On this episode of the IoT For All Podcast, Ryan is joined by Erin McDannald, CEO and Co-Owner of Environments, as they discuss the future of the workplace. Erin begins by introducing herself and her company before giving insight on a metaverse workplace and what she thinks the future looks like in this space. Ryan and Erin then have a high-level discussion around the importance of IoT in the workplace and how accepting people are of digital transformation. They wrap up the podcast with a conversation about challenges in the industry and how new tech fits into the work environment
Erin McDannald, CEO and Co-Owner of Lighting Environments and its sister company, Environments, has guided clients throughout the lighting design and construction process for over two decades. Trained as an interior designer, McDannald joined Baltimore’s New Design Light firm in the sales department in 2003 before becoming co-owner in 2009. Under her leadership, the company was rebranded to Lighting Environments to reflect the company’s expansion into lighting technology offerings for all built environments. Now, McDannald is leading the company to meet the rapidly changing connected device market head-on with the launch of its new IoT company, Environments. Environments offer full-scale, adaptable solutions that holistically support businesses from end to end, from energy management to health monitoring. Further, Environments is elevating physical spaces to allow cutting-edge interaction with a digital twin in the metaverse. With every development and service, Environments aims to create healthy, inclusive, and accessible spaces for all users and occupants.
Interested in connecting with Erin? Reach out on Linkedin!
Environments‘ mission is to improve the lives of humankind by connecting people to places and things. Using intelligent IoT endpoints, Environments integrates innovative, scalable solutions that meet every space’s present and future needs. The firm recently launched the Elevated Environments app, which offers a virtual world beyond the “digital twin” by creating a workspace that combines the physical building with community-centric features and a hybrid workforce.
Key Questions and Topics from this Episode:
(01:25) Introduction to Erin and Environments & Lighting
(02:28) Founding story
(04:22) Metaverse workplace
(05:45) The future of the workplace
(7:30) Importance of IoT for the workplace
(11:08) Accepting digital transformation
(13:04) Technology adoption
(14:18) Challenges in the industry
(16:28) How does tech fit into the workplace
– [Voice Over] You are listening to the IoT For All Media Network.
– [Ryan] Hello everyone, and welcome to another episode of the IoT For All Podcast, the number one publication and resource for the internet of things. I’m your host, Ryan Chacon. If you are watching this on YouTube, please feel free to subscribe to the channel, and we’d also love it if you could like this video, as well as if you’re listening to this on a podcast directory, be sure to subscribe to the latest episodes as soon as they are out. On today’s episode, we have Erin McDannald, the Founder and Co-Owner of Environments. They are a company that is focused on improving the lives of humans by connecting people to places and things. So a lot of talks about workplace, a lot of talks about smart space environments, that kind of stuff. Talk about the future of the workspace, we talk about why IoT and technology is more important now than ever in the workplace, as well as the balance between physical and digital workspaces and how you can kind of marry the two with IoT. We talk about other challenges in the space, things like that. So very good conversation, a lot of value here. But before we get into this, if any of you out there are looking to enter the fast growing and profitable IoT market, but don’t know where to start, check out our sponsor, Leverege. Leverege’s IoT solutions development platform provides everything you need to create turnkey IoT products that you can white label and resell under your own brand. To learn more, go to iotchangeseverything.com, that’s iotchangeseverything.com. And without further ado, please enjoy this episode of the IoT For All Podcast. Welcome Erin to the IoT For All Podcast. Thanks for being here this week.
– [Erin] Thanks for having me Ryan. It’s a pleasure to meet you.
– [Ryan] You as well, I’m looking forward to this conversation. I’d love it if we could kick this off by having you just give a quick introduction about yourself and any background and kinda information that’ll be relevant for our audience.
– [Erin] Absolutely. Well, my name is Erin McDannald. I’m the CEO of Environments and Lighting Environments. There’s actually two companies. And my background actually starts in the architectural market. I was an interior designer and got into Lighting and through Lighting, we learned how to talk to things and get things to talk back to us. And therefore a need was born from that, and we became an IoT integrator and also a metaverse workplace company. So it was an interesting progression over the years, but from an IoT integration perspective, we’ve been talking to Lights and getting them to talk back to us for a long time. So it was an easy transition for us.
