Floor plan

Simulated human behavior to safely reopen offices and beat crowds

Students and office workers share the same problem: their workspaces become too cluttered. One solution is to keep building, but why not try to use the space we already have? The Dutch start-up, Omnia Modeling, use simulated human behavior to help maximize real estate utilization. Their algorithms help offices and campuses reopen safely after the pandemic.

They also use sensors to keep crowds on college campuses to a minimum and even help students find the nearest exit in an emergency. That means no more guessing if a library is full and an end to double-booked classrooms. Co-founder Adil Ayi explains why using human simulation models is the new way to efficiently manage space in today’s edition of Start-up du jour.

Could you briefly explain what it is and why we need human simulations in buildings?

“Companies are reopening their buildings and have to make decisions: how many people can be in the office, where will everyone be seated and where will they hang stickers to direct traffic. is difficult for office managers to consider all of the different variables when it comes to opening an office safely.Similarly, on a campus, there is a disconnect between trying to open a safe and manage real estate effectively after the pandemic.

What we have done is create a tool that can simulate human behavior. We take a floor plan and analyze it based on the areas that staff frequent throughout the day. We also use sensors to understand people’s typical journeys. With this data, we are creating an optimal reopening plan based on the safety guidelines issued by the Dutch government.“

What is simulated human behavior?

“Human simulation, for us, means representing human behavior in physical spaces. We don’t look at the characteristics of people. It’s just where people go – and when. Essentially, what we do is set a person’s agenda. We determine the places where they Homework be (for example, meetings or classes) and the places where they could be (the toilet or the coffee machine). We also factor in less predictable actions, such as whether someone is going to be late. Our simulation assumes that someone will take the path of least resistance to each of these areas, and then we run this simulation over and over to determine where the crowded areas will be and what capacity should be in a given space.

How did the idea come to you? What struggles have you encountered so far?

“I was born and raised in Amsterdam and did my master’s degree at TU Delft. I’ve always been interested in simulations and my co-founder, Marouan el Morabet, is a data scientist. As students and researchers, we wanted to find a way to reopen the campus safely. The students no longer wanted to stay at home. Some people even had psychological problems because they were too stuck inside. We saw the reopening of the campus as soon as possible as vital for student life.

From there, we built on that idea and decided to tackle the shorter-term problem of reopening offices. When we launched Omnia, we found that our biggest barrier to entry was establishing ourselves as credible people. We were just two guys introducing office managers and telling them it was safe to reopen their offices. By carrying out projects on campuses and connecting with these great institutions, we have succeeded.

Omnia co-founders Marwan el Morabet (left) and Adil Ayi (right). Courtesy of Omnia Modeling

I would like to think that the pandemic ends one day. So what happens to Omnia?

“We want to move from Corona to a bigger, more pervasive issue. I recently read an article that said campuses were only getting busier while real estate stayed the same. There is also friction between students and campus managers at the moment. Students can’t find a quiet place to sit and officials don’t know what’s going on on campus. They have no tools to communicate with each other.

We are currently creating an application that will allow students and managers to see what is happening on campus in real time. This is done using sensors – these are small white boxes that measure people entering and exiting rooms. As students, we had to check WhatsApp friends to find out if the library was busy or if there were rooms available for group projects. This tool would show an overview of the campus so people can just go where it’s not crowded. It will also allow campus managers to create alerts for students and staff, so people know where not to go and the best route to take in an emergency.

We have also been in touch with hospitals during the pandemic to use our tool to create the optimal path to any intensive care unit. For now, however, we are focusing on college campuses.