Clive Humby quote

“Data is the new oil. It’s valuable, but if unrefined it cannot really be used. It has to be changed into gas, plastic, chemicals, etc. to create a valuable entity that drives profitable activity; so must data be broken down, analyzed for it to have value”

-2006 Clive Humby, UK Mathematician in Customer Analytics

In the modern workplace, data is more abundant than ever.

Data is available from a multitude of smart devices, sensors that control the office environment, our company issued software, our calendars, and our access control devices. For well over a decade, information about the workplace has been available in different “containers.” These containers would provide a single point of data related to its function. Today, nearly all devices have the ability to share the data, or oil, that it extracts from the workplace. What we do with that data is where we create impact. The refinement of the data is being informed by those in the marketplace that are learning to capitalize on the need for greater workplace efficiency and optimization. Various approaches are being developed by everyone from small garage start-ups to megalithic entities with massive resources. How they provide value is as enormous as the data available.

“Data is a strange commodity. It is a new resource that is made more valuable by how you refine it, much like oil. But it is a virtually infinitely available resource and will always compound its own value with every use of the data. Data begets data by its simple use.”

2016 Piero Scaruffi, author “A History of Silicon Valley”


All around is data. Literally in the air around us everywhere. There is very little sanctuary from it, even when you are not engaged in it or aware of it. Data is no longer simply a grid we can “get off of” as the romantics have told us for decades.

Identifying that data exists is only the start. With an overwhelming amount of data available, it is important to the final product that only the most valuable data be collected. Understanding that a single point of data can also skew the results and render your product useless, it is important that data is clean and reliable with a minimum number of variables accounted for. Therefore it is vital to identify the collection goals related to the final output goals. Once we have identified these goals, or product, we start to develop what is next.


The method of collecting this infinite amount of data is currently done by measurement and analysis.

Gateways, hubs, and software collect the data wirelessly and through direct interaction with the millions of networks that exist in our lives. This infrastructure must be developed to be reliable to preserve the sanctity of the data. It is also important to consider the effect to the customers network when collecting the data. A low impact flow of data must be available while considering the customers true business needs of the network.


Once data is collected, it is now the large effort of a data engineer to give us a window into what it says about a particular snapshot of data.

A visual dashboard that is structured to show what the impacts of colliding data means to your goal is only as valuable as a commodity if all the data is considered, filtered, and formed into an easily digestible product. However, all data must be available to the customer so they can view it how they wish to interpret the information. Providing a product that restricts the customers use of it is as limited in its appeal as it is limited in its value.

End User

Now that data is collected, refined, and delivered, who the end user is defines its impact on the stated goals.

A Facilities Director will want to see how the space is used in a different manner than a IT Director or CEO. An A&D firm will gear their output based upon the data it sees as valuable, weigh that against the customers’ expectations, and build a study around the combination of the two. A commercial real estate consultant will see the data in a way that no one has considered and add a variable of their own that will drive a decision in a direction that is another avenue to consider by everyone and can inform a change in the data being collected.

Author: Michael Combs, OpenSquare, Workplace Technology Advisor


Michael Combs is a Workplace Technology subject matter expert who has played the roles of integrator, project manager, project consultant, and client. He spends an unhealthy amount of time focused on the use of technology and human interaction to make a more productive, happy, and engaged workforce. He is also looking for the perfect cup of coffee.

Reach out to him to discuss technology integration in your space.

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