– [Ryan] Fantastic. And I’d love it if you could tell us a little bit more about kind of the founding story of the company, kinda the opportunity you saw and kind of what’s helped you kind of get to where you are now.
– [Erin] Sure. Well, we were working with a lot of building controls in general. We would all often work on projects on the lighting side of our business, and we were required to install lighting controls on the projects, and we found that in addition when you’re working on an existing building, it doesn’t serve the owner to have the same lighting control system throughout the whole building in a lot of respects, there’s opportunities along the way to save energy and to upgrade, but the need came to have everything under one interface. And so if we were gonna talk to lights, we might as well talk to cameras and access controls and HVAC. All the other things. So we just kind of tied all that together and it started there with a 2D interface, and then we started having a user interface in the digital twin to begin to control all of these things and I think that’s the natural progression of the IoT world these days in architecture. And so it really started there. And from that, we understood that we could make our software so much more, it could be a hub of communication and it could be a place where we literally are interacting in a hybrid workplace now. So we started a metaverse workplace company as well.
– And what does that mean exactly when we’re talking, like obviously, the metaverse has been a pretty hot topic recently, but when we’re talking about metaverse workplace, what does that exactly mean? And kind of tell us a little bit more about kind of how that is now a focus of the company.
– [Erin] Sure. Well, with the digital twin and we were controlling our physical space in our digital twin and it became one more step of putting avatars in it. Which seems very simple, and we’ve learned quickly that that’s not as simple as it sounds, but it is something that we found is very beneficial to our business. We have a lot of problems we’re trying to solve right now, particularly like how to sell to our clients more digitally that we have in the past and how to engage our employees when they’re not in the office. And so our metaverse workplace solved so many issues at once and is also saving our company a lot of money and. Samples of light pictures that we used to buy, now we can demo them in the metaverse and. So how they work. So it just seems to be the bridge that’s solving the problem post pandemic of how the workforce is kind of moving forward.
– [Ryan] Yeah, that leads into a really good kind of next question I wanted to ask you, which is, you know, we kind of went through during the pandemic where everybody kind of shifted to working at home. So the workplace changed dramatically and then starting to come back, people going to the office, it’s kind of growing day by day, how many people are back in the office versus at home. What is your view of the future of kind of the workplace in general?
– [Erin] Well, I have a few pretty strong opinions about the fact that during a global pandemic, as a world, we had to go home to be protected. So I think the architectural industry has a significant burden on their shoulders to start building buildings that prevent that from happening, that are sustainable during a global pandemic and that the world doesn’t have to shut down. So we have to bridge a gap and that gap, I think needs the easiest, the next natural progression is the metaverse for us to kind of bridge that gap. And while we’re fixing the world and the way we used to live, because going back to the way we used to live is not going over so well, I think that there are some examples going on in the media right now with some. Like Elon is asking his employees to go back to work, and I think that’s not going over too well. So people were afforded a luxury during the pandemic and asking them to go back to the way they worked is probably not the best solution.
– [Ryan] Sure. And as we connect it IoT, how is IoT or why is IoT technology more important than ever for the workplace and kind of what does it enable and allow for organizations to do that they maybe won’t be able to do before?
– [Erin] I spending a lot of time thinking about why the metaverse is not so easy to, for the general population to get on board with. And I think that IoT plays a huge part in this because it bridges the gap between the physical and digital realms. Yeah. And I think that it is absolutely, kind of shows people that if you build the metaverse correctly, it’s actually built to serve the human being in its physical form here on earth rather than in the metaverse. And I think this is a really important point, is that the tenure or the long term plan for the metaverse is not to have a place to escape to but it to become the part of your physical reality. So we’re using smart windows. That to try to interact with people in the metaverse really.
