Jul 10, 2023

What are Occupancy Sensors? Embrace Flexibility with the Right Technology

Benefits of Occupancy Sensors

What are occupancy sensors?

Picture an office building where people spend approximately 8 hours each day. Ideally it should be a place where employees feel welcomed, satisfied, and productive. An environment where employees don't have to worry about finding available restrooms, desks, power outlets, or printers. Additionally navigating through the corridors should be a breeze thanks to a well-designed floor plan. That's where smart buildings come into play. These innovative spaces are designed to streamline office management, ensuring day-to-day processes run smoothly. In this article, we will delve into the world of occupancy sensors and automation, discovering how they contribute to creating a pleasant and efficient workplace. 

Seamless automation with sensors

Occupancy sensors are a part of smart building technology, which was created to enhance the energy efficiency, sustainability, and practicality of offices. These sensors enable the design and management of the office space based on accurate data collected. The devices are typically mounted on walls or ceilings and utilize technologies such as microwaves, infrared, ultrasonic, or video image processing to track human activity in a room. Occupancy sensors are known for their energy efficiency, durability, and affordability.

The data gathered from these sensors is stored and analyzed in a cloud-based platform that integrates with other systems. A booking system can utilize the data received from the sensors to track the usage of desks, meeting rooms and even parking spaces. This integration provides valuable insights for optimizing office space utilization and resource allocation.

Is there a difference between occupancy sensors and vacancy sensors?

Occupancy sensors should not be confused with vacancy sensors, even though both can save energy by determining if a room is being used or not. Additionally, they provide a sense of security when entering a room that instantly lights up, whether you are the first or last person in the building. Automation helps in implementing lighting architecture that reduces light pollution and enhances employee well-being. However, there are some key differences between the two sensors. Occupancy sensors are automated, while vacancy sensors require manual switching. You may have noticed vacancy sensors in public bathrooms or large corridors. Although vacancy sensors are energy-saving and practical, they are not as convenient as occupancy sensors. For example, individuals need to physically touch the light switch, which carries the risk of spreading germs. Occupancy sensors also save time as there is no need to search for or fumble with the switch in the dark, which can be dangerous. An automatic sensor that lights up the room is a better option. Here are some examples of areas in a building that can benefit from light automation:

  • Copy rooms
  • Restrooms
  • Storage areas
  • Conference rooms
  • Warehouses
  • Parking spaces
  • Break rooms
  • Corridors

What are the benefits of occupancy sensors?

Occupancy sensors can support building maintenance around the clock and help the facility manager design and plan a practical office space. They provide a comprehensive view, both in real time and over an extended period.

By monitoring and controlling lights, alarm systems, ventilation, and temperature, you can ensure the creation of a comfortable and secure work environment. Let's explore the following benefits:

  • Design an office that meets the employees' needs
  • Identify unoccupied spaces and bottlenecks
  • Minimize energy costs
  • Increase productivity by making meeting rooms and office spaces more available

Be flexible with the right technology

How do you ensure that there is enough room for everyone and that office spaces are utilized effectively? Occupancy sensors are not only helpful in enhancing employees' work experience but also aid in making data-driven business decisions. Considering the substantial investment in real estate, it is crucial to allocate resources wisely. Managing a large office building can be challenging, but having precise insights into how and when employees use and navigate the building on a daily basis makes it easier to improve the office layout.

In an era where many employees prefer a more flexible workweek and have irregular office attendance due to the increasing popularity of remote or hybrid work models, space management becomes crucial. With employees working from home more frequently, relying on instant messaging programs and video communication, the office needs to be designed to accommodate this specific work model.

Make decisions based on data

When employees feel that their workplace is excessively busy and disorganized, it can have a negative impact on their productivity and perception of the company. We should strive to implement solutions that are not only cost-efficient but also increase employee motivation. By utilizing data collected from occupancy sensors, we can gain a comprehensive understanding of the situation and be better equipped to handle unexpected changes flexibly.

