Not too long ago, much of the conversation about ‘smart buildings’ centered on high-performance building services and components that made the building occupants more productive, while minimizing energy costs and mitigating environmental impacts. Certainly, these are still critical features of the technology within smart buildings.
But the Internet of Things has completely re-framed the discussion. Today, objects embedded with sensor technology and built-in wireless connectivity are giving buildings a ‘brain’ that controls the building’s automatic functions, directs its voluntary actions, and supports learning. IoT-enabled sensors provide feedback that can help you optimize space utilization and improve asset performance in your smart building.
Smart Building Technology
There are a variety of emerging technologies for smart buildings that are being implemented in newly constructed buildings as well as existing spaces. The advent of low power technologies, POE and bluetooth devices, and LED lighting systems are enabling the easy implementation of these technologies — even in existing buildings. These technologies include sensor-enabled workplace scheduling platforms, environmental monitoring for employee wellness, and building equipment that proactively reports when a failure is about to occur or how much energy is being used. Vision technologies can count people and track movements in and out of spaces to better understand traffic flows and congestion. Building and access control systems can facilitate employee services and increase security.
Workplace technology solutions are impactful when delivered independently, but when implemented as a platform, the value increases exponentially as workplace data points from different systems can be aggregated for analysis in a single view.
Occupancy sensors are discreet wireless sensors that allow organizations to capture and analyze actual workspace utilization data in real time, enabling organizations to make data-driven decisions. PIR (passive infrared) occupancy sensors detect heat and motion as an indicator of presence and do not include any cameras or recording devices. The granular, objective, and accurate data the system produces allows organizations to gain clear, compelling and actionable insights into organizational culture, departmental trends and overall utilization.
Area and People Counter Sensors
People sensing sensors using vision technology can track and count people going in and out of specific areas and automatically check them in or out of a space. When integrated with a space management system, these sensors give you the ability to see in real-time the number of people in an area. In some use cases, sensors can trigger a congestion alert, a pro-active notification when the occupant density reaches a configured threshold, an important safety feature following the pandemic. Sensors also gather passive utilization data to better inform future space management decisions.
Environmental sensors monitor key environmental components such as temperature, humidity and air quality, as well as other comfort factors such as light and noise. Environmental sensor data can be leveraged to reduce energy consumption, to automate energy delivery and to support sustainability and wellness initiatives. Environmental sensor data can also be aggregated with other workplace data points to provide deeper analytical context.
Cloud-based scheduling creates visibility to resources across the organization facilitating utilization, productivity and collaboration. The shift in workplace expectations from traditional assigned seating to a flexible, hybrid experience has put workplace scheduling at the forefront of technologies organizations are adopting to adapt to the changing needs of their workforce.
Desk booking, also known as hoteling or hot-desking, is not a new concept, but it has been radically accelerated by the demands placed on the workplace during the Covid-19 pandemic. Desk booking options include cloud or mobile scheduling, scanning a QR code upon arrival to check-in or simply occupying an available seat that is monitored by an occupancy sensor. Desk booking solutions ensure employees have visibility to available space before coming into the office, fostering efficiency and productivity, while also providing real-time and historical space utilization data.
Room booking solutions are also not new and may play a more important role in the future as the office shifts to more collaborative space and fewer individual workstations. Room scheduling is essential in a hybrid workplace as more individuals will come into the office for the sole purpose of collaboration. Room scheduling also gives facility teams insight into planned utilization so they can adjust their schedules and operations accordingly.
Room booking panels provide visual, real-time availability notification of reservable space. Make instant reservations or extend an ongoing meeting if the space is available, directly from the panel. Leverage occupancy sensors to detect when someone enters a conference room and automatically check them in to the meeting. Finally, a comprehensive room booking solution will integrate directly with Outlook for easy meeting planning, have a visitor registration workflow and offer services such as catering and IT services.
Badging systems are already ubiquitous in the workplace. But the ability to take these badging systems and integrate them with space management systems is new, enabling companies to track the flow of people in and out of rooms and spaces. This gives you near real-time occupancy data to optimize space utilization and better understand mobility flows. Badge data allows you to track total and unique visits per department, giving you visibility to employee flow across your portfolio. This data can also inform decisions to re-stack based on where employees choose to work. And since badging systems are already in use in most organizations, this occupancy data source is readily available.
Building Assets & Equipment
Many modern Building Automation Systems (BAS) have the ability to provide a tremendous amount of data to facility teams about their operations. Many of these systems can require significant resources to implement; however, that should not discourage teams from taking advantage of new sensor-based technologies such as smart meters which can easily be attached to building assets, from roof top chillers to printers, enabling organizations to track energy consumption and optimize their energy usage. These smart meters monitor and measure energy consumption at the device level and use Wi-Fi to transmit that data to your Integrated Workplace Management System (IWMS). This allows you to actively monitor the performance of equipment and report on their energy usage over time. The meters just clip on to the asset, so no retrofitting is required, even for legacy equipment.
When devices can sense your workplace environment and effectively communicate that data, they become valuable tools. Merging this IoT data with a workplace scheduling solution and/or an IWMS will help you better understand your actual space utilization, creating opportunities to improve building operations and maintenance and enhance employee engagement…delivering smarter buildings and smarter workplaces.