Workspace management sensors, the 4 different types

What are workspace management sensors?

Workspace management sensors enable your organisation to collect data about space, its usage and characteristics. These sensors can provide a constant stream of data for analysis and greatly expand your understanding of how people interact with your workspace and other things.

Below we describe 4 common types of workspace management sensors and how they can be used:

Desk sensors

A desk sensor is also referred to as a utilisation sensor. Desk sensors detect the occupancy of a desk via movement and heat, driven largely by passive infrared technology. Data aggregated from desk sensors provides visibility into real-time space utilisation.

Desk sensor deployment: Each desk sensor is usually installed on a desk or workspace on a one-to-one basis. Generally, placed on or under the desk or attached to the wall within a cubicle or office. These are battery-powered sensors that can often last 10, 20 or even 30 years with modern battery technology.

Desk sensor use cases:

  • Learn what spaces are not being utilised to their full potential, so they can be repurposed.
  • Adopt co-working strategies, including hybrid workforce and hoteling, to rent and share unused space as employees come back to the office.
  • Control operational costs for lighting and HVAC by using desk sensors to identify when a space is not in use and automatically adjust the thermostat or lighting.
  • Automate check-in/check for office or conference room reservations by integrating with reservation or booking application
  • Identify real-time occupancy data, to see which spaces have just been used to trigger a work order for cleaning and sanitisation.
  • Trigger automated emails or SMS messages to alert key individuals when spaces are nearing capacity or at capacity.

Environmental sensors

Environmental sensors enable organisations to ensure the health and safety of buildings, by measuring environmental factors including:

  • Temperature
  • Humidity
  • Air pressure
  • Lighting
  • Noise
  • Air quality by VOC (volatile organic compounds)

Businesses do not need to deploy an environmental sensor in every workspace to have an excellent sense of the building environment. A good rule of thumb for deployment is approximately one environmental sensor per 10 desk sensors. Pay some attention to sensor placement. For example, you don’t want to take temperature readings next to a piece of hot equipment like a busy printer station.

Environmental sensor use cases:

  • Ensure the workplace is well-ventilated to support healthy employees, especially during the pandemic.
  • Reduce energy and lighting consumption by tailoring on/off times for lighting and HVAC based on the actual needs of your staff.
  • Reduce your corporate carbon footprint by allocating each factor based on real-time demand, rather than theoretical demand.
  • Study how temperature, humidity, noise, and other environmental factors impact utilisation.
  • Gain an understanding of how each environmental factor interplays with other factors. For example, data could reveal how temperature and air quality play off one another.

Area sensors

Area sensors use thermal, Wi-Fi or computer vision to see people, identify them and pinpoint their location on a floor plan. Most area sensors keep everyone’s identity anonymous.

The coverage range of an area sensor is larger than a desk sensor. Sensors are typically installed in the ceiling and look down onto a workplace. Because they remain above the office layout, they are not tied to any particular piece of furniture, like desk sensors, and you can often change the office design without needing to move the area sensors.

Different area sensors have different capture rates, often dependent on their source of power. Sensor sightings vary from real-time to taking a sighting every 5 to 10 minutes. Consider power source carefully, high traffic areas will drain batteries quickly and they will need to be replaced. Battery waste can add up, adding to sustainability challenges.

Area sensor use cases:

  • Gain the flexibility to understand the different types of spaces, count the number of people using each space and understand where people move before and after using a space.
  • Understand neighbourhood and team space usage within the office.
  • Predict capacity trends.
  • Tie real-time area sensors into a space reservation system to automatically check-in for bookings without needing to scan a QR code or launch a phone app.
  • Facilitate a way-finding app that helps employees navigate the workspace.
  • Extract historical data to see exactly how many people you had in your offices at different points in time.

People counting sensors

People-counter sensors, also known as floor counters, count the total number of people in space. These sensors are useful when you want to know the total number of people who have entered or left a space, such as a floor, building or room. These sensors are intelligent and count bi-directional movement, to recognise people walking into and walking out of a space. People-counter sensors achieve 99% or higher accuracy.

People-counting sensor deployment: People-counter sensors should be positioned over an entry or exit point. These sensors are powered over the network, not by batteries, and up to nine sensors can be stitched together so that movement can be tracked moving through all nine sensors.

People-counting sensor use cases:

  • Retail: Gain a better understanding of how shoppers flow through a store under different layouts and conditions. Measure dwell time in how people linger in certain spaces.
  • Higher education: Measure the real-time capacity in a lecture hall or auditorium.
  • Queue length: Monitor how long the lines get in stores or cafeterias.
  • Office buildings: See how people flow through the common areas of your building such as break rooms and the lobby.

Article originally published by: FM: Systems Blog – August 23, 2021