Toilet facilities on point

One of the most problematic aspects of the physical work environment is the lack of office hygiene. Dirty bathrooms that lack soap and toilet paper are considered to be one of the most off-putting issues in the office, not to mention the shortage of restrooms. This leads to employees wasting their time standing in line or having to search all across the office to find a vacant stall. An unhygienic restroom could damage the company's reputation and also contribute to the spread of germs and diseases in the workplace.

To gain more insights into bathroom usage, sensors are helpful. By receiving real-time updates, you can ensure that all restrooms are regularly sanitized and maintained. It's important to note that these sensors are not actual video cameras, and the privacy and integrity of the staff will be protected.

What is the difference between occupancy- and motion sensors?

Motion sensors, as the name suggests, are designed to monitor movements. They are among the most common sensors and are typically used to switch lights on and off when someone enters a room or a building. A motion sensor usually consists of a passive infrared (PIR) receiver that can detect radiation emitted by a human body when they walk under or in front of it. These sensors are sometimes referred to as passive sensors, and due to their simple design, the risk of failure is lower. Additionally, they tend to consume less power.

A matter of accuracy

Occupancy sensors, on the other hand, do not rely on tracking movements to determine the presence of people in a building. They also utilize PIR technology but incorporate advanced ultrasonic sensors. These sensors can detect even the slightest activity from a distance, penetrating walls, glass windows, and corners. This makes them suitable for use in restrooms with multiple enclosed stalls as well. There are even more accurate sensors available in the market that employ advanced cameras and algorithms.

In terms of efficiency, occupancy sensors are generally more reliable than motion sensors because they do not rely on physical movement to collect accurate data. They can track how long someone remains seated at a desk, providing a clear picture of office space utilization. The only drawback is that they may yield false data if placed in a room with significant airflow or vibrations.

To sum up, motion sensors are primarily installed for operational purposes, while occupancy sensors are sophisticated enough to form the basis of your workplace management strategy. The data collected from occupancy sensors is valuable as it facilitates the optimization of space and the design of multi-functional rooms that can be easily transformed into meeting rooms or yoga rooms, for example, at different times of the day.

Types of occupancy sensors by mounting

Since there are numerous different spaces in an office building, the placement of occupancy sensors may vary. You would require one type of sensor for a small meeting room or a confined space like a cloakroom, and another type for a long corridor.

Wall-mounted sensors

These sensors are typically mounted closer to the ceiling, a few meters up on the wall. They need to be positioned at a height that covers the area effectively but remains within proximity to the employees. These sensors typically operate at a 110° angle and have a coverage area of 2500 square feet. Installation is relatively straightforward, and they can be easily set up to detect the appropriate movements in the building. However, due to their specific installation requirements, they are somewhat limited in terms of placement options.

Ceiling mounted sensors

Sensors placed in the ceiling typically offer a 360° range of motion and provide more accurate detection of presence in the room, without being affected by other objects in the environment. They cover a larger area compared to wall sensors.

High Bay Occupancy Sensor

Some buildings, especially those designed in the turn of the century or with a post-modern design, have substantially higher ceilings. For such cases, high bay occupancy sensors are specifically designed to cover large areas from greater distances. These sensors can have lenses with either 180° or 360° coverage.

Desk Occupancy Sensor

As the name suggests, a desk occupancy sensor is installed under the desk to specifically monitor the presence of an employee at their desk. By minimizing interference from other movements, the data collected by the sensor will be more accurate.

Occupancy sensors are the building blocks of space management
Automation is a time and energy-saving option that is fueled by data from efficient and discreet sensors. We hope that the information about sensors has piqued your interest and inspired you to consider installing cost-efficient and low-power devices.

Seeking guidance on how to set up your hybrid office for success?

Don't hesitate to schedule a meeting with one of our product experts. They can provide valuable insights into our solutions and how technology can help streamline your office processes without disrupting employees' daily work.

Read more from our blog