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News and Updates about OpenSensors.IO

Event: Show and Tell of Workplace Sensors

If you managed to join us last week at Unilever’s impressive London HQ, you will have seen demonstrations from us and our partners in the practical uses for sensors within Workspaces. It was a perfect opportunity to let people see and feel in real terms, different types of sensors from environmental, occupancy and air quality sensing.

Nate Barney and John Chang from Unilever have been smart in their approach to adoption of new technology and shared their approach with attendees. Cornerstones of their strategy include cloud first adoption, choosing vendors that have open APIs to encourage interoperability and understanding all systems should integrate via their analytics layer. Our guests Alex Storey from Disruptive Technologies and Bruno Beloff from South Coast Science introduced us to the sensor innovations they are leading the industry in and both gave informative presentations.

Disruptive Technologies’ sensors although small – the size of scrabble squares, have an impressive 15 year battery life. We are excited about how disruptive technologies’ sensors are going to change asset monitoring. If you can deploy sensors easily to know when machinery is being used, predicting it’s maintenance cycles and the headline dreams of industrial IoT are suddenly possible!

Bruno brought an example of one of his environmental sensors and gave a fascinating live demo measuring the CO2 in the room – especially disconcerting when it accurately measured the carbon monoxide from a smoker’s breath. South Coast Science have been a partner to OpenSensors for a number of years. Their Air Quality sensors focus on measuring gasses and particulates extremely accurately, these sensors are being adopted by Landlords and Occupiers who are working to meet the Well building standard. In putting sensors not only indoors but also by HVAC vents, building managers are able to monitor the performance of HVAC systems. Questions like ‘When should fresh air be circulated’, ‘Is the HVAC system making the air quality better or worse’ become easier to answer.

Daniel Hummelsund and Kevin Mugadza from OpenSensors also gave insight into the way we approach workspace deployments and our ethos on interoperapility of systems, unsurprisingly we strongly feel that new sensor systems deployed within a building context should ‘talk’ to existing systems and work to augument the workflows of the different people charged with managing the space. Daniel gave information around reports people like to see, how data is analysed in both spatial and time series view. Kevin deep dived into the practical realities of project managing sensors deployments. The team approach these deployment in a methodical way as the complexity of IoT is in getting sensors, networks, software and data layers to work seamless in usually complex environments.

After a lively Q and A and there was an opportunity for networking where guests could enjoy cold drinks on an extremely hot day and got the chance to mingle with other attendees. Thanks to everyone who came and made it such a success. We look forward to the next one in the Autumn.

Roundup of the Best Workplace Trends Blogs

Blogs are a great way to keep up with the fast changing developments in workspaces. From sensors and software to IoT to real estate, here is a round-up of are some of our current favorite blogs:

Workplace Insight Workplace Insight is a great source of news and information about the design and management of workplaces. Mark Eltringham and his team offer interesting insights into workplace design and management issues.

Memoori Memoori provides thought provoking information and insights on smart buildings.

Dwell Magazine We love this stylish and innovative Magazine, the Workplace & Office section is a special favorite.

Here are a couple of favorite IoT and Smart Building blogs that keep us informed on the latest technology and innovation trends too;

Have a blog you think we should include? Let us know, we’d love to check it out!

The Power of Apis

APIs are reshaping how companies do business. Once solely the domain of software engineers, they have grown to affect all levels of company.

What is an API?

An API is a set of clearly defined methods of communication between various software components. A good API not only makes it easy to get at your data but also combine it with additional data.

Why are APIs important?

APIs are essential for interpretability. Deployed sensors and sensor networks will be part of the infrastructure of buildings for the foreseeable future and beyond, a trend that has gathered pace over recent years and is expected to continue for a long time to come. If the data only goes from the sensor into a black box, there is no built-in flexibility. Not only can you now see the visualizations clearly and easily but you can also integrate the data with the existing CAFM System. The same data can also be integrated into the existing systems already in place and familiar to the client whether meeting room booking systems or building security systems ensuring maximum accessibility and control.