– [Ryan] It’s very fascinating. I think this is the first time we actually had them talk, we’ve talked about the metaverse at all on the podcast and we’re almost 200 episodes into this series. So it’s very interesting to kind of, not just hear your approach, but really see how this fits in into something that’s so relevant today with the workplace, the life, the change in workplace lifestyle that we had. And it really seems like that balance between the physical and the digital workspace is super important . And correct me if I’m wrong, but it really, I feel like IoT is a key to really marrying the two together.
– [Erin] Right. It gives some, an anchor to the existing world from a psychological perspective. For the software that we have built, we are monitoring our environments, making sure that the air quality is being met and things like that. And then also connected it to the digital world. So you’re seeing the evidence of the physical world existing, it’s there, there’s a place for the employee to go and commune with other. And to go and be, but if you can’t be there in person, it shouldn’t slow you down. We should build tools to continue to the momentum. And I think that’s what the problem that I guess the world is trying to solve. And this all kind of came from watching my children during the pandemic, and they were in Roblox and they were having very meaningful digital interactions and they didn’t see the difference between what it would be like. They were acting as if it was just their normal social interactions. Somebody who might be of a, the baby boomer generation or some of the older generations don’t value digital interactions the same way, but IoT is absolutely the connection and the bridge in between the physical and digital world, and that layer. Is absolutely necessary to kind of make people comfortable with. A hybrid workplace like that.
– [Ryan] Yeah. And you mentioned something there, I think it’s interesting to kind of, excuse me, elaborate on which is kind of just the general acceptance of, and the kind of the cultural differences at times based on maybe generations of digital transformation in the workplace. Can you talk a little bit more about kind of to what that looks like and how we can kind of overcome that and advice for maybe companies out there who are struggling with that internally as well, where there’s maybe one group who’s very much against that digital transformation acceptance and then there’s another group pushing more for it?
– [Erin] Oh, I am in it. We’re pushing this digital transformation within my company. And so we’re understanding what it is at its core and from a, I guess from a perspective of really understanding why people of the older generation don’t value digital interactions in the same way that younger people do from a philosophical perspective, I think is interesting, I think that it has something to do with honoring the human body in a sense. Not wanting to abandon it. So I think there’s some things about that. So the answer is, you don’t tell people that there’s a new program and we’re gonna go into the metaverse. You spend months and months talking about it and getting them ready for it and selling them your ideas of why you think it’s going to bridge the gap and how it’s gonna make their lives better. And then you move into it slowly and you dip your toes into it and you spend more and more time in the metaverses each week.
– [Ryan] Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, I’m very interested to kind of see the progression as this becomes more of an accepted thing across different businesses, different industries and how it really transforms the workplace in general. Have you noticed any, not just conceptually, but like technology adoption or specific devices as that relates to IoT that have been more widely accepted, like we’ve seen things like smart screens and stuff in workplaces. What have you kind of seen from your perspective or what do you maybe advocate for that works well in this kind of next generation of workplaces?
– [Erin] I don’t know, right now we’re doing wide band area tracking. And so that’s been interesting ’cause we can track where we are in the physical space and then our avatar can represent where we are in the virtual space. Which is interesting. So I think it’s really about that, we’re obviously as far as IoT as concerned and protecting our environments and making employees feel safer and actually just having better environments for our employees. Air quality is also a very big thing in our world.
– [Ryan] Absolutely. Yeah, totally agree. Let me ask you this also, what other challenges are there that you as either a company are facing or just you’ve seen kind of in this workplace environment that other companies are facing as it relates to potentially the data, understanding what data is relevant, integration into the existing kind of way of doing things. But just any challenges maybe we haven’t talked about that you think would be important to kind of note for our audience to really be thinking about as they start to maybe venture down the path of adopting IoT and other digital transformation technologies into the workplace.
