Streaming the Beam
OAC Services uses robotic technology to provide clients with remote accessAugust 2nd, 2018
When Seattle-based OAC Services Inc. first introduced a remotely controlled, moveable robot that enabled the user to visit with people in its Spokane office, employees weren’t sure what to do with it.
“At first, it was, well this is kind cool, but what are we going to use this for?” says Jeff Jurgensen, senior associate and regional director who handles the Spokane and Olympia offices of OAC Services.
Two years after the company first brought in the machine to the Spokane office, Jurgensen says OAC Services here now uses it on all of its projects.
“It’s mainly when we review drawings with our building envelope group and show them what we’re looking at because it saves them a flight or trip over,” says Jurgensen.
Standing just over five feet tall, the robot is a “BeamPro,” a more advanced model of the original Beam machine, but OAC Services here calls it the Beam. It consists of a base supported by wheels, a long neck, and a computer screen that projects a user’s face for video chats. The user can download a phone app that controls the Beam remotely, directing the machine where to travel so the user can change what he or she sees.
In short, the Beam essentially acts as a walking, eye-level Skype-like device with a broader field of view.
The Seattle office of OAC Services also has and uses the Beam. For example, international clients can use the tech to have meetings with OAC Services without costly travel costs, he says.
“Rather than get on a flight and go over there or do Skype meetings where it’s easy to be out of view … the Beam is really cool because they can log into the Beam. They drive it around. They can see the office, and they can see all the stuff on the walls and how we’re working on their project and the ideas that’re coming up,” says Jurgensen.
Located at 905 W. Riverside, the Spokane office has 11 employees and one intern, he says.
OAC, which stands for Olympic Associates Company, manages projects for public and private construction project owners, says Jurgensen. The project management consulting company doesn’t design or construct buildings, but it does have in-house architecture-related and structural engineering teams.
One of those teams, the Seattle-based building envelope group, works with both OAC Services’ project managers and a project’s design team, he says.
Clients specific to the Spokane office, whether they live locally or farther away, who don’t want to drive in to downtown Spokane can also use Beam technology, he says.
“Even locally, if an owner wanted to not drive downtown or look for parking, or even if they just want to say, ‘Hi,’ it’s fun to have someone log onto the Beam and drive it through the office and say hi to everybody,” he says.
Beam technology is developed and sold or leased by Suitable Technologies Inc., says Jurgensen. OAC Services leases its Beam.
A tech company headquartered in Palto Alto, Calif., Suitable Technologies’ website says a standard Beam model costs more than $2,100. More advanced models increase in price, with the BeamPro valued at more than $14,900.
In Spokane, OAC Services typically works with local clients, especially school districts.
In 2015, OAC was awarded contracts to manage Mead School District and Central Valley School District bond projects, he says. Last year, OAC was awarded management contracts for Cheney School District bond projects. The company has also worked with the Spokane International Airport and the city of Spokane.
Because of the increase in projects under management, OAC Services’ Spokane office has grown to 11 employees in the last three years. Before then, only Jurgensen and three other people worked there, he says.
“We just went through a growth period, so we’re happy where we’re at right now,” he says. “We’re always looking for new clients and new people to work with.”
Additionally, although he declines to disclose the Spokane office’s annual revenue, he says it’s projected to increase this year.
Jurgensen established the Spokane office in 2006. The company opened in Seattle in 1955.
OAC Services’ building envelope group works with both the in-house project managers and also a project’s design team to help design the building envelope.