Benefits of an API:

  • Freedom from vendor lock-in – easy independent access to data
  • Better security – the more people who can see and test a set of code, the more likely any flaws will be caught and fixed quickly.
  • Customizability
  • Flexibility
  • Interoperability – our list of current integrations is always growing. Contact us to see if your system can be linked together
  • Auditability
  • Try before you buy – why not do a pilot of 5 devices before you rollout to a large scale deployment?

A closed platform can be damaging long-term and expensive. Your data becomes locked up and customers can find themselves very much at the mercy of the vendor’s changing vision, requirements, dictates, prices, priorities, and timetable.

More about the OpenSensors APIs

Open Sensors API’s enable you to extract data by a variety of means; project, location, organizational departments, types of sensors, types of messages etc.. We have integrated with many CAMF systems, meeting room booking systems, and building security systems. It is a constantly reviewed and expanding list with many other integrations planned on our road map. It is not only possible to build integrations with the visualization systems you already have in place but also use our canned visualizations. The data can also be seen within our systems, but it’s really targeted at enabling flexibility and multi-purpose use of the data.

OpenSensors has an open data mission

Hardware is expensive. Implementation can often be difficult to reduce the data as much as possible. Unless the data is used by multiple systems effectively you are going to have to have a different use for the same data within the building. With closed systems, the same sensors will have to be redeployed for each specific set of data required. This does not make sense to us. Our basic mission is to make these data sets easily accessible. Whether that’s private data or open data, we want you to be able to collect the information and make it immediately reusable and interoperable with all the different systems that you are already or will be using.

Our systems are similar to the electrical voltage standards that allow you to purchase any appliance and plug it in delivering power to your device. Open Sensors allow you to plug in the different devices as needed. Our API allows your applications to connect and extract the data when and how it is needed. The data is no longer locked away in a proprietary system holding you to the ransom of one vendor and puts you back firmly in control.

By harnessing the power of data aggregation across smart building ecosystem, every stakeholder wins. Over and over again, we’ve seen that enriching the experience of all parties (business – agent – customer) generates a higher degree of success and satisfactio

About Open Sensors

Open Sensors aggregates data from a variety of sensors for the next generation of smart Building Management Systems. Our dashboards help you make the most effective use of your office space. With experience in helping more than 100 companies to combine data from new workplace sensors seamlessly, interoperating it with existing and familiar mobile and desktop systems, we aim to give you a fully comprehensive overview.

BisNow Future of Real Estate Conference

Yodit was a guest speaker on a panel for Bisnow’s ‘Future of Real Estate Event’ brought the most innovative & creative industry players. The uptake of new technologies such as the Internet of Things is accelerating in Commercial Real Estate, with a significant % of landlords, occupiers and contractors taking part in deployments and developing a comprehensive plan of action with regards to integration.

The benefits to the property world, will be seen in terms of workplace efficiencies, energy savings and employee’s wellbeing. It was clear that the savvy technology buyers of smart buildings understood that these benefits would only be delivered by demanding technology providers integrate seamlessly with all products of the built environment. With the significant traction that sensing technologies are gaining in the marketplace, technology companies will be rightly held to a high standard on interoperability with existing systems.

Transcript of Evidence Based Design Webinar

Edited transcript of the OpenSensors Webinar on “Evidence Based Design of Workspaces” Mar-28-2017

Our panelist are: * Arjun Kaicker of Zaha Hadid Architects. An architect and workplace consultant with more than 2 decades of experience in workplace design, he brings a real passion to his work and wants to create workspaces that directly respond to the needs and aspirations of his clients. * Yodit Stanton, CEO of OpenSensors. She has spent the last 15 years as a data engineer building large scale data processing and machine learning technologies in financial trading systems. She has been working with IoT data for the last 3 years. * Sean Murphy, CEO of SKMurphy, Inc. is an advisor to OpenSensors. Acting here as the “voice of the audience:” he poses questions to the panel as webinar attendees type them in.

