $13 million a year. You know, so even though it might seem like, oh, that's, you know, that's a small thing, those minutes add up, right.

When you think about you know, across the company and across, you know, enabling that for all people. And like, I don't know if everybody is as crazy as I am, but like every minute counts in my day. So I really do appreciate whatever people are saving me time. And then the last category is kind of around attraction retention.

So, the amenities that I spoke to, or hopefully a piece of that, you have these tech companies that have these incredible campuses and all these amenities, and that's just not something that is affordable for every single occupier to provide. And so if we can be providing that as a part of being in this building and that can be shared across different occupiers.

I think that that is helpful and competitive. Programs and perks, these, you know, these are hit or miss with people. But fitness classes, professional and personal development, so classes on stress management, beating burnout. I used to be like, oh no, I got this now. I'll take whatever tips like mental health help is very welcome here.

But like I said, hit or miss family activities. So in our apps, like there are you know, during the pandemic, there were, you know, video calls that people could join to do stretching exercises with their kids and then learn how to make a paper plate submarine. Like they'd have different things, just like if you're tired period at the end of the day, you're not sure how to entertain your kid,

like here's an option for you, right? You can take it or leave it. Community and social responsibility, this is something that I am very passionate about. And I think, you know, admittedly learning as I go more and more about, but really being a proactive part of solving some of the inequality gaps that we're seeing in our communities.

And I think that with a building full of people, it's a building full of opportunities to really do that in a meaningful way. So, one of the ways that we've done that, and again, you know, we're exploring more and more, but it's really stressing supporting local businesses, especially during the pandemic, but all the time.

And making sure that like those businesses that were struggling, highlighting them and saying, Hey, you can do food for pickup or they have delivery at this restaurant. Because they know that a lot of those businesses have been struggling. Other things like putting together like summer camp, rainy day kits.

So, when kids can't go outside during the summer camp having there be some arts and crafts that people are putting together and sending in. So, I think that, you know, again, it's hit or miss every person, there might be one thing on that list that resonated with them. But those sorts of things I was doing some research and I think there's different estimates, but replacement costs for companies are anywhere between 33 and 75% of that individual salary.

So if there are things that we're doing that are solving that problem, like we're helping to provide amenities that are speaking to different people on the team that you know, it really does show up in the bottom line.

James Dice: [00:30:43] Absolutely. Yeah. I haven't thought about that, that individual business case before that that is a real, real value.

Hey guys, just another quick note from our sponsor nexus labs. And then we'll get back to the show. This episode is brought to you by nexus foundations, our introductory course on the smart buildings industry. If you're new to the industry, this course is for you. If you're an industry vet, but want to understand how technology is changing things.

This course is also for you. The alumni are raving about the content, which they say pulls it all together, and they also love getting to meet the other students on the weekly zoom calls and in the private chat room, you can find out more about the course@courses.nexus lab. Start online. All right, back to the interview.

So where does, or get it, I want to get into like your experience with deploying these apps. Where does an app play and not play though? You mentioned there are other options. Technology is not always the perfect option. Where does this play?

Jacinda Lofland: [00:31:42] I think the two major criteria for success based off of my work so far has been multitenant buildings and shared amenities.

And you have those two things there are already clearly use cases that you can drive in time that you couldn't say for people with an app.. If you've got a single tenant building, you know, like I described before, maybe the problem that we're solving for that occupier is just liquidity because they don't want to buy a building, but they want to be in it

long-term. And so they're paying rent and it's kind of an amortized cost for them instead of a big cap, you know, cash out the door upfront maybe it's just maintenance, maybe it's not around the engagement piece as much. And so a lot of those tenants, like, especially in single tenant buildings will have their own workplace app or as Darlene was talking about and is much more knowledgeable than me, integrated workplace management solution.

We're not trying to with that by any means. We want to provide this if it's value additive to have that sort of building software layer. But sometimes that's something that occupiers are really kind of happy to manage themselves.

James Dice: [00:32:47] Yeah. Yeah. I mean, that's where it goes back to the stakeholder, right.

That you're trying to impact with technology is it seems like those two categories of tech kind of hit different different stakeholders. So, all right. So tell me about your experience. You've done. I don't know how many apps you've, you've tried out and you've done. Can you kind of like, how's it gone so far and what, what, what have you.

Jacinda Lofland: [00:33:11] Yeah. So we did an RFP at the end of 2019 with a number of the office tenant experience app providers. And at that point in time, we had about a handful of deployed globally in 2020. We rolled it out in 20 more buildings or almost 20 more buildings. This year it's going to be almost 10 more buildings.

