Recently, we overviewed four types of sensors used in workspace management, including desk sensors, environmental sensors, area sensors, and people-counting sensors. The blog outlined how each type of sensor gets deployed and how businesses might use it.
Sensors, combined with workplace analytics, can help organizations monitor occupancy, ensure healthy spaces, and identify areas of poor utilization. Businesses can save up to $200,000 with every 1% improvement in workspace utilization.
In this article, we will examine how four organizations in four different industries put sensor technology to work for their space management objectives. These real-world examples provide a glimpse into innovative problem solving with sensors as well as the return on investment possible with sensor technologies.
Sensor Case Study #1: Banking & Finance
Our first sensor case study is from one of the world’s largest multi-national banks, with operations in 40 countries and 120,000 employees. This well-known finance corporation owns and leases real estate in some of the most expensive cities in the world. Since the company had to pay premium prices for properties in desirable locations, the real estate team wanted to ensure every space was productive.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the company undertook a massive effort to identify underutilized space and either sublet, sell, or repurpose it. To support this initiative, the bank had 40,000 PIR desk sensors installed initially. With the data gathered, the real estate team easily identified underutilized desks and turned those areas into activity-based work areas such as huddle rooms and breakout areas. In this way, the bank ensured its employees had adequate space for either heads-down work or collaborative work. Unneeded space was available to sublet.
Within just 18 months, the company recognized annual savings of over $45 million dollars. It was a very significant return on an investment of approximately $1.3 million dollars’ worth of sensors. And that wasn’t just one-time savings—the savings occur year after year.
Based on the initial success and savings, the bank went on to install sensors in additional office locations. To date, approximately 100,000 PIR desk sensors have been deployed worldwide.
Right-sizing the real estate portfolio also enabled the bank to achieve another high-priority goal: Reducing its carbon footprint. In this way, sensors allow the bank to benefit monetarily, but the planet also benefits. Sustainability is an important corporate value, and one the bank features in its quarterly and annual reports.
Based on successes to date, the company is now considering the deployment of area sensors. As a result of the pandemic, the bank is moving to a new hybrid work environment and placing test labs in many of their buildings. Area sensors would provide another rich source of space management data to help the company improve utilization while supporting a great employee experience.
Sensor Case Study #2: Higher Education
About four years ago, one of the top four universities in the UK wanted to understand better how students interacted with campus lecture theaters. These were large spaces capable of supporting class sizes of 100, 200 or even 300 students at once. But were they all being properly utilized? To find out, the university deployed more than 450 people counter sensors throughout its campus.
People counter sensors were a more practical and cost-effective solution than PIR desk sensors for gaining an understanding of lecture theatre usage. Since most lecture theaters had only one or two entrances or exits, sensors were deployed at each ingress and egress point. Far fewer people counter sensors were needed compared to placing a sensor on every seat or desk.
Once the sensors went live, the university gained a better understanding of usage and discovered too often that 20-student lectures were being held in 100-seat theaters. The data gathered allowed the university to improve timetabling of its lecture theaters. Now, appropriately-sized lecture theaters are selected based on the students in attendance.
The university also has 6,000 PIR desk sensors deployed throughout the campus within its 27 libraries. These sensors are used to enhance student experience. The university developed their own app using the API that enables students to log on and look at all libraries on campus and see how many of seats are being used in each building. In this way, students can choose an emptier library if they’re seeking quiet solitude. On the other hand, if meeting with a study group, a busier library might be better suited.
Sensor Case Study #3: Medical Research
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, a major US medical research organization had to significantly reduce the capacity of its headquarters building. Fifty people counter sensors were deployed at every entrance and egress within the headquarters building. These sensors make it possible to know exactly how many people occupy the building in real-time. The system sends real-time alerts to key staff members whenever the building is nearing capacity.
Sensor Case Study #4: Technology
Our last case study involves one of the world’s largest hosting and technology infrastructure companies. This multi-national “big tech” company has 250,000 employees and business locations around the world. Over the past several years, the organization has grown very rapidly. In order to continue providing a great experience to employees, the company needed to revisit its space management strategies.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the company wanted to transition from fixed seating to agile seating in their Asia Pacific region workplaces. First, they needed to study the complete picture of how their different types of spaces were being used. To learn more about utilization, area sensors were deployed to monitor all types of spaces, including traditional work points, conference rooms, breakout spaces, kitchens, and more across the entire workplace. The data from areas sensors has driven the following workspace management capabilities:
- Ability to compare utilization between different types of spaces
- Real-time reporting builds trust in data-decisioning
- Ability to simply forecast team space needs
- Live space availability views
When it was time to transition to the agile seating model, simulations were performed using predictive trends to show that they had the right amount of space for employees. After the transition, the real-time view of occupancy on the floor plans helped to alleviate any lingering concerns and prove the workspace data metrics they had gathered using the sensors were correct.
In the “new normal” of the COVID-19 world, this company decided to transition to flexible work with a hybrid workplace model. Sensors are once again helping them understand the big picture of space utilization as work styles change. Will people come into the office purely for collaboration and team meetings? Or will they also still want to perform solo work at a desk? Where is the friction in the workplace? To find out, the company has continued to roll out more sensors across additional regions, studying workplace analytics to guide the way forward.
Many Applications for Sensors to Add Value
As you can see, there are many different ways sensors can be used to deliver real-time data and actionable insights for space management and real estate optimization. Each industry and organization will have unique objectives in these areas. It is important to work with partners who understand your needs, know best practices for your industry, and have deep experience with sensor deployments and workspace analytics.
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