Workspace Design Decisions Can Now Be Informed by Evidence from Sensors

Yodit Stanton: Thank you everyone. Welcome. This webinar covers data driven design or evidence based design. Essentially what that means is using data from sensors and other things around enabling people to understand how space is being used and also the design of the space. A lot of the trends we’re seeing, is in especially in building occupiers, remotely monitoring the buildings. There are also starting to use these data sets to inform the design and inform the future planning.

Arjun Kaicker: At Zaha Hadid Architects we’re really interested in the potential of sensors. Architects and designers have always struggled to really understand client needs in office projects. An office design is the opposite of a residential design. In a house there is a family with a few people who are the primary users of the building. In a office there are hundreds, possibly thousands, of users with very diverse behaviors and contradictory requirements.

Sensors provide a really powerful tool, for understanding workplace needs as we never have really been able to before. We no longer need to rely on assumptions and preconceptions of how people work, or on benchmarking, or—even worse—copying what other successful companies do with bean bags and foosball. Sensors really give us the opportunity to take the guess work out, take the assumptions out and to understand the real needs of workplace users.

Yodit Stanton: At OpenSensors we see three drivers for work space design:

  • The recognition that desks are underutilized in many offices is driving new forms of desk assignment where real estate costs are high. In London for example, the average cost of a desk is somewhere between 13K to 15K a year. It’s leading managers to ask, “How many desks do I really need? If I have 100 employees in my group do I really need 100 desks or will 80 be sufficient?”

  • Matching the right mix of meeting room—and break room—configuration options with employee needs for collaboration and communication: how many phone booths do I need? How many small rooms and how many large rooms. Are break rooms being utilized. Meeting rooms are often a point of contention and while booking systems have helped there are still challenges with someone reserving a block of time and then not using it.

  • The environmental aspects of the workplace, in particular noise and air quality. Both impact employee wellness and productivity. I think the Well Building standard (see ) is one example of this. Another is manager’s concerned about noise levels in desk areas, what’s appropriate for the tasks they are performing.

Arjun Kaicker: Great points Yodit. Workplaces are expensive so we don’t want to waste space. We don’t want meeting rooms that are being underutilized or amenity spaces that are not as popular as people predicted. But the flip side is that we often find some spaces over utilized in the workplace so that they are not available when needed. In that case the problem isn’t about waste, it’s about people not being able to do their job properly. When people can’t communicate and collaborate properly because they can’t find a meeting room at the right time, it can have a real effect on business efficiency and productivity.

Sean Murphy: Arjun, I have a question for you. Yodit presented figures that it was 13 to 15 thousand pounds a year per desk in downtown London. I would think that the energy cost at most a 10% of that—perhaps even less than 1%—yet we’ve spent more time trying to instrument the energy usage than we have the space usage. Why do you think the space usage monitoring has lagged?

Arjun Kaicker: That’s a fantastic point. With energy a few sensors can capture the total use, while you may need more to get a finer grained understanding. I think space usage monitoring has lagged because you need many more sensors to be able to monitor it as carefully. Building management systems have enabled both the monitoring and adjustment of energy usage. Traditional reservation systems have not incorporated data from meeting room occupancy sensors so they have only been able to allocate but not measure actual usage. Swipe card systems that monitor every entrance and exit can be used to assess total occupancy but give very little detail on usage. I think that occupancy monitoring and utilization assessment are going to catch up with energy monitoring.

Real Goal Is to Enable Employees to be More Productive

Arjun Kaicker: We cannot lose sight of the fact that it’s the people and not the real estate or the energy that are asset, and the most expensive cost. Depending upon their skills and experience the total cost of the people is probably seven to ten times that of the space they occupy and energy they consume in an office setting. If a better designed workplace can increase productivity by five or six percent that’s equivalent to half of your real estate cost And, if you can, from getting a better designed place, from getting a better designed workspace. If you can increase productivity, the efficiency by 12 to 15% you have paid for your whole building—that’s where the real savings can come.

