Brivo research illustrates impact on American workforce

Access audits show how many are staying home, track changes in real time
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Wednesday, April 15, 2020

BETHESDA, Md.—Brivo recently unveiled findings from access audits the company is doing as it tracks the ongoing impact of COVID-19 on the American workforce, helping to quantify how many are currently working from home, and track the process as the nation begins to head back to the office.

As would be expected, the number of daily active users entering the workplace has dropped by an average of 40 percent from pre-COVID levels, and by as much as 60 percent in the hardest-hit service industries, Brivo found.

Brivo CEO and President Steve Van Till told Security Systems News that one of the top goals at Brivo is to “surface the hidden value” of security data.

“Usually we think of this in the context of individual customers understanding their own enterprise data,” he noted. “When the coronavirus hit, it became obvious that everyone’s individual data would add up to tell a bigger story,”

While quarantines began in Wuhan on Jan. 23 and in Italy on March 8, Brivo’s data shows little to no effect of stay-at-home policies or other guidance on commercial spaces until Thursday, March 12, a day after President Trump’s European travel ban and a day before the White House declared a national emergency. The company’s data set, which spans hundreds of thousands of buildings and over 15 million users, found the decline has been especially steep in the cities with the highest infection rates and the most proactive administrations.

As of March 30, New York City tops the list with an 80 percent drop from the daily average showing up in the workplace. Seattle — an early outbreak location — is not far behind, with a 62 percent decline from normally observed traffic as of the same date. New Orleans’ 52 percent decrease appears to indicate a slightly lower compliance with quarantine guidance, despite the city having become a coronavirus hot spot and issuing its own stay-at-home order on March 20.

“One of things we noticed right away was that some areas responded more quickly and more deeply than others,” Van Till explained. “New York and California, for example, were already 50 percent shut down by March 19, while the rest of the country was still lagging. Today California is doing much better than anyone would have predicted, and we can only imagine what would have happened in New York if they had not been so aggressive so early.”

The data also shows a significant spread in use changes for different industries. Wholesale versus retail trade, for example, shows a 13-point spread, with retail businesses posting a 56 percent drop compared to only 43 percent for wholesalers. Out of nine major industrial categories, agriculture made the best showing, with only 30 percent fewer daily active users than before COVID-19 restrictions began. Agriculture is classified as an essential industry under DHS guidance and is therefore exempt from many of the restrictions placed on other industries.

Brivo’s database is a product of its security system for commercial properties, which uses a mobile app and keycards or fobs, to authorize entry into access-controlled, commercial spaces. An electronic door controller uploads a transaction record to a central database each time an authorized user presents a valid credential and enters a building.

Brivo ingests tens of millions of door access events per day and stores them in a database. Each data point contains information about the time, place, person and account to which it pertains. The data for each calendar date is analyzed to determine the total number of unique individuals who were active at one or more locations, before and after the COVID-19 impact period beginning roughly March 10 in the U.S.

Brivo is updating its maps and graphs every night, so Van Till said that the company will also see the progress as people begin to go back to work.

“We’re very interested in seeing which geographic areas and industries are making the quickest recoveries,” he explained. “What I hope is that the occupancy data shows the ‘V’ shape everyone is talking about for economic recovery — only it should be visible in our data earlier than in the economic data, because occupancy is a leading indicator.”

Van Till said that most of Brivo’s channel partners have been affected to some degree by not being able to enter customer premises, some more deeply than others. “We’ve encouraged all of our partners to look into the CARES Act programs to see if they qualify for federal support.”

He continued: “Security is a very resilient industry, and I think it will continue to do well over the long term. We will also be challenged to provide more touchless experiences for access control and visitor management, and to use data from those systems to surface situations where people may have been exposed to pathogens.”