So at this point in time, we have 33 buildings serving more than 700 companies. As far as Where we're at right now with our, with our reach, with tenant experience apps. And, you know, as, as many listeners probably implied, a lot of our apps were rolled out while there were, there was not as high of occupancy.

So of course we have some occupiers that, you know, are essential workers and have been in the building every day. But you know, we do have some buildings where occupancy got down to 10% or not, and it's, it's not the easiest environment to roll out an app where you're trying to re you know, connect directly with the end user, because you don't have the opportunity to have them walk by a QR code in the lobby and be like, oh, okay.

Like, what's that quick download and then kind of engage from there. And so. A lot of it has been, you know, us emailing those office points of contact and having them share that information with their employees. And, you know, there are a lot of competing priorities that people have had over the course of the last year.

I think it was, I, you know, maybe I'm just looking at the silver lining, but I think it was really good timing that there were a lot of lessons learned integrations take while not every property team is like super well-versed in tenant experience apps. In fact, like I was not going into this, it's a pretty nascent industry.

And so I think that just getting people, understanding, you know, what those meaningful use cases are, what integration is used in so many different ways. There's, you know, So I think really refining the conversation with our property teams about what we were trying to accomplish with this, and then road mapping out of those use cases that I described before, which ones they think are going to add the most value for the building users.

And then kind of also planning budgetary things. So in some of our buildings, we need to have, we need to upgrade our readers so that they're mobile enabled. We can't do mobile access until we do that. And so that's a part of the roadmap. Okay. Let's make sure that we're budgeting to upgrade the readers.

And so I think that it's been times that we've been really working hard and learning things to make sure that as people are coming back into the office more and more that they're experiencing something different and have a lot of things to, to engage with and the app

James Dice: [00:35:46] totally.

Do you guys see, you said you've, you've done a couple of different apps. Do you guys see the entire portfolio standardizing on a single app or is it kind of building by building?

Jacinda Lofland: [00:35:57] Yeah. I, again, I think it's the focus and I feel like I you've taught, this is it's more on the use case, but don't let me put words in your mouth if you're seeing it differently.

But I think it's more about enabling the use cases than consolidating to one technology. Our portfolio is large. We have different occupiers with different needs. Every building is kind of looks and feels differently. So. My end goal is not to push one technology, but is to make sure that the, common needs that people have across buildings are met and that might be through different solutions.

We work with a handful of the providers in the space and to have had really positive experiences with all of them. And so, kind of continue to organically grow. And I think that that comfortability of the property team is really important because you can't just roll out a technology and expect people to be engaging with it.

You need to have someone the champion to, to use a term from the class to to really be showing people how that's meant to make their lives easier. And so if there are certain teams that are comfortable with one over another, that's a really big factor in, you know, what we decided to roll out.

James Dice: [00:37:09] Yeah, totally. Yeah. You're making me very proud with all of the ways in which you're describing, describing this. But you're also like pointing out. Like, I think there's a, in the industry, there's like a, like drive towards standardization, which isn't necessarily always grounded in how like big portfolio owners are always thinking about things.

You know, they're not, we don't always need to standardize across the entire big portfolio. this perspective that I like to hear from you on,

Jacinda Lofland: [00:37:40] well, I'm glad you're saying that too. Cause you know, I kind of always joke, like, a commercial real estate we're making, we're used to making like big boots, like we're buying multimillion dollar buildings, you know?

And so there is a little bit, I think, of this like default towards like, oh, can we, is there one group that can kind of, you know, that we can work with across the portfolio? And so it's been a constant, it's been a constant conversation. I think. Honing in on,  not just what the right use cases at that property are, but what is the data that you're trying to get out of it?

That's where I think that standardization can be helpful. Right. We can only do if we're, we can only benchmark our ability and performance around customer satisfaction. If we're collecting,  asking the same questions across the portfolio. So I, I do think that it's important as an owner to know what information you need across the portfolio and who, the people that are going to act on that information is versus a lot more detail that's available at the property level that the property teams are going to be working with.

Totally.

James Dice: [00:38:41] All right. So given what you've learned so far, what do you think the roadmap is there? Like a couple of steps here to, like, if you're thinking about the portfolio and you're thinking about implementing tenant experience apps, what would the roadmap be?

Jacinda Lofland: [00:38:55] I think it's it's important to understand what systems you already have in the building and what problems those are solving.