Space utilization studies

Sean Murphy: Currently how are folks monitoring the workplace? And how can using sensors make it more effective?

Arjun Kaicker: Today you can look at the swipe card data to see how many people are occupying a building but that doesn’t really tell you anything once they’ve gone into the building.

You can interview people or hand out surveys to ask them what they see working well and not so well. But this can end up being very subjective. As a workplace consultant, the only technique that I’ve used that did more than scratch the surface is a space utilization study.

For a space utilization study we start at one end of the building and walk to the other end, floor by floor. We walk to as many desks as we can within an hour and then turn around and start again. For eight hours we mark down what’s happening at the desk or what’s happening in the meeting room.

With one person in a week you can get good coverage on about a hundred desks: you have a snap shot for the week of how those desks were used. This is a very very useful complement to interviews and satisfaction surveys for an organization. The problem is that it’s just one week and it would only be for that second you walked past the desk during the hour. So, if someone happened to get up to use the restroom for five minutes while you were walking by you would mark the desk unoccupied for an hour. It’s a time consuming expensive method: to cover 1,000 desks you would need a least five people full time for a week.

Sensors Are Replacing Manual Site Surveys

Arjun Kaicker: Sensors have massively cut the cost of carrying out this kind of data gathering and the amount of time it takes. We have also found that although space utilization studies were very useful to give a kind of general picture, they weren’t that persuasive because people knew were only done over a week or they knew that actually, it was only a snapshot within a second within that hour. And, I think that sometimes managers and executives were a bit suspicious of them: it’s much easier to buy into requirements based on the very rigorous data from sensors.

Sensors Are Not a Substitute for Conversation

Sean Murphy: How do you tell if people have tried but failed to find the certain type of space? I needed a phone booth but I couldn’t find it? I needed a five person conference room and ended up in one that holds 20.

Arjun Kaicker: You cannot tell directly but you can be pretty sure it’s happening if we see 100% utilization of a particular resource. Normally 80% to 90% is about the limit before problems start to emerge.

Yodit Stanton: Sensors are complementary to satisfaction surveys and in-depth conversations. I would never say, even as a sensor company, that they can replace the in-depth conversations that you need to have with employees.

Arjun Kaicker: To give an example of that, a few years ago I had in client on the West coast of Canada. We did a space utilization survey—sensors were not available then—and we did a questionnaire. In the questionnaire people kept on saying ‘I can never find a meeting room when I need it’ but the space utilization study found that meeting rooms were used 30% of the time. We drilled in to see if there were any particular meetings rooms which had high use—maybe these were the ones people were complaining about—but answer was no, the highest meeting room usage was 60% of the time.

We dug in some more and did some in depth interviews and discovered that they were doing a lot of audio and video conferences with colleagues on the East Coast of Canada. There’s a four hour time difference and now it became obvious. For half the day in the window where their workday overlapped the over coast, these meeting rooms were booked solid. We were able to start designing to meet this need once were were able to reconcile the utilization data with the survey data and insights gleaned from in depth conversation.

How Are Sensors Changing the Architect’s Role?

Yodit Stanton: How do you see the role of architects changing? My understanding is that architects used to design the space and deliver the project and then move on to their next project. Now with these sensor networks actively collecting occupancy data and other systems generating live data, how do you see the role of architects changing with this ongoing stream of information about how the client is taking advantage of the design?

Arjun Kaicker: Sensors can make a really big difference to the way that architects design space because now we’re designing more for flexibility, for adaptability in the future. We’re not just looking at designing in day one. Sensors provide data that allows us to move beyond rules of thumb and best practice, to they enable us to understand client needs in much more depth so that can we design something that is better for them. Sensors are holding us more accountable to clients for the impact and usefulness of our designs

How OpenSensors Helps Evolution of Smarter Buildings

Yodit Stanton: We are a technology company, most of our customers come to us with a project and ask for help selecting the right sensors, managing their installation and integrating the data streams they emit with existing tools and information systems.

