IoT solutions for optimizing space utilization
Your whole family and friends are coming to your house to celebrate the holidays. After cleaning your house and setting out snacks and dinner in the living room and dining room, and putting drinks in the back room, you’re done. Everything is in the right place – you have planned the setup perfectly.
As the guests arrive, they will disperse evenly among the various rooms in the house, mingling and drifting from one room to another. As you enter your home, there is a flurry of conversation and festive music.
In the end, it doesn’t work out like that. It ends up that everyone gets crammed into the kitchen and the kids are hiding in the basement. Everyone ends up eating the food in the kitchen since there is no other place to store it. Dinner is never served in the dining room or living room. Even after setting up your house, you can’t help but feel as though all your efforts were for nothing.
If this sounds familiar, you’ve faced a classic case of underutilized space. Despite your best efforts, most of your family and friends ended up clumping together in one or two places in your house after your home was set up to maximize room usage during the party.
Likewise, in the real world, a designer – whether an architect, network designer, property manager, or interior designer – envisions a space – such as an office building, hotel lobby, or event venue – to be used in a specific way. On the other hand, tenants, guests, and visitors use the space quite differently in practice.
There are a few questions the designer must answer: where has everyone gone? Where do these things come from? Is there a better way to monitor, measure, and make decisions about how space is used? IoT and IoT Devices – what’s the connection? How wireless networks are managed? What about network security?
The Problem: The current space utilization collection method is inaccurate and delayed
The number of people occupying a space is what is measured in terms of space utilization. It is possible to measure everything from individual desks in a coworking space to conference rooms in an office to exhibition halls at a convention.
There are currently only very rough estimates for estimating occupancies, such as looking at schedule records, booking conference rooms at an office, or ticket sales for events. Organizations may hire a consultant to observe people moving through a specific area manually and to make on-site assessments. You can get an approximate answer by using these methods, but there are a few limitations:
- Not real-time: If you do not have a concrete system for evaluating space utilization, then visiting your booking system might be useful. While the figures are accurate, they do not provide an accurate picture of the current situation. Depending on the application, a real-time overview may be more important.
- Time-consuming: Presently, many methods require a great deal of labor or time. Third-party site assessments can be costly and assembling data from different sources can be difficult to come up with an accurate occupancy estimate.
- Not quantifiable: By counting the number of people over time via manual observations or by using other methods, such as conference room booking systems, the true picture is not achieved. Attendance at the meeting that was scheduled for the conference room ended up being how many people?
- Inflexible: The most common way to collect data from badge swipes or other forms of self-reporting is to install new infrastructure (such as card swipe panels and door locking mechanisms) or to conduct operations training (so people learn how to report their usage). As a result, you are not able to switch between different metrics quickly and consistently.
The Solution: Using IoT to capture space utilization can revolutionize a diverse range of industries
By utilizing IoT, organizations can measure space utilization systematically, eliminating the time-consuming, manual, and less quantifiable processes of the past. Utilizing IoT, measuring space utilization becomes:
- Automated: Sensors are placed at key locations to measure the space, thus allowing the hardware to collect and count the data. The work does not need to be performed by a person or through self-reporting.
- Repeatable: By utilizing software to process the data collected by sensors to produce a count or level of occupancy, the measurement process becomes consistent and repeatable. Users have the assurance that the occupancy levels they read were generated consistently, in a non-biased way that operates around the clock.
- Real-time: Due to sensors constantly collecting occupancy data, interfaces can be created to deliver that information as quickly as possible. By doing so, users can view real-time data on how their spaces are being used.
Creating a space that suits the intended usage of a space is a difficult yet important task in any industry. The Internet of Things can be used to transform a selection of industries by gathering data on space utilization over time and observing trends. Examples include:
- Office and Property Management: Make informed decisions about office design or heating and cooling system adjustments by monitoring occupancy data to understand which spaces, offices, or floors are most frequently used.
- Retail: Identify patterns of customer flow in a store by analyzing the time that customers spend in various parts of the store. Consider this data when making merchandising and product placement decisions.
- Events and Entertainment: To determine actual attendance numbers, look at space utilization numbers, perform heat maps of most and least used rooms, and reconfigure vendors and A/V systems to match foot traffic and provide the best coverage of the venue. Send alerts when space reaches capacity to redirect guests to other areas.
If you wish to connect to the cloud via gateways, you might consider a low-powered wide area network (LPWAN). Using these networks, it is possible to cover a large radius with a single gateway by sending data over a long-range, low-bandwidth network. It can be used both indoors and outdoors. Low-bandwidth LPWAN allows battery-powered sensors to be more efficient in terms of energy use. The LPWAN protocols include LoRa, NB-IoT, and Sigfox.
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