So what is your access control system? What readers do you have? What version are they? Do you have a visitor management solution? How are people booking amenities right now? So just kind of thinking through the use cases that we talked about, how are those use cases being addressed? Do you want to integrate into a visitor management solution?

And if so, that is something that's going to require, probably months of engineer's time. So, at some of our buildings, we have like five different systems that we want to integrate into. How are we prioritizing that and then coordinating with those other vendors and making sure that that's something that they're willing to dedicate the engineering time to, if they don't sort of already have a API available.

So, That's important, an understanding, again, like a data visibility, what do you want? In some cases we might not need to integrate into an EV charging station or, a shuttle bus, maybe we can link out to that. And and that's a fine user experience. We don't necessarily need more data than just who is utilizing the shuttle.

Not, the level of detail that maybe that, that shell provider has. So I think those are all important questions.  Just to hone in on something else that you talked about in the class, is like getting the right people in the room that know, again, the process around that. The existing process and getting all those stakeholders together  across the property team with the vendor that you're working with.

And then also the other vendors that you're trying to integrate into and getting a hold of the right people.

James Dice: [00:40:35] It sounds like you might've had some interesting integration experiences as, as everyone has.

Jacinda Lofland: [00:40:42] Yeah. Yeah. I did.  I said, okay, well, just make sure that you have a really clear roadmap.

Like when I did the initial RSPs, like everybody send in your roadmap and let me know like what you would need integrated when we'll talk to these different providers and see, you know, what they're already integrated into in very few people understood what I was asking for. And it was my lesson to be learned around, oh, okay.

Like I need to provide a template or,  get on the call and like talk through some of these terms. And so I think that's been my biggest learning is just making sure what's our,  sort of minimal shared knowledge and, and what vocabulary are you used to using and what is this vendor introducing?

And, , if we're not sure if we have the same connotation with that term, let's talk about it. You know? So I think that it's really important. Start from the very bottom. And that's why the use cases is just so, so helpful though, because it's, what problem are you solving? You don't need to have any specific background to just be thinking about what problem you're solving and what sort of use case you want to enable.

So, yeah. Well, kudos

James Dice: [00:41:44] to you, kudos to you because I feel like all of this was you're like giving the course credit, but I feel like all of this was before you took the course. And so I think a lot of these vendors are like super grateful probably to have you on the other side of the table as like someone who's being the champion and like helping them through the process.

Right. A lot of these startups, like they, they don't necessarily have like a set the same vocabulary as everybody else. And so it can be tough to get the project over the initial hump of, of integration. Because you're talking about a bunch of different systems, right? You're talking about access control.

You're talking about billing kind of billing. You're talking about visitor management, some sort of cloud software. Those are just three, right? So can you get kind of hairy yet?

Jacinda Lofland: [00:42:29] Yeah, I liked the term you used on another podcast, integration spaghetti. So really being thoughtful about like what systems need, because not every system needs to talk to every other system.

And that's where I do actually think that the apps have been great because they've been the central place to plug into. So if, if , different vendors and systems are plugging into that, then there, then you can kind of have this exchange that's necessary instead of,  one-off kind of okay, we're going to react to kind of do this and try to get these systems talking.

So

James Dice: [00:42:58] yeah. What about, have you had any issue? You mentioned this was a lot of this was during the pandemic, so it's kind of tough to tell, but There was a podcast that I did with Erik Ubels from the Edge where he talked about, they had a difficult time getting people to use the apps.  They'd built this bespoke app for the edge, right edge, just like the smartest building in the world.

Right. They had trouble getting people to go through the app to do stuff that they could have done by going outside of the app as well. Have you had any like engagement issues there with the occupants.

Jacinda Lofland: [00:43:31] Well, you sent a newsletter recently, and I think that there is some feedback from someone that was like, well, like I don't see the point of this app.

Like I'm happy using my FOB, I'm happy using my desktop, I don't need mobile. And that's totally cool. We're just trying to provide optionality. And so there might be some people that actually would prefer to not have their FOB, they know that they're going to have their phone with them at all times.

And so that does save them time and headache. There might be some people that like would prefer to do it on a phone instead of on their desktop and the right, the people that decide to switch back and forth between the two at their whim. I like using the term omni-channel office. So that's desktop and mobile and it's trying to create a seamless experience no matter how you're trying to engage with the building.

