Using Technology to Improve City Life
WSP USA is working on behalf of a technology start-up company to create a new access control system that is poised to help alter public perceptions of an often unpleasant reality of city life.
Good2Go is a San Francisco firm that provides secure access and queue management technology to control access to non-public spaces, such as office lobbies or parking structures. Its signature service is a recently launched smartphone app that helps a user locate and access one of Good2Go’s modern hands-free restrooms.
“Many restrooms in cities are in substandard condition,” said Fran Heller, founder and CEO of Good2Go. “Our goal is to transform how people find and access a restroom, and to make it a reliable, pleasant experience where an individual’s privacy is secured.”
WSP partnered with Good2Go in late 2014 as a security consultant, but gradually the firm’s role expanded to serve as the technology consultant and business consultant as well.
“We don’t often see projects like this,” said Herbert Els, who serves as the lead consultant for WSP and directs the firm’s Innovation Center in Boulder, Colorado. “But once I understood where it was headed and what was involved, I knew this would be a great challenge for us. Building something from nothing is exciting – starting on the ground floor with a client that not only has a great idea, but the vision and drive to make it a reality.”
Currently there are 10 Good2Go restrooms at retail locations in the San Francisco area, including Peet’s Coffee, Whole Foods Market and Sextant Coffee Roasters. But plans are under way to expand the service in the Bay Area and develop the program in other urban regions, including New Orleans, Philadelphia, New York City and Tokyo.
The app is free to try, and allows a user to locate the closest Good2Go restroom, determine its availability, and join the queue at the location. When the facility is available, it sends a notification to the user’s phone. Retailers can also print QR codes as credentials for customers.
“One of the coolest things about the restrooms is that they are completely hands-free, from the time you enter until you leave,” Els said. “Flushing, faucets, hand-drying … and the app even opens and closes the door for you.”
Built as an overlay within a client’s existing restroom, Good2Go’s technology provides a consistent high-quality design at each site to ensure a great customer experience.
One challenge for Good2Go was to find the best application programming interface that could enable communication between the app and the access control system, and enable a user to access the restroom without using a key or keypad, and without sacrificing security and safety.
“As a secure access company, we sought WSP to shepherd us through the security process and create an experience that would feel magical on the consumer side, but still be practical on the technology side,” Heller said. “We wanted it to feel as reliable as airport security, yet remain invisible to consumers.”
Els and his team evaluated several security applications before determining that a solution offered by S2, a Massachusetts-based security firm, would provide the best connectivity and flexibility for Good2Go.
“As the first system of its kind, there isn’t an off-the-shelf option that would work,” Els said. “S2 provided a forward-looking control system that was not built on proprietary protocols and could easily integrate with the occupancy sensors that Good2Go was using.”
The system architecture communicates through cloud computing, and each location has its own dedicated wi-fi router. The key was to ensure the facility worked correctly for customers and created a high-quality experience every time.
Before it was rolled out for commercial use, the system went through exhaustive in-house testing. A meeting room in WSP’s San Francisco office was used as the pilot site.
“We needed high-volume usage to pressure test the system,” Els said. “Because of the number of employees we had in the office, it provided a good sample of how it would work in a commercial setting, and we were able to collect employee feedback and reactions.”
Heller was pleased with the success of the pilot, the quality of the partnership and the transparency of the entire process.
“Sometimes the client only sees the finished product, but it was important for us to be very hands-on and work with WSP as it was coming to life,” she said. “This set-up allowed us to openly test the system during a highly confidential time in our company. Successfully converting the conference room at WSP to a prototype was one of the biggest early milestones of the project. Once brought to life, we knew we had something special.”