– [Erin] Well, obviously, really understanding that it’s a digital transformation within your company and not taking it as a software program or some new kind of app that you’re going to be using. And I’ve heard in your other podcast, people talking about the same thing is really getting people on board. So the psychological aspect is our biggest issue. What other challenges am I facing? Adoption of the metaverse. I think that it really has a place and I fight, you fight the bad actors in the tech world that have misused information in the past. And so people are always concerned about their privacy. So from a human resources perspective, when you’re transforming a company, you can’t do anything in the metaverse that you couldn’t do in the physical universe. So I think it’s important to remember that moving forward. Because I think that the metaverse has a real place and it’s turning out to be an excellent tool for my business and a few others, so, that have jumped on board. So I’m excited about it.
– [Ryan] Now, let me ask if companies kind of bring up the question around being able to better connect the physical and the remote employees, utilizing that software integration and making it a seamless experience. Like I’m willing to bet there’s a lot of companies out there who will, kind of who ask about that, and it’s like, how seamless is that experience by being able to use software to connect, build those connections between physical and remote employees, and kind of how do you address those kinds of concerns?
– [Erin] Well, I think the companies were already doing it. We’re already connected to either SharePoint or HubSpot. Kind of thing. So my biggest concern during the pandemic was that my employees were not having a connection to our brand. They were having a connection to the payroll Paylocity brand or some other brand. And I wanted them to have a connection with my brand. And to understand that they were part of a bigger thing, because one of the problems in the workplace is that everybody got siloed over the pandemic. So I think that the connection to the brand is really important to remember and really just allow people their feelings ’cause you’re asking them to change inherently at their core which is really hard to do. And so walking people into this digital transformation means there has to be a significant amount of trust between you and your organization, and establishing that trust first is the key to a seamless transformation.
– [Ryan] Yeah, I agree. And I’d be willing to bet, depending on, I think a lot of it probably varies depending on size of company, breakdown of generationally, like age groups, locations, things like that, that probably influence the acceptance and what challenges come up for each customer that you work with, each company that you talk to kind of thing. So I imagine it’s quite an interesting kind of, and yeah, interesting kind of conversation to have with each organization as you kind of help convert them more down this path of being able to connect both sides.
– [Erin] Yeah, it is. And you could just tell by the, even the age of leaders that. Whether they value the digital. Interaction. So it is interesting, but whether you’re just doing IoT or you’re just working in the metaverse, there’s options for everybody and they’re not just for Fortune 500 companies anymore. This is mid-market and. Small business solutions too that can really save a lot of money and headache in the future and allow us to adapt to our environments no matter what is happening in the world. So.
– [Ryan] Totally agree. Yeah, I don’t think it’s a company size thing, I think it’s for everybody, and everybody needs to be thinking about this and as they’re coming outta the pandemic, just understanding what technology can truly do to benefit not only the workplace itself but the employees of the company, the overall satisfaction in their daily work life, and just general progress for the organization across the board. Let me ask, as we’re wrapping up here, for audience out there who wants to learn more, kind of dive into this a bit, maybe follow up the questions even, what’s the best way they can do that?
– [Erin] Oh, well they could, our website is www.environments.tech. Or they can, and all of the information is on there, and get an answer back. I also have a gentleman named John who works for us and if you’d like to email him directly.
– [Erin] But yeah, I think that’s just a matter of reaching out and just having a conversation of what your hopes and dreams are when it comes to what your ideal workplace would be. And we attack and apply it to get to where you need to be. So, yeah.
– [Ryan] Fantastic. Well, Erin, this has been a true pleasure to have you on the show. Conversation that we have not had with many people around. We talked about workplaces a little bit, but we haven’t really gotten to the metaverse, we really haven’t talked about kind of how you can start to connect the remote and the physical world a bit better, and really how IoT can can play a role in that. So I really appreciate your time and kind of taking the opportunity to kind of shed light on this and share your expertise with our audience.
– [Erin] Yeah, keep in touch Ryan. I appreciate it. Thanks.
– [Ryan] Absolutely will. Thank you so much.
– [Erin] All right, bye.
– [Ryan] All right, everyone, thanks again for watching that episode of the IoT For All Podcast. If you enjoyed the episode, please click the thumbs up button, subscribe to our channel and be sure to hit the bell notifications so you get the latest episodes as soon as it become available. Other than that, thanks again for watching and we’ll see you next time.