We really do three things:

  • Find and evaluate sensors for inclusion in sensor networks. We are always looking for new options that provide better battery life, better range, higher reliability, new protocols, or otherwise extend the set of capabilities of what we can offer. This often involves establishing working relationships that allow us to be knowledgeable but vendor agnostic.

  • Build and manage sensor networks that collect data and turn it into useful information. We spend a lot of time establishing partnerships with other firms that allow us to make proposals that include the installation and ongoing maintenance of not only software and cloud stack but on-site the hardware—primarily sensors and gateways.

  • Integrate with existing systems to provide them with useful information: this is what people really care about. Can you extend the capabilities of tools and systems I am already using to take advantage of this sensor network that has been installed. We believe that the trend toward smarter buildings will continue to be evolutionary, so we strive to interoperate with and extend the uses for tools that our clients are already comfortable with for reserving meeting rooms, managing workplace and facilities CAD data, and doing utilization surveys.

Different Sensor Types Zaha Hadid Uses To Understand Client Needs

Arjun Kaicker: We want to get a complete picture of the client’s needs and rely on the following types of sensors to get a full picture:

  • Desk utilization sensors are typically sampling every ten minutes to see if someone is seated at a desk. You can sample more frequently but there is a trade-off between the sampling rate and battery life and most of these are battery powered.
  • Meeting room counting sensors detect not only if the room is occupied but give a count of attendees. This allows us to determine if a room that can hold twenty has someone making a private phone call or is being used for a small meeting with three people.
  • Environmental sensors include noise, C02, and lighting here. It’s interesting to cross reference this with other occupancy data we have. Footfall sensors can measure use of hallways, circulation areas, and breakout spaces.

We can combine different data to answer the following kinds of questions:

  • In a hot desk environment where do people prefer to sit? Which desks typically fill up first and are more frequently occupied?
  • Which hallways are most travelled? How does this affect noise levels?
  • Which breakrooms are most occupied at different times of day?
  • If we have informal breakout areas do the ones that are more isolated tend to get used or the ones near circulation areas? The answers to these questions can vary from company to company and even between departments in the same company. It can be useful to instrument the current space when planning a new one as patterns of space usage intend to continue.

Making Sense of Sensor Data

Yodit Stanton: So far we have been discussing the various types of data that a sensor network can collect on workspace utilization and environment. Let’s talk about two ways that we use most commonly to visualize it to make sense of it. In space: typically as an overlay on CAFM or workspace CAD drawings. This can be used to answer the question “I want to see what’s going on right now.” In time: what are the trends of usage over the course the day or days of the week or weeks of the month. When is peak usage—and perhaps what does this look like on the seating chart? One thing we like to do is incorporate historical data from manual surveys so that we can potentially uncover trends that started before sensors were installed. Data from reservation systems can be incorporated to forecast near term needs and from swipe card systems to cross check total building occupancy.

Practical Cost Considerations For Managing a Sensor Network

Yodit Stanton: I wanted to cover some practical cost considerations for installing and managing a sensor network. You have to look at the following costs:

  • On-site sensor hardware is the most obvious cost and we often try and related everything to a “cost per sensor” or “cost per sensor per month/year” but this is really only a fraction of the total cost.
  • On-site network devices like gateways used to access an Internet Service Provider network.
  • Cloud services include off-site hardware; we say “in the cloud” but it’s in an off-site data center somewhere.
  • On-site installation costs includes labor for site preparation surveys, labor to install the sensors and gateways, and labor to troubleshoot any bringup problems and deliver an operational network on time and with a minimum of disruption to regular work.
  • On-site maintenance costs includes labor to replace failed sensors as well as to replace failed batteries.
  • Network management costs includes software and services to monitor and troubleshoot ny problems end to end in an operational sensor network.

There are a number of trade-offs but the one key point I want to make is that manual maintenance, changing batteries, and installing sensors can be significantly more than the raw cost of the sensor hardware.