So that's kind of what we're ultimately shooting for. And I always kind of go back to like optionality to let the building user enable self optimization. I am not ever going to be telling someone how they're going to optimize their time. I just want to enable a lot of different ways for them to do that for themselves.

It's a long-term play, I think you know, I'm not discouraged by the fact that we don't have all of the building users like downloading the app at this point in time. Some of it is because, a lot of them are returning into the office and we're, we see an uptake as they do, but I think that sort of digitalization of amenities is it should be there and it should be an option, but it's not always going to be how people want to engage.

And that's that's okay. So that's my take on that one. And yeah, I think that there's I don't know, mobile checking is the fair analogy, but there were probably a lot of people in mobile checking was rolled out. They were like, no, I'm not doing that. I like my people at my local branch, I'm going to go into the bank and I'm going to do it the way that I had been uncomfortable.

I don't have any branches of the bank that I'm a part of close to where I live, but like everything that I'm doing is online. So, but it's great that I'm able to interact with my bank the way that I want to and everybody else's, you know, I think that that, that, that option is good. That's a

James Dice: [00:45:26] great analogy.

I only use my app to interact with my bank. So there you go. All right. Tell me about like, so you've purchased this software, this app software for a couple of different properties now, different vendors, right? A couple of different times. Tell me about like the vendor landscape here and. This is just a gut feeling of mine, but it feels like it's probably a mess.

It feels like it's probably a little bit tough for a buyer to understand how different vendors are different. Right. How, you know, they're probably all kind of saying they do the same stuff. Just how, how, how is it trying to choose between vendors right now in this space? Yeah.

Jacinda Lofland: [00:46:09] It is, it is a complicated because you have a lot of vendors that are wanting to expand their product set. Right. And they're going into new areas. And so, you know, a couple examples, so like Genea, doing after hours, HPAC, but kind of, pivoting into access and data watch access and now visitor management, building engines and Angus doing work orders, and now doing that and visitor management and amenity booking.

But  with those latter two, we that , our integrated or we have a process with them to work with billing because of work orders. And so our roadmap still actually, we are expanding kind of use cases with them because integration into the billing system and having automation, there is very, very involved.

Anytime you touch a financial system, it's like, , there's a ton of hoops to jump through understandably. And so, I think it's an evolution. And it's just thinking about again, like what is given the existing systems in this building and, and , how that's already integrating back into billing?

How can we enable automation? And so there isn't like, yeah, there isn't really a one. One solution for everything. But I think that we got lucky. I got lucky with the time,  these tenant experience apps, like to me, it just seemed kind of intuitive. Like, oh gosh, let's not put the onus on our building users to like, have to go to all these different places.

Let's put it in one spot. But at that point in time it was kind of, the market had kind of worked out who the leaders were and they're all doing a great job. I think, you know, it's gonna come down to engineering hours and kind of continuing to build out that, you know, those integrations that are necessary and then a big piece too, is the sort of customer success and service.

And having those teams like also helping us as their client, you know, thinking about the problems that we're trying to solve. And so, and helping with the, with the kind of learning curve. So, Yeah, it's it is so nascent still though. And I, I like it cause I, I think that there's always, you know, the, the right answer today might be totally different tomorrow.

And so it's it's just kind of acting on the best information that you have at a given point in time. And it's, it's focusing the conversation on the right things, like what can we do to support our building users? So at the end of the day any conversation around that is a good conversation.

James Dice: [00:48:28] I think it's fascinating because it kind of mirrors the, what I would call or I think Darlene called it back at the house versus front.

It kind of mirrors the kind of O and M and energy management technology world, where we started out with point solutions that really had one stakeholder in mind, right? And then you're, you're starting to see a lot more kind of comprehensive multi-use case multi-stakeholder sorts of applications. And it sounds like on this side of things, They th there are several leaders in the space that are doing it more comprehensively or adding kind of adjacent use cases on, so that like owners, like you guys can kind of continue on the path down to more use cases with the same provider.

Jacinda Lofland: [00:49:12] Yeah, I think it's, that's what I loved in the course, there were a lot of people that have been, you know, more on the backend and building operation side and seeing those parallels. Because I kind of think of it as like, you know, the pendulum swings back and forth. And so like it's swung and we like really go on there's this point solution to help me solve this problem.

Great. And like, people were like just running and they're like, awesome. And now the pendulum's swinging and it's like, okay, well, there's kind of data that multiple stakeholders need, and it's not efficient to have four different groups kind of collecting that data in a different way. And so this kind of move towards integration and consolidation is happening.

