The Visual Hack: Is Your Space Plan Leaking Information?

Cyber attacks are often seen as high-tech crimes involving elusive, amoral code geniuses in foreign countries who work as much for the glory of a brilliant hack as for the enormous paychecks crime bosses deposit in their Swiss bank accounts. However, many cyber crimes begin in a very low-tech way – the visual hack, in which sensitive information is stolen by a seemingly innocent visitor looking over a partition or passing by a cubicle. Usernames, passwords, and printed documents are favorites for visual hackers, who use the information to access a company’s proprietary information, HR records, and other confidential data.

In this study commissioned by 3M, security experts known as “white hat hackers” were able to steal log-ins, financial data, customer lists, and other sensitive data, often within just 15 minutes of beginning their visual-hack test session. The study pointed to the visual accessibility of open-plan offices as one of several factors in the thefts.

Despite the security risk, businesses are reluctant to abandon open office plans, with their benefits of spatial adaptability, lower costs, and positive employee management. Rather than scrapping open-plan offices, an in-depth space utilization risk assessment is the more practical solution to identifying where and how sensitive data can be kept secure without turning open offices into dark data vaults. Check with your office design professionals for an assessment.


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The Cost of Assault – Are Your Employees At Risk?

New York’s hotels became the target of negative press and unwanted legislative attention after the notorious 2011 assault on a hotel employee by Dominique Strauss-Kahn, then head of the International Monetary Fund. Despite the questionable outcome of that case, hotels in the Big Apple, Toronto, and other major cities wised up to the fact that their employees risk assault from irate, predatory, or unbalanced customers, and security cameras can’t cover every inch of a facility.

With costly employee assault claims on the rise, a number of New York hotels have turned to an RFID solution: a medic-alert type of emergency pendant that alerts hotel security and identifies the employee’s location. Some systems are tied in to security cameras, allowing security personnel to instantly view the cameras closest to the emergency site. A recent story in RFID Journal discusses the trend.

Other industries such as mining and healthcare are beginning to adopt RFID emergency locators, with the enthusiastic support of risk managers and legal advisors. As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention…

Can your business benefit from an RFID risk reduction program?


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The Green Office: How A Small Change Can Yield Big R.O.I.

When Americans are making buying decisions, 80% say they consider a company’s sustainability track record, according to a Harris Interactive survey. Many businesses look to high-profile programs – green-fuel fleets or waste recycling – to improve their green rating. A less obvious way to boost your sustainability quotient: green workstations and desks from MAS-certified manufacturers.

One such manufacturer, Swiftspace, has been working steadily to reduce VOC emissions from its furniture products. (VOCs – volatile organic compounds – are commonly found in paint and wood products, and the gases can cause health problems in enclosed spaces.) In April 2015 Swiftspace received its MAS certification for healthier indoor environments. CEO Rob Way also pointed out Swiftspace’s green-conscious policies of low-waste design and shipping materials, as well as the furniture’s simple, no-tools setup which eliminates the fuel footprint of on-site installation travel.

And the benefit of sourcing green furnishings for your office? In addition to LEED tax incentives and rebate programs in some locales, the positive publicity can attract the attention – and the dollars – of the 80% of the buying public that prefer to do business with an environmentally conscious company.



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Rival Universities Find Texas-Size Savings in Shared Storage

College football fans would be surprised to find The University of Texas and Texas A&M University trading anything other than insults regarding each others’ poor athletic skills, scanty intelligence, and questionable family history. Nevertheless, the two institutions have set aside their rivalry in order to cooperate on something far more important: Saving money.

In 2013, the libraries of UT and A&M inaugurated the Joint Library Facility, an 18,000 square foot facility built to store print books and journals for the use of both schools. The storage facility freed up space in their libraries for high-circulation books, as well as allowing them to eliminate multiple copies of print materials and duplicate journal subscriptions.

In true Texas style, the building site has enough land for two additional buildings. And the cost savings realized through the newly efficient shared storage? Per-volume costs went from $4.26 per year to 86¢ per year. After nearly two years of operation, that kind of money adds up to the sort of oversized savings are always welcome deep in the heart of Texas, or anywhere else.

3 Rules for Office Space: Flexibility, Flexibility, Flexibility

Location, location, location still counts, but in the new era of the digital office, change is a constant. The race goes to the most nimble, and businesses that can adapt their office environments on the fly have the advantage when it comes to keeping overhead in check. Inc. Magazine’s review of office design trends highlights the moves toward flexibility that forward-thinking businesses are making.

These three trends in particular can have a positive effect on your bottom line, providing efficiencies in space utilization that save on real estate, furnishings, and build-out. Inc. Magazine also listed a few trends that tie directly to the employee experience:

  • staff lounges that are truly lounge-able
  • bringing the outdoors indoors
  • turning visible vents and conduits into a design feature

Collectively, all these design trends make for a office space that functions well on every level: physically, visually, psychologically, and financially – and those are rules we can all live with!