  • Selecting “cheaper sensors” that are less reliable and/or less power efficient and therefore have shorter battery life may be much more expensive when analyzed from a total cost of ownership perspective than a more expensive sensor with higher operational life and longer battery life.
  • There are trade-offs between sampling frequency for events (e.g. how often do you check if a desk is occupied) and we normally sample once every ten minutes so that most batteries last 18 months to two years.
  • We have spent a lot of time developing specialized software just for installation management and ongoing network management to make on-site labor hours as productive and error free as possible—and to know that sensor 659 under desk A7 is not working and to understand why.
  • We also spent a lot of time working with manufacturers and doing our own testing and proof of concept designs to verify specifications. We want to offer our clients sensor networks at the lowest total costs per sensor and that means spending a lot of time testing the actual sensors and sourcing the most reliable low power hardware we can.

Need a well-defined strategy for communication about use of sensors

Arjun Kaicker: It’s really important to clearly explain the reasons behind a workplace project. Normally, it’s something simple like to create a better place for people to work. But if you don’t explain it to them, people often assume that it’s about cost cutting, or it’s about downsizing space. It’s about taking stuff away from them as opposed to enhancing the space for them.

In the absence of clear communication, people assume it’s about them. If you don’t explain that the goal is to understand the needs so you can create better spaces some people might assume that you’re trying to check their work performance.

Showing people the results of the data and not just explaining what you’re doing makes a big difference. With sensors, you don’t just have to provide the information to them at the end of the survey. You can actually do it in real time, so people can maybe click on the dashboard and see what findings of the sensors are in real time. And that can often make people feel much more comfortable with the process.

Sean Murphy: We had one question on that, around sensors only painting part of in picture in large organizations where the issues of utilization are more compelling. Know who is using the space is also important, which would seem to work counter to the privacy concerns. But I can understand where architects might want to know which groups or which category of persons.

Arjun Kaicker: Yeah, there definitely is a balance to be struck there. What we do is to have open discussions about with the client about what level of anonymity they want to have. So, there can be complete anonymity or there can be, for instance, anonymity that doesn’t tell you who the individual is. That might provide data on what group they’re in, what team or department they’re in, or might, alternatively, give information on what level they are within the organization. If they’re executive, or if they’re general staff, et cetera. Obviously, if you start to cross reference that a bit too much, then if there’s only one executive in a particular team, that starts to kind of ruin the anonymity.

But generally, you’d be able to process results that anonymous enough and, really, so no one is ever seeing who the individuals are. I think there’s one for the caveats of that, which is that we do … There’s an obvious issue with if there isn’t hot desking, if people have the permanent desk, then you’ll be able to pretty quickly work out, even if it’s anonymous … If that is the only person who ever sits there, then you kind of know how much time they’re spending at their desk. And I think that was always an issue with the space utilization studies. That people have to be comfortable with that level of visibility of what they’re doing.

Closing Thoughts

Sean Murphy: What I’ve learned today is that architects are using data to fuel design and are moving from rough rules of thumb to incorporate more granular data in the way that they’re making decisions. Open Sensors aggregate and help you understand the data. They are moving to enable this information to be fed into their existing tools and existing systems, the cafm systems, the reservations systems at co-working facilities, systems like that.

Arjun Kaicker: I think that sensors are a great additional tool for architects and designers. I don’t think that they provide all the answers for understanding, using these, but they’re a really powerful part of a tool kit. I think, that also just interviews, surveys, workshops with people, really bringing users into the process is still as useful and viable as it’s always been. I also think that what Sensors can start to do is that they can give us more broad data. When we start looking at a series of buildings and how a sense of data might be different in different buildings, and that might be particularly useful for developers even more so than specific building occupiers and so it can really start to help us to understand how to design spaces better for maybe multiple tenants.

