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Smart sensors for desk booking and meeting room management

Create an advanced workspace booking system with accurate, real-time occupancy and people counting data

As we move away from the days of ‘one person one desk’, organisations are increasingly seeking new ways to effectively manage occupancy of desks and meeting rooms via workspace booking systems. There are also many post-Covid measures to consider, such as social distancing and managing increased cleaning requirements.

Combining occupancy sensors with desk and room booking software is the ideal way to create a highly accurate and comprehensive approach. Real-time occupancy sensor data can be used to:

  • Provide a live view of occupancy and availability, so users can quickly find available desks, rooms or workspaces
  • Automatically check users into a room or desk booking by detecting their presence, allowing no-show bookings to be released
  • Understand actual space utilisation versus capacity, including how people used and moved around the space
  • In addition to desks and meeting rooms, build up a reliable picture of which areas of a building are most used and where people like to congregate. And equally, identify any parts of a building which are under-occupied, or even unused.

Augmenting a booking system using occupancy sensors offers added value, with data supplying the information organisations need to use their office space at optimum efficiency and uncover opportunities for reducing real estate costs.

What are the different types of occupancy and movement sensor?

Occupancy sensors usually use one of, or a combination of, the following types of technology. The information below should help you to choose the best smart occupancy sensor to integrate into your room, desk and breakout space booking system.

Motion sensors or passive infra-red (PIR)
These sensors work by detecting heat emitted by people. When a person enters a sensor’s field of view, the sensor detects motion and tells you someone is present within that space. The sensor continues to monitor the space and can send you regular occupancy updates. These types of sensor are GDPR and privacy-compliant solutions as no images or personal information is stored or transmitted. Our PIR sensors come in varying forms, some as units which stick to your walls or ceiling, others which are placed under desks. They are unobtrusive, easy to install, low maintenance and a great cost-effective option.

  • Desk occupancy sensors These simply stick to the underside of a desk. The PIR sensor has a hood covering half of the sensor, so only detects motion within a 180-degree radius. Coupled with a narrow-angle lens, this makes it highly accurate, detecting just a person under a desk, and not people walking behind or to the side of it.
  • Table occupancy sensors Similar to desk sensors, these stick to the underside of a table and use a narrow-angle lens. However, the PIR sensor detects motion within a 360-degree radius, so can detect people sitting around a table. Based on average table height, the detection range is 0.5m.
  • Room occupancy sensors These stick to the ceiling and have a 360-degree field of view and use a wide-angle lens to detect people within a wider field of view. Based on a typical 2.5m ceiling height and 64-degree detection angle the estimated detection range is 5m.
  • Cubicle occupancy sensors As with desk sensors, these detect a 180-degree view, so can be placed on a wall or ceiling of a cubicle to detect people within that space and avoid those walking past. These are great for toilets or meeting cubicles.

Time-of-flight sensors
Emit an infrared light beam that reflects off a person and returns back to the sensor, the time taken to return gives an accurate distance calculation. The sensor uses these measurements to determine if the person is moving towards or away from the sensor, making it an effective entry/exit sensor.

  • People-flow sensors Detecting people and the direction of movement, these can be used to monitor real-time people flow in and out of any single-occupant doorway. Bi-directional, they detect people as they walk towards or away from the sensor, so you can determine the number of people in a space. These only detect movement, not faces, and they are not cameras, making them privacy and GDPR compliant.

Infrared array sensors
These sensors allow you to detect moving or motionless objects, temperature distribution, thermal image, and moving direction by measuring the temperature as a person or object moves nearer or further away from the sensor. As the distance from the sensor increases, the field of view expands but angular size appears smaller. As the proximity to the sensor narrows, the sensor can detect accurate temperature and shape.

  • People counter and movement sensors (coming soon) Detect the number of people within a space, exactly where they are within that space, and how they move around. Only detecting people movement, these sensors are privacy and GDPR compliant.

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Choosing the right sensors

The type of sensors you need for your smart desk and room booking system depends on the level of granularity and accuracy you’re looking for.

If you simply want to sense if there’s anyone in a room (or not), a room occupancy sensor will give you a straightforward yes/no answer.

To detect how many people are in a room or space, you’ll need a people-flow counter or thermal array sensor – the former being cheaper than the latter.

For specific information about exactly where people are, you could use desk sensors under each conference table space. And for the full picture of how many people are in a room, where they sat and how they moved about, you could use a thermal array sensor.

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Getting started

  • If you’re looking to install a smart workspace management solution in your offices, get in touch and we’ll recommend the best sensors and one of our workspace booking/management software partners based on your needs
  • If you’re looking to integrate smart sensors with your desk or room booking software application to expand into new income streams, take a look at our partnership opportunities
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