3 Utilization Insights for Better Visibility in the Workplace

Thomas Allen | May 2, 2018

Achieving Workspace Optimization Through Occupancy Sensors

Solving today’s workplace challenges means connecting people with the right tools and technology, along with the right spaces and resources, to enable the digital office. In a previous blog post, we described some of the benefits sensors and beacons can provide your organization, such as increasing room availability and making open workspaces easier to find.

But not all these devices have the same features or provide the same advantages. The biggest difference between these devices are the questions they can answer in your workspace. If you’re considering implementing occupancy sensors, you can identify which devices will work best for your organization by asking the right questions.

Key Occupancy Questions for Workspace Optimization

Sensors and beacons have traditionally been used to determine if a room was vacant or occupied. But the use of these tools is expanding, leading to optimized workspaces and increased productivity.

Here are three critical questions that different types of sensors and beacons can help you answer, and how these insights can lead to more successful workspace utilization.

Question 1: Is someone there?

The most basic question a sensor determines is whether a space is occupied. With just this information, sensors can do a number of things, especially when they are connected to your workspace scheduling software. Not only can they make a meeting more comfortable for the participants by adjusting your HVAC or turning the lights on, but you can configure your platform so that an individual can automatically reserve the space simply by walking into a room. And when the space is no longer needed, the sensor detects when the room is empty and frees up that room up for other users.

These devices use a variety of technologies to sense whether someone is in an area, including passive infrared (PIR) sensors, which detect heat radiating off an individual; environmental sensors, which detect changes in things like temperature and humidity due to humans; and ultrasonic and microwave sensors, which send out high-frequency sound waves or microwaves and detect when the reflection patterns change.

Question #2: How many people are there?

The next category of sensors goes beyond simply detecting whether a space is vacant or in use — they can detect how many people are actually present in that particular area.

These tend to fall into two subcategories: image processor-based and temperature-based. In the former, a small camera records the presence of each human, anonymously. In the latter, the device senses temperature fluctuations and uses that information to determine how many individuals are in a particular space.

These sensors offer even more precise space utilization data. Suppose a team of four employees regularly holds impromptu stand-up meetings, and they typically pop in to a nearby conference room for those 15-minute check-ins. The sensors communicate with the room scheduling software, reserving the area so that no other group double-books the space. So far so good—but if the room has a capacity of 20, the space is being underutilized.  On a large scale, these types of capacity mismatches can add up to a significant cost to your organization.

When tied into a scheduling platform with powerful reporting capabilities, utilization data can guide decisions on how to better reconfigure precious real estate. In this instance, the organization might learn that it would better served to put up a divider in the conference room or permanently reconfigure the space in that area of the building.

Question #3:  Who is there?  

In our digitally connected world where nearly everyone carries a smartphone, the third category of sensors enables you to detect not only how many people are in a location but also determine the identities of those individuals.

Bluetooth beacons use proximity sensing to send out an identifier that can be picked up by a cellphone app or other device. The beacon can then determine the user’s relative physical location to the sensor, and a network of beacons increases the accuracy of the determined location.

When used in conjunction with scheduling software, this allows an employee to enter a space and reserve it automatically with the individual’s identity attached. And the above benefits also apply, such as the ability to optimize seating and identify underutilized spaces.

However, when deciding whether to enable individual identification, an organization should always take into consideration company privacy policies and integrate their beacons in accordance with company protocols. It’s also important to note that the beacon platform can be set to only store anonymous data, with the identities being anonymous except in cases of emergency when locating individuals becomes critical.

Another exciting use is the opportunity for wayfinding. An employee, student, or faculty member could use the connected app to locate a nearby, free desk space and reserve that space for the required or allotted amount of time. In another example, beacons can guide users to spaces, as in the case of an individual who needs to navigate to a reserved space in an unfamiliar campus or office.

Sensor and Beacon Integration with EMS

EMS integrates seamlessly with a variety of different devices to capture occupancy information and drive workplace optimization. We take a hardware agnostic approach, giving our customers the flexibility to use the devices that work best for them. And with EMS Platform Services, a true middle-tier and RESTful API, these integrations are now even easier. Customers are integrating their EMS Software with room signs, lighting systems, HVAC systems, automated blinds and more. These simple, yet powerful tools provide the visibility, control and insight needed to increase productivity, reduce costs, attract and retain people and differentiate your brand.

To learn more about how EMS works with occupancy sensor partners, schedule a demo today.

Thomas Allen
written by Thomas Allen, Senior Product Manager

Thomas Allen brings nearly 25 years of experience in product management to EMS. As a senior product manager, he is responsible for identifying and executing strategic business requirements for the entire EMS platform.

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