And then we'll probably get to consolidated and then swing back the other door, you know, something don't get stale and swing back. And so, yeah, I definitely think there's a lot of parallel.

James Dice: [00:49:56] Yeah, totally. I mentioned back of the house, front of the house, what is your perspective on whether they need to merge?

And so like a use case that would be like in the middle, right. It would be like engaging a tenant and asking them to modify the HVAC set point, right. And so that would go from front of the house to back of the house. So what's your perspective on like, whether they need to merge in the first place?

Jacinda Lofland: [00:50:21] I will always want to defer to what the customer wants and needs. And so again, kind of like back to my centering questions, cause my opinions are not the right opinions for for our customers. And so I think I always am trying to make sure that I stay humble and keep that in mind. I think that there are kind of three what can be distinct data sets. The financial operations of the building, right?

The accounting of the building that, you have IWMS does start to kind of touch on that. We have  an accounting software that we use throughout our portfolio, the operational kind of back building data set, and then maybe what I'll call the experiential. And I think that those are three important building blocks that consolidation within each of those areas is important maybe as a first step to reduce kind of redundancy if you've got automated so as an example, we use a lot,

automated lighting, and you have a sense of occupancy from that system. Is that sharing it with, the BMS system so that the HVAC system knows when to turn on, based off of when people are in that part of the building. Um, so I think that there's redundancy within each of those data sets that like is a good starting point as a building block, but then also having strategic conversations across those silos. Asking the question who needs access to what data, because our tenants don't need access into every single operational metric of the building. Sometimes it's good to actually hit pause and say, okay, integration for integration sake  is not the answer either. So like what data is needed?

And if it's our tenants or building users, maybe there's some people at a company that have access to the energy data because they're paying the energy bills. But if there is interest from the building users to understand how the energy of the building is performing in that sort of stuff, then that's a question to ask  and sit down again with the right stakeholders across our occupiers and constituencies, I think is an integration needed now.

So let's say let's build off of  that use case. Right? So, you know, we do have a really engaged group of building users and occupiers that want to have a constant conversation around energy use. Maybe we start with monthly whole building and then I was saying like, maybe we get to the floors.

Maybe there are some that like, want to get even more down to like, different bowels and things in the building portions of the floors. And so maybe down the road, we are looking for an integration that's pulling real time energy data, but we can start right now with monthly building data.

Right. And see, you know, if that's something that, you know, people are comfortable with and engaging with. And then like, where is automation needed? I think is a good question. So,  yes, optimizing HVAC based off of occupancy, like definitely automation is good there, but I think in our class too, I think it was Eric was talking about, you know, kind of temperature battles or like people that had different preferences as to whether it should be, you know, 76 degrees or 69 degrees.

And then you have folks that are. Changing the settings constantly. So not good for one the building for maintenance reasons, also not good for the environment and not solving a problem very effectively. And so do is automation the answer there and having everybody be able to change that, or should we have there be a process where it's like, no, we want people to kind of come together to a consensus at that occupier level and then they  set it and that's just the expectation

and everybody kinda knows. I think we joked at one point, like just set it at 72 degrees and that's going to be an efficient thing for the building and usually it's manageable for folks. So,  at the end of the day, we want to support our customers' goals.

But I think that those are helpful questions to ask and, sit down with them and what problems are you solving? Let's take a step back sometimes. And I think the other thing that's really interesting is like sometimes solving those questions really just requires a person's time and attention or data visibility.

Other times it requires a technology which we're happy to implement, but sometimes it's just the conversation. That's super value additive and sharing of information. And then when a technology is necessitated, you still need people's time and attention to be the champion. So I just think that people play such an important role in these conversations.

James Dice: [00:54:33] Yeah. I remember in the, in the last cohort that you were a part of the course, it was, I think it was Mike  sharing a case study or around this same topic and kind of like building on what you're saying, what he was saying is like, You need to engage the tenants and the occupants to set up that, that app.

But as soon as you start messing with stuff in the back of the house, like HVAC set points, well, now you have a different stakeholder that you need to engage and you can't skip engaging that person because there's someone responsible for those set points today. Right. And so that's, that's where I think people can kind of get into  trouble, once you start crossing those boundaries, we want to knock down silos for sure.

Right. But it requires a kind of a step by step engagement process to do that. Right.

