Skip to Content

Startup Lets Offices Know Who Just Walked In

A Boston-based startup is helping companies track their employees around the office using wireless sensor beacons, to improve collaboration.

In the office of the future, you may not so much walk into a room as log into it automatically. That’s what Sam Dunn, the CEO and co-founder of Boston-based startup Robin, thinks. The company is using wireless sensors to make rooms in office buildings aware of the people in them and let employees know exactly where their co-workers are.

smartphone
Office mates: A device containing an iBeacon and the Robin smartphone app.

With Robin’s software, when employees walk into a room, their smartphones alert a wireless transmitter using Bluetooth LE. They can then share certain predefined information with colleagues, which might be different for, say, a conference room than for a kitchen. When someone walks into a meeting, for instance, everyone else at the table could automatically have access to the person’s name, Twitter handle, LinkedIn profile, and perhaps a shared presentation on Dropbox. The system currently works with iBeacons, wireless network sensors developed by Apple to alert iOS devices when they’re in particular locations, and a few other Bluetooth LE devices.

So far, the Robin system has been implemented in a limited number of pilot locations. News Corp, the newspaper and publishing company, uses it on its executive floor in New York for room and desk booking; a handful of co-working spaces around the country use it to keep track of general room use and availability.

Robin isn’t the only group experimenting with beacons. Burcin Becerik-Gerber, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Southern California, has done similar work in her lab, although her primary interests have been in tracking firefighters and victims in burning buildings, and in improving energy efficiency in office buildings by identifying empty rooms (see “Innovators Under 35: Burcin Becerik-Gerber”).

Becerik-Gerber observes that there’s an obvious privacy issue with tracking people, but that people already volunteer so much information about themselves they might be okay with it.

The team at Robin recognizes the privacy issue, but Dunn doesn’t think it’s going to be a major problem. He compares having a Robin persona and entering an office building to having a Facebook profile and joining a Facebook group.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

Europe's AI Act concept
Europe's AI Act concept

A quick guide to the most important AI law you’ve never heard of

The European Union is planning new legislation aimed at curbing the worst harms associated with artificial intelligence.

Uber Autonomous Vehicles parked in a lot
Uber Autonomous Vehicles parked in a lot

It will soon be easy for self-driving cars to hide in plain sight. We shouldn’t let them.

If they ever hit our roads for real, other drivers need to know exactly what they are.

crypto winter concept
crypto winter concept

Crypto is weathering a bitter storm. Some still hold on for dear life.

When a cryptocurrency’s value is theoretical, what happens if people quit believing?

chasm concept
chasm concept

Artificial intelligence is creating a new colonial world order

An MIT Technology Review series investigates how AI is enriching a powerful few by dispossessing communities that have been dispossessed before.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.