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Fashion Designers’ Workplace Storage: Anything But Uniform

From conservative to outrageous, fashion designers incorporate whatever materials work best for their unique wearable designs. That same approach carries over into the design of their workspace, according to IA Interior Architects’ director of design John Capobianco.

Like many other professionals, fashion designers find that a mixture of private space and collaborative areas works best for them. Unlike some other businesses, however, fashion designers have a need to store objects that are irregular-shaped and bulky. For this, they turn to high-density storage systems with adjustable shelving, accommodating everything from boots to blouses.

Designers also need transformable modular storage that can display dresses one day and shoes the next. As Capobianco puts it in a recent blog post, “It has to be much more user customizable, where you don’t have to hire someone to facilitate the transition.” And when the designs go into production, designers use RFID to track the source materials and finished products, and create databases for their catalogues.

When it comes to practical storage solutions, these wildly imaginative fashion designers have a surprisingly down-to-earth point of view. As with their clothing designs, they find the right storage solutions for their needs and, in the words of fashion icon Tim Gunn, they “make it work.”


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RFID is Tagging and Tracking Those Little Blue Pills

Illegal drugs aren’t the only drug problem in the world. Counterfeit pharmaceuticals have plagued healthcare for decades or more. It’s relatively easy to manufacture “look-alike” tablets and capsules, as well as packaging and bar codes, and it’s a lucrative enterprise for organized crime and corrupt officials. Although it is a crime in most developed countries, counterfeiting isn’t illegal everywhere, and fake medicines enter the supply chain easily. Patients’ health is damaged, and legitimate drug manufacturers suffer a loss of brand trust as well as revenue.

Writing in, Hanna Ostman reports that the FDA now recommends that drug manufacturers include RFID tagging throughout the manufacturing process, from raw ingredients to finished product. This “e-pedigree” gives a drug’s complete history, its composition, dosage, and expiration date. Pharmacists can scan the e-pedigree to make sure they’re dispensing a genuine medicament.

Major pharmaceutical companies, including GlaxoSmithKline, Purdu, and Johnson & Johnson, are running pilot RFID projects. Pfizer now includes RFID tags in all its Viagra packages sold in the U.S. Although drug manufacturers have yet to agree on a common standard for RFID tagging, it’s starting to have a positive impact on product confidence and trust for the companies that adopt the technology.


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Space Race: Tech Start-Ups Feel the Office Space Squeeze

Technology sector growth isn’t slowing down one bit. As venture capital drives up Silicon Valley rental rates, tech companies scramble for office space that not only accommodates their growing staff but reflects their company culture and attracts employees.

Even well-funded start-ups often find themselves working in less-than-optimal spaces. One new company had to settle for a room over a carwash, while others have turned live-work lofts into work-work lofts. Bay Area office space expert Jenny Haeg notes that tech start-ups are always on the move. If they’re successful, they outgrow their space and move to new offices; if they fail, another start-up will take over the vacancy.

Regardless of their prospects, tech start-ups have embraced flexible space utilization, installing mobile reconfigurable furnishings that adapt to a variety of work functions. And more than any other industry, the tech sector tries to inject a sense of fun into the workplace, even if it’s adjacent to a carwash. Writing in the New York Times, Vindu Goel reports in depth on the challenges of the Silicon Valley space race:


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Buying A Racking System? The Wrong One Will Cost You Extra

As warehouse management systems become widespread, racks and shelves are delivering efficient space utilization and superior fulfillment speeds. Amazon’s reputation for light-speed deliveries have encouraged other e-tailers to emulate Amazon’s fulfillment productivity. You may be tempted to retrofit your warehouse with used shelving racks, yours or someone else’s, with cost savings in mind.

Writing in Modern Materials Handling, Josh Bond cautions that re-using a racking system can cost far more in the long run. An existing system rarely fits in a new materials-handling design, particularly when you’re looking for space savings and picking efficiency. Enlisting an expert to help you plan for the short term and the long term may seem more expensive at the outset, but you’ll save costly disruptions when it’s time to expand storage capacity or add an automated materials handling system. Read the discussion here:

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How Urban Lifestyle Trends Are Changing Office Interiors

[image]-Skyscrapers in Hong Kong.

In dense urban neighborhoods with small living spaces, multi-function furnishings are becoming the norm. Borrowing from these space-efficient urban homes, office interiors are creating workspace “neighborhoods” and using transformative furniture to increase productivity within compact office footprints. Design magazine ( reports that an architecture firm in Melbourne, Australia, is using customizable furniture to accommodate fluctuations in staffing. In Silicon Valley, Google Garage filled its space with wheeled furniture that can be rearranged to suit changing work activities. In southern California, a community college is using reconfigurable workstations to adapt common areas for multiple uses.

And the payoff for businesses? Cost savings through efficient space utilization and multi-purpose furnishings. If you’re getting ready to switch to multi-function furnishings, we’d love to hear your story.


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