Everything You Need to Know on Occupancy Monitoring

Business owners have long received valuable insights from occupancy monitoring systems – but thanks to recent shifts in working habits and attitudes, this type of people-counting tech has become an essential upgrade for any organization.

This article explores the definition of occupancy monitoring, compares the different types of occupancy monitoring sensors available today and shows how this technology is becoming indispensable to businesses of different businesses.

Image credit: Shutterstock / LeonidKos

Occupancy Monitoring: Explained

Also known as ‘people counting,’ occupancy monitoring is the name given to the process of tracking how many people are occupying a given space at any one time.

Occupancy monitoring can be performed in its simplest sense just by manually counting the number of people who enter and exit a space, such as a room or building. Modern occupancy monitoring systems, however, seek to achieve the same result in a more efficient, streamlined and tech-led way: with the use of networked occupancy monitoring sensors.

As we have noted, the objective of occupancy monitoring systems is to count the number of people as they enter and leave a space. Monitoring the flow of traffic in and out of a room – and recording a running total of room occupancy – is most easily achieved by positioning occupancy monitoring sensors in entrances and exits.

Occupancy monitoring systems, therefore, provide a low-cost and robust solution at the same time as facilitating in-depth analysis and automation of the occupancy data.

Occupancy Monitoring: Benefits

Occupancy monitoring systems provide valuable insight into exactly how spaces are used, whether the sensors are deployed on shop floors, reception areas, meeting rooms or throughout a whole office complex.

This insight thus enables better decision-making, which shines a light on the allocation of staff, space and resources, enabling businesses to run safer and more efficiently.

Access to both historical and real-time data is provided by occupancy monitoring systems. Instant information is provided by real-time occupancy monitoring data on current usage, whilst trends in occupancy over days, weeks, months and years are revealed by historical data.

As a rich source of information, occupancy monitoring systems can be put to immediate practical use in a variety of ways.

How Much Space is Required?

Optimizing real-estate expenditure is one of the most valuable applications of occupancy monitoring.

Traditional ideas around the roles of workplaces are now being called into question as a result of the dramatic shifts over the last few years in the way businesses use space.1

Though many employees now divide their working days between the office and home, the costs of maintaining physical premises are still as high as ever. Many businesses, as a result, are taking the time to reevaluate how much space they really need.

Your business might also be paying for more space than it truly needs. An easy way to tell is by installing an occupancy monitoring system, which offers a low-cost way of definitively solving this issue.

Businesses can rapidly assess whether spaces are being efficiently used and take steps to manage the space more efficiently just by positioning occupancy monitoring sensors above doorways.

Companies can also easily identify overcrowded and underutilized areas with occupancy monitoring systems so that they can make better-informed decisions regarding space allocation, as well as provide the data that business decision-makers need when they are considering downsizing their premises.

How Can Occupancy Monitoring Help with Resource Allocation?

Occupancy monitoring offers insights that allow businesses to reduce energy expenditure and carbon emissions. Smart Buildings employ networked occupancy monitoring sensors in order to automate famously power-hungry lighting, heating and air-conditioning systems.

Heating, air conditioning, lighting and security systems often work around the clock in today’s modern workplaces, which ultimately use a huge amount of energy.

Take the US as an example. HVAC systems account for approximately 35% of the total energy that a building uses, with lighting making up a further 11% of that usage.2 Around 36% of all electricity use is accounted for by commercial buildings in the US.3

Though many consider this to be an unavoidable expense, a great deal of this energy is, in fact, wasted: every day countless businesses are ultimately paying to heat, cool and illuminate unoccupied rooms.

The object of “Smart Building” systems is to minimize this wasted energy through the automatic management of lighting, HVAC and other power-intensive subsystems.

A key role is played in these applications by occupancy counting systems: real-time room occupancy monitoring is provided by networkable occupancy monitoring sensors, which allows resources and energy to be directed to where they are most needed.

Occupancy monitoring systems allow businesses to significantly reduce expenditure and energy use by automatically turning off lighting in unoccupied areas, directing ventilation to crowded rooms where they are needed, as well as optimizing heating to suit working schedules.

Occupancy Monitoring: Driving Comfort of Workers and Tenants

Prevent overcrowding and increase comfort and safety with real-time information on people density.

The responsibility of ensuring safety in commercial spaces arguably fell on the shoulders of business owners during the pandemic.4 Manual people-counting provided a useful means of adhering to social-distancing guidelines – however, understandably, in many cases, this type of occupancy monitoring proved prohibitively labor-intensive.

The importance of implementing occupancy counting measures has been highlighted with ever-changing regulations and fluctuating transmission rates, ensuring safe working conditions and providing resilience in the future.

