Erin Snider is a product expert at VergeSense. She has a degree in communication technology management from The Ohio State University and aims to use writing as a means of breaking down walls and creating transparency for customers.
In today’s world, occupancy is inconsistent, unpredictable, and ever-changing. Last year, global occupancy increased by 257%, but was still only at 58% of pre-pandemic levels. The pandemic set a new precedent for flexibility in the workplace that has resulted in occupancy varying from day to day, even hour to hour. This variability makes it more difficult than ever before for workplace, CRE, and facilities leaders to optimize for CRE costs and employee experience.
But today, in this world of inconsistent and unpredictable occupancy, the risk of making decisions on an incomplete set of facts are just too high. You need a true understanding of your spaces to glean a full, insightful understanding into how people are using spaces, and the nuance and context of that use.
What is a true understanding of your spaces?
Person Count + Active Occupancy + Passive Occupancy = True Understanding
A true understanding requires the whole story about how your spaces are used. Person count and active occupancy is only half of the story, but most solutions only capture this data and present it as the whole truth. However, the other 50% of the story is made up of passive occupancy, which is when objects are occupying your spaces, indicating that they’re being used, just not by a person at that time.
Think about when you leave your laptop on a desk so you can run to the bathroom, or leave your bag in the conference room while you grab coffee…That is passive occupancy. You are marking space as in use so you can return to it without actually being there.
Now passive occupancy is vital to truly understanding your spaces because it changes how we behave. Just because a space isn’t actively occupied by a person, doesn’t mean everyone will perceive it as occupied. We, as humans, understand that we shouldn’t use a space that has coats, laptops, and bags in it. Your occupancy technology should, too.
To make critical decisions around portfolio and space optimization, you must have a true understanding.
Here are some of the old ways that workplace leaders would get insight into their spaces:
1. Manual surveys
Manual surveys are when individuals are hired to take note of occupancy in spaces. This is an old way of measuring attendance in space before occupancy sensors and other platforms were adopted.
While taking note of attendance can provide an accurate person count, manual observation only measures a specific moment in time. As a result, it is very difficult to scale or use to draw continuous conclusions.
2. Badge data
Badge data uses attendance information from employee badges that are scanned or detected as they enter buildings, floors, and spaces.
WiFi location tracking gathers information on workplace occupancy by connecting to a company's IT infrastructure, like Ethernet and WiFi, and monitoring where its connected devices move within a building.
WiFi location tracking is cost-effective and easily scalable, but often double-counts devices as people. If someone has connected both their phone and laptop to the WiFi network, that one person may be counted as two.
4. Thermal Sensors
Thermal sensors capture data from the heat that people emit when they enter and walk around rooms.
These sensors capture more data than the other options mentioned above and require no specific behavior from employees for them to work, unlike badge and WiFi data. Thermal sensors, though, do have limited detection ranges and can confuse objects for people, leading to limited accuracy.
These sensors are also low-cost and easy to install but are considerably less accurate than other solutions. PIR sensors average an accuracy rate of 92% but become even less accurate when someone is stationary for an extended period of time.
Occupancy Intelligence Platform: The only way to get a true understanding of your spaces
VergeSense, the world’s first and only Occupancy Intelligence Platform, is built upon optical sensor technology that anonymously and accurately captures data about people count, occupancy, and objects within spaces with 95% accuracy.
The VergeSense Occupancy Intelligence Platform comes in both wireless and wired options and is the only solution in the industry that measures passive occupancy. This solution does come at a higher cost than many of the other less advanced options though.
What solution is right for you?
There is no one-size-fits-all solution for every unique workplace. To determine the best technology for your organization, ask yourself the following questions:
1. How much budget can I allocate to this investment?
If your organization currently has a low-to-no budget for workplace technology, WiFi, Badge, or PIR sensors may be your best bet. While these solutions do not provide the most accurate or intelligent data on the market, they do provide an amount of data that allows you to begin optimizing your workplace until a more formal budget is established.
An occupancy intelligence platform and thermal sensors cost more than the solutions listed above, and would make sense for your organization if you have a formal budget dedicated to workplace investments.
2. How high priority is optimizing my workplace?
If workplace optimization is valued but still a lower priority for your organization, consider WiFi tracking, badge data, thermal sensors, or PIR sensors. These entry-level technologies can allow you to make an impact on your workplace without dedicating large amounts of budget.
If your spaces and/or portfolio are top priorities for your organization to optimize for reduced costs and stronger employee experience, an Occupancy Intelligence Platform is the only solution on the market that provides a true understanding of your workplace. An Occupancy Intelligence Platform will provide you with accurate, actionable insights that create confident decision-making.
3. What is the complexity of my workplace needs?
If you are a global real estate portfolio with a hybrid workforce, with multiple space types and thousands of employees, and you need to solve complex problems such as portfolio right-sizing, space design, planning, availability, and cleaning, occupancy intelligence is the only solution for you.
However, if you are a small to mid-sized company with a limited real estate budget, and are okay with making workplace decisions based solely on people count or attendance data, the old tools listed above (PIR sensors, thermal sensors, Wi-Fi location tracking, badge data) will work for you. In this world, you don’t plan to integrate with other workplace applications, such as desk and room booking solutions or CAFMs.
Still not sure what solution may be best for you? Talk to one of our specialists. We are happy to help you explore whether occupancy intelligence is right for you.