This summer Senion was acquired by Verizon, one of the world’s leading telecommunications companies. We sat down with Jeff Frantz, head of Verizon’s Location Technology team, and Christian Lundquist, former CEO of Senion and current Chief Revenue Officer for Verizon’s location team, to talk about the acquisition, the future of work, and Verizon’s plans for Senion.
Q: The recent acquisition is big news! Can you both tell us about that process? How did Verizon make the decision to acquire Senion, and what set it apart from the competition?
Christian: The Verizon team reached out to Senion last summer to learn more about our business and our technology. When conversations started, we didn’t have the full picture but as time went on and our companies had more conversations, we started to understand Verizon’s vision for location, and how Senion would fit into that. The due diligence process continued and after almost a year of discussions we were able to officially announce the acquisition.
It wasn’t unusual for Senion to be approached by big companies over the years. They would be “window shopping” looking for smaller companies and technologies that they could acquire, but they didn’t seem serious about collaborating and innovating together. We always tried to be cautious not to spend resources on conversations that would not have a positive outcome.
Many companies have ideas of things they’d like to do with location technology, but not every application solves a customer problem or is commercially viable. Commercial viability is something that is important to both Senion and Verizon. It’s a big part of the reason the acquisition was successful. We realized that we can be stronger if we do this together.
Jeff: I couldn’t have said it better. When Verizon started pursuing an acquisition, we evaluated many different types of companies with unique location capabilities. But a few special things drove us to Senion and made us feel there was synergy between our two companies. First was their technology. They already had a commercial grade product in the market, featuring important core location capabilities. The second was the team. They had that “X-Factor” and we could tell right away that they were a great group of people. We love their story and how they founded the company together in university. It felt like a great fit culturally and we found lots of overlap in the way we like to do business.
Q: Jeff, can you tell us about your team at Verizon, its history, charter and what you are working on today?
Jeff: Despite Verizon’s significant presence in the US, many people don’t know that we have a team solely dedicated to location innovation. Our team’s charter is simple: We are here to drive location innovation and provide value from the world’s spatial data.
The Verizon Location Technology team was originally formed through the acquisition of MapQuest, which happened about two years before I joined the company. Verizon went on to sell the consumer-facing Mapquest brand last year. My team retained the underlying technology and started focusing on B2B use cases for location.
At Verizon, location is a cornerstone of our overall business strategy. We think about location as a horizontal enabler that can bring exciting new capabilities and insights to businesses.
MapQuest was among the first companies to digitize maps for consumers. Today, we’re keeping true to our roots but with a B2B focus as we look to digitize spaces for entire enterprises.
We first “dipped our toe” into digitizing spaces with a project for the 2020 Super Bowl in Miami, Florida. Our team was tasked with mapping and digitizing the entire venue and surrounding area to create a better experience for attendees. We created a searchable digital map of the venue that included several floors, surrounding events and points of interest within the area. Attendees would be able to navigate to find their seat, search to find their favorite vendors and more.
This work started us down the path of creating digital twins for facilities to allow B2B consumers to better understand their space and as a result, increase productivity and decrease costs.
Q: Senion has two unique product offerings: Senion at Work and Senion IPS (Indoor Positioning System). Can you tell us more about each, and why these are important to Verizon?
Christian: I’ll take this one. Senion IPS is a high-powered, robust indoor positioning system that uses an algorithm to calculate device position in real time. IPS enables functionalities including indoor wayfinding, geofencing, occupancy detection, location sharing, analytics and predictive intelligence.
Senion IPS brings a seamless, responsive, and consumer-friendly foundation for location-based services. It enables enterprises to deploy all types of location-responsive apps – whether it’s enhancing the customer experience in a shopping mall, helping employees connect in a large office campus, or enabling hospitals to offer the latest digital experiences.
Senion at Work is a hybrid office resource planning tool, which leverages the Indoor Positioning System. Senion at Work builds a more productive office by helping employees find, book and cancel work spaces in real-time, plan in-office attendance, track utilization rates and occupancy for spaces and provides indoor wayfinding and navigation. We see a lot of demand for Senion at Work, in a post-pandemic world.
Q: The COVID pandemic has uncovered new working models, including “hybrid offices,” which Christian mentioned in his response. How does Senion at Work help enable these new models?
Christian: The last two years have forced companies to rethink their office spaces, and what the “future of work” will look like. I believe the hybrid work model (where workers split their time between home and the office) is the way of the future. It puts an emphasis on employee productivity and work-life balance, while reducing the company’s operating costs and carbon footprint. There are a lot of advantages to the hybrid working model, but also several new challenges that may produce anxiety for employees, which employers will need to address.
For example, if an office is in an urban area, there’s a good chance that employees will spend several hours commuting when they do choose to go into the office. They want to be sure a desk will be available for the day, and that their colleagues will be in attendance as well. I once travelled all the way to San Francisco to meet a client, just to end up sitting in the lobby on the phone with them instead! It’s important to have tools to coordinate attendance and meet up.
In these new work models, the office should be used as a place to collaborate and produce the most efficient results alongside your peers. But at the same time, employers won’t want to have everyone in the office on the same days, because that wouldn’t be an efficient use of rent or space. In the years to come, we may see employees spending more time in the office than they do today, but flexibility and efficiency will still be key for smarter work spaces of the future.
That’s where the Senion at Work product fills a market need. Senion at Work is a hybrid office resource planning tool that helps employees boost productivity, and employers cut costs. Senion at Work helps build a more productive office by allowing employees to find, book and cancel work spaces in real-time, plan in-office attendance, track utilization rates and occupancy for spaces, and provides indoor wayfinding and navigation.
Q: What are Verizon’s long term plans for Senion’s technology?
Jeff: We see Senion’s sensor fusion and indoor positioning technology as critical components for many unique use cases.
For Senion at Work, we’re pushing the product into new verticals and use cases.… Think “Senion at Anywhere,” instead of just the workplace. We believe there are a multitude of industries that could benefit from location technology that promotes smarter, more efficient use of spaces. Today, we’re researching industries and finding opportunities to solve pain points across healthcare, manufacturing, logistics, university campuses and more.
For Senion’s Indoor Positioning Service, we’re looking to build on the existing core capabilities. Today, Senion can position mobile devices accurately indoors using signals like Bluetooth and motion sensor data. We’re looking at how we can leverage additional signals to position a variety of devices and machines both indoors and outdoors.
In the future, we’ll combine Senion’s superior technology with the location-accuracy, speed, throughput and reliability of Verizon’s 5G platform. This will help us push the boundaries of what’s possible.