Workplace experience

Sensor Technology: What It Is and Where to Use It


 — November 9th, 2021

Sensor Technology: What It Is and Where to Use It

As offices make plans to reopen at various scales and employees begin to return to the workplace, facility management and HR teams are charged with the responsibility of safely welcoming employees back to their physical space. While many challenges must be overcome prior to bringing employees back to the office at really any scale, ensuring that social distancing guidelines are followed is a crucial element for a successful return to the workplace. However, to facilitate social distancing needs, employers must first have an understanding of how the workplace is being used by employees. To solve this challenge and provide the necessary insights into workplace utilization, many companies are implementing sensor technology in their offices to create smart, safe buildings that support the return to the workplace.

“Smart technologies can help prevent the spread of illness, monitor wellness, and make employees more productive.”

– Deloitte

IoT sensor technology integrations are valuable addition to the SmartSpace Global (Poppulo) workplace management platform. By combining sensor technology with powerful analytic tools within the Poppulo platform, your facilities team can understand how space is used, then use that data to optimize your real estate by reconfiguring overcrowded spaces or repurposing spaces that are being underutilized. This data can also provide insight as to where social distancing guidelines aren’t being properly followed in your office or where more frequent sanitation may be required. But sensors are more than just a measurement tool. They can also automate certain aspects of your office experience like lighting, heating, and sanitation schedules, plus make desks and rooms available or unavailable for reservation based on when those spaces have been cleaned, and whether they are currently in use.

One of the biggest concerns regarding the use of sensor technology in the office is data security and the protection of personal information. The goal of introducing sensor technology in the workplace is to collect data that informs your space utilization strategy. Depending on the sensors used, there is minimal, if any, threat to personal privacy. Most sensors cannot identify specific employees because they rely on environmental changes to detect the presence of individuals. While some sensors do collect minimal privacy data such as MAC addresses of mobile devices, any personal data is anonymized prior to information being disseminating to third party or proprietary systems. Additionally, as sensors have become more common, many regulations have been put in place to protect individuals and prevent the collection of personal data without consent.

Smart sensor technology

Smart sensor technology not only helps you safely welcome back your employees, but also gives you a competitive advantage by generating long-term business efficiencies and driving collaboration in the workplace.

Integrating IoT sensors into your office environment helps bridge the gap between reservation data and actual space usage, delivering valuable insight about how your employees are using space and where real estate optimization can deliver reduced costs. Combined, these benefits can help your business make data-driven decisions to reduce risk, save money, and meet safety and compliance regulations. Additionally, by integrating with Poppulo services such as ‘Find my Nearest’, sensors can detect when a desk is vacant and help direct team members towards the closest available desk, increasing productivity and making it easier for your dynamic teams to efficiently work together.

By reducing real estate costs and energy consumption, plus giving you the ability to continually optimize your space over time, sensor technology generates significant efficiencies throughout the workplace, helps you save money across the organization, and improves the employee experience.

Just a few things you can do with IoT sensor technology:

Report on Space Occupancy

Sensors can not only count and report the occupancy in a given space, but also trigger a response when a threshold is met to limit the number of people entering the area.

Measure Distance Between Occupants

By using algorithms to learn the shape of people, sensors can measure the distance between individuals, ultimately reporting back to the workspace management platform and enabling you to better enable social distancing in your office.

Track Movement Between Zones

Sensors can be added to entrances, exits, or other key access points in your space to count bi-directional movement and report the number of people that passed inward or outward during a certain time interval.

Re-enforce Hygiene Measures in High Density Spaces

When a certain occupancy or other threshold is reached, sensors can automate a response such as displaying hygiene messaging on mobile devices or digital signage in the area.

Automate Lighting and Heating

Sensors can detect movement in a space and trigger automations that turns on lighting or heating, reducing your energy consumption and saving your business money.

Whether you’re operating a large-scale enterprise with multiple offices across the world or a smaller business at a single location, sensor technology can help transform your space, optimize your real estate, and improve workplace efficiencies. However, there are a range of different types of sensors that are each suited for different spaces, and it’s important to select the sensor that meets the needs of your space.

Type of sensors that can be integrated into the Poppulo platform include Software Sensors, Embedded Analytics (EA) Sensors, Passive InfraRed (PIR) Sensors, Bluetooth Beacons and Environmental Sensors.

Software Sensors

The maintenance-free Poppulo software sensors can provide granular workstation usage data by reporting when an employee is on your network and connects to a docking station, monitor, or desktop PC. These sensors feed information into your wayfinding solution, helping employees find the location of colleagues they need to collaborate with. Plus, our proprietary software sensors don’t require any physical hardware, making them affordable, easy to deploy, and easy to manage in the long run.

Software sensors are ideal for spaces of any size with defined seating arrangements, standard desk configurations, hot desks, or private offices.

Embedded Analytics (EA) Sensors

EA sensors can accurately detect location, count, and movement of employees with a high precision and deliver real-time metrics on space occupancy. Plus, up to four EA sensors can be stitched together to cover even larger spaces or account for desks that are placed on the border of multiple sensors. These sensors can also be used to count bi-directional movement across a designated point and report the amount of people that pass inwards and outwards within a certain time interval, providing detailed information on the use of exits and entrances.

EA sensors are best used in larger zones or open spaces with a flexible layout including public areas, offices with open desk layouts, formal meeting spaces, informal private workspaces, conference centers, and support areas such as copier rooms and pantries.

Passive InfraRed (PIR) Sensors and Environmental Sensors

PIR sensors can be used to detect heat movement and report any change across a particular temperature range back to the Poppulo platform, making them useful for measuring and reporting the occupancy at a specific workspace. When situated under a desk or table, the sensor will monitor the activity within the work zone every few seconds and report back when a presence is detected. Additionally, these sensors are wi-fi enabled, battery-powered with low power use, and can be used in conjunction with EA sensors to gain an even better understanding of space usage.

PIR sensors can be placed under desks in fixed or flexible workspaces, under tables or on walls in conference rooms or specialized work areas, in support areas such as copier rooms and kitchens, as well as at egress points in public spaces.

Environmental Sensors

Environmental sensors are a rapidly growing market and can support smart building initiatives as well as employee wellbeing. These sensors can measure temperature, humidity, volatile organic compounds, CO2 levels, ambient noise, ambient light, and more, then trigger automated workflows based on threshold levels being reached.

Like Bluetooth beacons, environmental sensors should be placed strategically throughout your building so that all areas used by employees are within the range of at least one sensor.

Bluetooth Beacons

Bluetooth beacons improve collaboration between employees by giving them an enhanced wayfinding experience. These sensors detect the real-time location of devices in your facility and enable users to share their blue-dot location with colleagues for a selected period of time. Plus, these beacons can be used to trigger events such as notifying you when a colleague is nearby or cancelling a room reservation when you’re not nearby.

Bluetooth beacons should be placed strategically and evenly throughout your space such that each beacon lies within the range of the surrounding beacons and the entire office is covered.

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