Jacinda Lofland: [00:55:18] Knocking down silos while acknowledging stakeholders or something, you know, it's like, it's you definitely want to make sure. Yeah,

James Dice: [00:55:25] absolutely. All right. So, kind of last question around what you guys learned now that you have this in place.

Right. So what have you learned, like the data you've collected, how helpful has it been? What have you learned from that?

Jacinda Lofland: [00:55:39] Yeah. That's, that's the fun stuff. I think we're better understanding, you know, the customer journey essentially, and what the things are that are that are adding value to people's lives that they're engaging with.

So, statistics around what amenities are being booked, when, what are the high demand amenities? Should we be repurposing some of the space to offer some more of that? Visits, registered understanding,  is our building, not only a place that our our occupiers enjoyed being in, but it really is something that they enjoy bringing other people into.

Maybe, it's kind of contributing to their sales and marketing to some extent as well. Content engagement, what are people interested in? What are they clicking on? What events are they RSVP to? Are they using the food order ahead? What deals have been redeemed through the app? So like, that's a fun thing too, is like discounted tickets to amusement parks or to car rentals, which are like so expensive right now.

I don't know if there's anybody else out there that's been trying to run a car. So discounts are also great. And so. Obviously with that, like, what we're trying to do is understand what people want and then just provide more of that and invest more of our time into, into those things. And then I think, another great output is just more collaborative conversations with leadership at our occupiers their HR teams, their it teams, sometimes their sustainability teams, like the, that stuff that we can come into conversations with them and say, Hey,  we do have a lot of people that are really engaging with sort of like the building wide energy data that we're sharing.

Is that something that, you know  your sustainability team wants to engage on,  a more detailed level and  helping,  helping them in the, in those conversations around,  human capital and attraction and retention and stuff going into that. And  that's kinda how we're looking at it and, and just understanding our customer journey and trying to make it as fruitful as possible.

James Dice: [00:57:24] So. Cool.

Jacinda Lofland: [00:57:24] There is this quote that I read in originals by Adam Grant on the creator of the segway. And he, he wrote, he excelled at creating brilliant solutions to problems identified by others, not in finding the right problems to solve in the case of the segway.

He started with a solution and then went hunting for a problem rather than responding to market poll. He made the mistake of initiating the technology push. And when I read that, I just thought that was so powerful. We want  our customers to identify the problems for us to be a part of solving that.

And so that's why I'm always like, it's not one technology that is going to solve the problem for the, tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands. Truly hundreds of thousands, millions of building users that we have. So I just kinda try to try to keep that in mind.

James Dice: [00:58:17] That's awesome. Now I hear a lot about people talking about there, you know, you build a hammer looking for a nail or

Jacinda Lofland: [00:58:24] something like that.

Well, yeah, when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail, I think.

James Dice: [00:58:30] Yeah. Man all right. Well, this has been super insightful. I love your perspective on solving problems for people. And I love all of these unsolicited plugs for the foundations course. It did not mean for you to talk about that so much, but thank you.

Let's play two truths in a lot. Are you ready?

Jacinda Lofland: [00:58:50] Alrighty. Okay. Um, Hm. I am fluent in Spanish. I have worked at five companies in the last 10 years. And I bought a house, got engaged and got married in the course of a year. And in the course of a pandemic.

James Dice: [00:59:10] Oh man. Well, I met your husband last week, so I know that one.

I think I'm going to say that you're not still, you're still not fluent in Spanish. Is that the lie?

Jacinda Lofland: [00:59:24] Yeah. Yeah. Definitely. Some of my friends, like people that don't speak Spanish, they'll be like, oh yeah, she's fluent in Spanish. I'm like, no, you ask any native speaker. Like I'm not fluid. I've got a hard lot.

Like me is fluency. I do, you know, my weekly courses with my Spanish teacher in Guatemala. I don't think she'd be real generous if she was saying that was fluent, but it is a passion of mine. So hopefully one day I'll be able to say that

James Dice: [00:59:53] you'll get there. You'll get there. That was a tricky one because I was like, this is going to test my listening.

Cause you talked about both of those things earlier. Well, cool. This is so much fun. Thanks. Thanks for coming on.

Jacinda Lofland: [01:00:04] Thank you for having me, James. This was awesome.

James Dice: [01:00:10] All right friends, thanks for listening to this episode of the Nexus Podcast. For more episodes like this and to get the weekly Nexus Newsletter, which by the way, readers have said is the best way to stay up to date on the future of the smart building industry, please subscribe at nexuslabs.online. You can find the show notes for this conversation there as well. Have a great day.