Yodit Stanton: As a technologist, it’s very interesting seeing the kind of maturation of the sensor installs and actually enabling people that are not very technical to work with these types of stats. I’m fascinated what kind of impacts these trends are gonna make. Both in terms of the relationship between the levels and occupiers and how the trends that kind of started with, or are starting with, replacing a lot of the manual subways will drive a lot of automation, a lot of a kind of automation with in terms of meeting rooms and so forth and seeing what kind of change it drives in terms of the designer of these spaces. Because, you know, I think everyone wants to, or at least is trying to go towards multi-use, multi-purpose buildings that, you know, we still have some ways to go with that.

Next Generation of Workspaces Event

OpenSensors co-hosted a panel for invited guests on the Future of Workspaces with Cushman & Wakefield. The panel also included Yodit Stanton, CEO of OpenSensors, Uli Blum, Architect at Zaha Hadid and Simon Troup, Founder of Fractalpha. Juliette Morgan, a Partner at Cushman & Wakefield moderated the panel. It was a lively crowd with a sense of urgency – wanting the future now!

Key takeaways

Our panelists gave a view of the current state of data driven workspaces through their different lenses.

Data driven world

For Uli Blum, Architect at Zaha Hadid the world is increasingly driven by data. It gives us much more understanding of the technical aspects of how people work and are living in our spaces. He shared about different work styles, variations of acoustics across a floor, lighting conditions, proxemics, adjacencies, and connectivity. Zaha Hadid wants to better understand all of these aspects and take into account in design.

Competitive edge

Simon Troup, Founder of Fractalpha shared how with data you are trying to find that secret sauce that differentiates you from the competition. He gave an example from the financial market where having access to early data before your competition is a huge edge over them.

IoT traction

Yodit Stanton, CEO at OpenSensors shared about the traction she was seeing, the practical side of how companies are deploying sensors and how to get started. Lots of people are putting in desk meeting room footfall sensors and trying to understand how many people are in the space and how to design better. But we also see combining this workspace occupancy data with facilities data from access control and building management systems for a full view of what is happening.

Say Goodbye to Clipboards! Why Sensors Are Replacing Manual Desk Occupancy Surveys?

Over the past two decades, clipboard reports have been the foundation for desk occupancy studies. In a typical study, 12 undergraduates walk a 5km route through an office workspace to document desk and conference room occupancy. The path takes about an hour to complete and once they finish the start around the path again.

One of the primary benefits of the desk occupancy sensors is that companies can make improvements in how space is used and the potential for reducing costs and energy usage. By capturing and centralizing utilisation information, and doing so in a timely, automatic, non- intrusive manner, analytic programs can find places for improvement.

  • Staffing cost – Manual surveys are expensive, and the biggest expense in such studies is labor. The staff cost is not just for gathering the information, but additional resources are needed to do the reporting on the data.
  • On-going staff training expense – Because of the high turnover rate of these surveyors with clipboards, companies spend a surprisingly high amount of ongoing training and hiring activities. Often this is a very large hidden expense.
  • Errors – Walking a long tedious route gets boring, surveyors make mistakes, and the quality of the study suffers.
  • Sampling rates – Because of the large staff cost, manual surveys are usually constrained to about a week. Sensors enable you to get a better picture of what is going on as you are measuring for a longer period of time i.e. minimum of 8 weeks or permanently. Also, rather than sampling what is going on every hour, you can now sample every 5-10 minutes. The rule of thumb is, you’ve got to sample at twice the event frequency to have confidence in what you’re doing. If you’re doing an hourly survey, you’re really only capturing events that last 90 minutes to 2 hours with any kind of accuracy. On a 10 minute sample, you’re catching stuff that’s 20 minutes, half an hour long. On a 5 minute sample, you’re probably catching events that are 10-15 minutes long.
  • Reporting – The whole point of the study. With manual surveys, whether using pencil and paper or software, staff still need to generate reports. With OpenSensors, the sensors’ data becomes a feed and the reporting and dashboards are ready made and don’t require on-going work to be generated. The whole operation becomes less of a manual process of moving data around; we link with CAFM systems and any other facilities management systems. The process becomes API driven and enables multiple stakeholders to analyse the data.
  • Security – Sensors are less disruptive than having people constantly walking through the office.