A simple and low-cost solution to this challenge is provided by occupancy monitoring systems. People density within a room or building can be easily calculated by people-counting data. Businesses can therefore keep on top of overcrowding to ensure that workplaces remain safe for both visitors and employees alike.

Occupancy Monitoring: Five Types of Sensors

Each of the different occupancy monitoring technologies available on the market today has its own strengths and weaknesses.

Cameras

As a mature technology, digital cameras and modern image processing algorithms can provide highly accurate occupancy monitoring. However, it must be noted, of course, that camera hardware is expensive, and it can be a complex endeavor to configure their image processing so that it will work in all occupancy monitoring conditions.

In addition, many businesses can be hesitant to use cameras due to GDPR and privacy concerns.5

RFID

Radiofrequency identification (RFID) occupancy monitoring systems work by distributing tags to personnel before detecting and counting them.

RFID occupancy monitoring systems are inexpensive and simple to configure and do not require line-of-sight for occupancy monitoring.

Typically, however, the requirement to issue RFID tags restricts this technology to “closed systems” like laboratories and warehouses. It is also important to note that RFID occupancy monitoring systems are not anonymous, which can lead to the same data-handling and GDPR issues as cameras.

WiFi /Bluetooth Beacon

Occupancy monitoring systems work on a similar basis to RFID with a key difference: the system detects peoples’ smartphones or other applicable devices using Bluetooth and WiFi, rather than issuing tags to personnel.

Although this broadens occupancy monitoring use cases to “open systems” like shop floors, WiFi/beacon occupancy monitoring systems do have a key drawback: they tend to suffer from poor accuracy because of the inherent assumption that each person carries precisely one WiFi or Bluetooth enabled device; failing to account for those with no or multiple devices.

They are also not suitable for anonymous occupancy monitoring.

Thermal Sensors

Essentially, thermal sensors are cameras that, instead of detecting visible light, detect infrared. Thermal sensors, therefore, offer a key advantage in occupancy monitoring applications in that they can detect the thermal profile of people without recording any identifying information: rendering them ideal for carrying out people counting.

However, this increased utility comes at a (literal) cost: thermal occupancy monitoring sensors are both typically expensive and difficult to configure.

Infrared Time-of-Flight Sensors

Infrared time-of-flight sensors work by emitting a pulse of infrared light and measuring the subsequent “echo” as the pulse reflects off the environment and travels back to the sensor.

Time-of-flight occupancy monitoring systems can, in this way, take 3D snapshots of their surroundings, which can then be processed in order to obtain occupancy monitoring data. A low spatial resolution minimizes hardware costs and renders time-of-flight sensors inherently anonymous.

Terabee: Helping Businesses Understand Workplace Occupancy

Occupancy monitoring systems from Terabee use infrared Time-of-Flight technology in order to deliver anonymous occupancy monitoring with a rate of 95% accuracy.

Terabee’s people counting devices use powerful onboard algorithms to filter out static objects, delivering accurate occupancy monitoring even in low-light conditions and heavy bi-directional traffic.

Easily installed above any doorway, Terabee’s range of people counting sensors can be perfectly configured in seconds from any device connected to the internet. Seamless integration of occupancy monitoring data is facilitated by a simple IoT platform allowing data analytics or smart building applications.

Terabee offers two versatile occupancy monitoring systems to help businesses understand their workplace occupancy.

The first of Terabee’s systems is People Counting L-XL, which facilitates multi-device connectivity and a wide field of view for extra-wide passageways and doorways. Terabee’s second model, the People Counting M, is a low-cost occupancy monitoring solution perfectly optimized for narrow walkways and single doors.

CTA: DISCOVER OUR OCCUPANCY MONITORING SENSORS

References

  1. How Coronavirus Has Changed the Way Americans Work. Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends Project https://www.pewresearch.org/social-trends/2020/12/09/how-the-coronavirus-outbreak-has-and-hasnt-changed-the-way-americans-work/ (2020).
  2. Chapter 5: Increasing Efficiency of Building Systems and Technologies. 39.
  3. King, J. Smart Buildings: Using Smart Technology to Save Energy in Existing Buildings. SMART BUILDINGS 55.
  4. CDC. Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) - Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/guidance-business-response.html (2020).
  5. Ahmad, J., Larijani, H., Emmanuel, R., Mannion, M. & Javed, A. Occupancy detection in non-residential buildings – A survey and novel privacy preserved occupancy monitoring solution. Applied Computing and Informatics (2018) doi:10.1016/j.aci.2018.12.001.

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This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by Terabee.

For more information on this source, please visit Terabee.

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