Virtual Real Estate
An office building directory generally elicits about as much excitement as a birthday card from your dentist. But if Nick Clark and Dennis Smolek have their way, the directory is about to get sexy.
The duo is unveiling Atlas, a touchscreen-based program designed to replace the ubiquitous lobby directory. It's the latest product from Dallas-based Roam Solutions, their tech company that specializes in commercial real estate.
Couched in either a 32-, 46- or 55-inch Samsung monitor, Atlas fuses the directory with the kind of multigesture touch and design that smartphone and tablet users have become accustomed to. The system ranges from $10,000 to $14,000 and uses a Wi-Fi signal to connect with the central server.
Atlas is a touchscreen-based program designed to replace the lobby directory. “It’s more of an information center for the entire building,” says co-creator Nick Clark.
The home screen of each Atlas contains menus for building information, office suite availability, and people and companies.
“It’s more of an information center for the entire building,” says Clark, who opened Common Desk in Deep Ellum, where he and Smolek work. “It hits on three different types of people — visitors, tenants in the building and prospective tenants.”
For tenants in the building, Roam sees the Atlas as a marketing tool. Each business has autonomy to fill in its company profile with whatever it likes while showing the logo, square footage and other pertinent details. Companies can also add tweets to the rolling Twitter feed on Atlas’ homepage.
In the same vein, Atlas gives a visitor far more information than a traditional directory. When you pull up a company, you can also see which companies are occupying the other offices on that floor and if any suites are open to lease.
For Atlas’ first customer, Clark and Smolek added a custom feature. St. Paul Place has an Arts District app that lets users explore upcoming events in the neighborhood. Clark says that most places won’t have personalized apps, but outside of the Arts District, any Atlas users can still access its restaurants and area services options, which operate through Yelp to provide nearby spots for errands or lunch.
Clark and Smolek are installing Atlas in St. Paul Place in early June, and they hope that more orders will follow as other building managers realize the potential.
“We have other building owners that are interested, and they want to play with it [at St. Paul Place] before they get their own installation,” Clark says. “But we’re meeting with the upper echelon of owners in town and some of them are coming to us. We want to dominate the ‘class A’ buildings in Dallas.”
It’s no surprise, considering that before Clark opened Common Desk, he worked in commercial real estate. He says that the commercial real estate industry is lacking in the technology sector.
“My passion is workplace solutions,” Clark says, “whether it’s infusing community in a workplace like what we do at Common Desk or using technology to connect people, which is what Roam wants to create.”
There are competitors out there in the digital directory game, such as TouchSource, but they don’t have the same level of detail as Atlas, according to Smolek. “TouchScreen is like what you use in your high school library,” Smolek says. “People are used to swipe gestures, and it doesn’t support that. It’s very limited. It’s just a list of names of people.”
Smolek says that the framework and technology of Atlas would allow it to scale to other industries like car dealerships, but they’re focusing on commercial real estate for now. “We really want to focus on being a beautiful, useful marketing tool,” he says.
Part of that would be going beyond just the Atlas in the lobby. Clark says they envision having tablet-sized Atlases for each company that would work as dynamic signage and communicate with the other Atlases.
“We want to use tech to not just be an info source but as a connector to the entire building,” he says.