Utilisation studies can help you manage desk sharing ratio and unit mix for your flexible working office. Workspace occupancy sensors are replacing manual surveys for a timely, automatic, non- intrusive way to manage wasted desk space and save cost and energy usage.

Why Use Sensors for Workspace Design?

Workspace designers are using OpenSensors’ capabilities to enable their customers to optimise their usage of real estate, smart buildings deliver productivity and improved UX for employees.

Why use sensors for workspace design?

Designers turn to IoT technology and OpenSensors’ digital data layer to address the needs of the owners, facilities managers and building tenants. Innovative new IoT technology and OpenSensors’ data reports, alerts and dashboards provide designers with detailed understanding of how people are using the space vs gut feel on building performance.

A game-changer for the industry

  • Winning more deals both for new development or re-fit of iconic buildings
  • Lower cost than manual surveys
  • Real-time information to facilities managers and even tenants
  • Private data combined with public
  • Understand Air Quality factors for building wellness assessments

Sensors to replace manual work

For the first time deployment and maintenance of smart IoT sensors have become a cheaper alternative to manual occupancy questionnaires and surveys, sensors can have sampling rates of anywhere between once every few seconds to once every 30 mins. This sensor data can be correlated with information from Building Management Systems (BMS) to provide richer context and considerable more insight than manual surveys. Common interfaces include BACnet, KNX and other major systems. These data not only can be combined with private building data but can also be combined with public data like outdoor pollution.

How does it work?

OpenSensors have built hardware, installation and network provider partnerships and relationships to help architectural firms implement smart IoT devices efficiently. We have found that the most successful IoT projects follow a phased implementation approach: Design Phase, Proof of Concept, Pilot, and Deployment. The design phase asks questions such as which sensors, who will be installing and maintaining the sensors. For Proof of Concept, a lab evaluation should include hooking up 5-8 sensors all the way through a gateway to data collection in the cloud. This will give enough real data to verify that the queries and the analytics are feasible. The Pilot Phase ensures that the sensors work at scale and that the gateway configuration has been made easy for the deployment specialists. A pilot phase should be about 40 sensors depending on the density of the sensors. At this point, you can scale up to the number of sensors and the bandwidth required for full deployment.

Practical Examples

Heat maps can help define predictable patterns of usage including peak demand for: * Desks – real-time information of which desks that are in use and which that are available * Conference rooms – Do you have the appropriate amount of meeting rooms, and are they of the right size? * Breakrooms – Where do tenants tend to go and hang out? Are some breakrooms over- or under-utilised? * Corridors and hallways (footfall monitors) – Are some paths through the offices more used than others? Why?

Sensors helps in pitching for new work in a world where people are aware of sensors and how they can drive revenue. Firms who have sensor capabilities have adopted data driven design methods which is replacing gut feel.

Emerging Areas of Practice

Using sensor data enables more accurate planning, and by making it available to occupants, you enable them to both change their behavior and allow them real-time insights and finer customization.


  • Digital scale models: OpenSensor data can be integrated with architects’ current CAFM systems and 3D rendering environments.
  • Intelligent / Reactive Environments: OpenSensors data can be integrated with displays for open desk notification.

Top 10 Reasons for Data Driven Design

Two of the biggest risks you face as an architect or space planner are:

  • overlooking a key problem in your design or
  • investing too much space or budget for one of the client’s goals, leading to less satisfactory solutions to other goals.

These are often two sides of the same coin: while experience counts for alot it cannot always compensate for a lack of data about how the client is actually using the current space. A small investment in sensors to continually monitor desk usage, hallway traffic, and meeting room and break room occupancy can yield a wealth of hard data to base your design decisions on. This data allows the team to move past dueling hypotheses and get on the same page about real needs based on current usage patterns, which in turn makes the design and development process more efficient and allows the team to craft better solutions for the client’s needs within their space and budget constraints.