The A to Z of People Counting (Part 2)

This is the second of two articles based on Terabee’s recent webinar, “An introduction to People Counting with LoRaWAN technology,” hosted by Baptiste Potier, Product Manager for Smart Buildings, and Frederic Tabus, Market Intelligence Manager.

In this article, Terabee evaluates the specific details of how these devices are utilized in Smart Buildings applications.

The A to Z of People Counting (Part 2)

Image Credit: Terabee

Part 1 covered the technical fundamentals of LoRa and LoRaWAN and looked at the predominant types of LoRa devices used in Smart Buildings applications.

Considerations for Smart Building Solutions

Desk occupancy sensors, occupancy sensors, indoor air quality sensors, and people counters are the four main types of sensors used to determine space occupancy in Smart Buildings. However, each of these devices may be restricted by certain limitations.

For example, desktop occupancy sensors generally require a sensor on each individual desk – in a large occupancy space, this can mean a significant number of sensors being deployed.

“Occupancy sensors, on the other hand, typically require additional calibration and are not adapted to large rooms or spaces. In addition to this, RGB-based sensors introduce GDPR or privacy concerns,” says Frederic Tabus.1

Air quality sensors may be hindered by accuracy and latency issues when employed in occupancy monitoring scenarios, which means the data is limited regarding remedial action.

Typically, data from several people counting devices must be aggregated to acquire sufficient occupancy metrics: “People counters that rely on RGB or stereo vision raise GDPR and privacy concerns too,” says Potier.

Battery Vs. Wired Power

LoRa technology is well suited and compatible with battery-powered devices, often going hand-in-hand. Low power consumption rates in conjunction with long communication ranges mean that the LoRaWAN communications protocol is ideal for infrequently transmitting data packets from battery-powered sensors across large areas, for instance, in silo monitoring applications.

However, while battery-powered devices work very well with LoRa, they may not always be well-suited for occupancy monitoring in Smart Buildings.

The main reason is that when monitoring occupancy in busy buildings, constant monitoring is necessary to ensure the best performance is delivered when frequently transmitting data. Furthermore, mains power is readily accessible inside Smart Buildings.

Mains-powered devices buy peace of mind. Mains-powered sensors can work continuously and transmit data frequently without the risk of running out of power.

Frederic Tabus, Market Intelligence Manager.

“While putting a power wire may be more expensive in the short-term than installing a battery-operated device, keep in mind that organizing a battery replacement campaign for hundreds of devices can be extremely costly and complex to execute,” he added.

It is also crucial to take the environment into consideration. It is expected that 500 million LoRa devices will be in use in the field by 2025, which is not without environmental consequences. Approximately 78 million batteries responsible for powering IoT devices will be used and discarded globally every day by 2025 if no improvements are made to their lifespan.

Limiting the use of battery-powered sensors can be achieved simply and effectively in a smart building setting.

The Lean Sensing Approach

When taking Smart Building sensor implementations into consideration, it is vital to look at the overall picture.

“Ask yourself these questions,” says Frederic Tabus. “What do you need to measure? The occupancy of each desk, specific desks, or the overall workspace availability?”

“Once you’ve determined your objective, we always recommend following the lean sensing approach. That is, once you know what you want to achieve, you minimize your points of measurement. In general, this means minimizing the number of devices to install.”

On the one hand, lean sensing means reduced expenditure on sensor hardware but also makes collecting and processing sensor data much easier.

The A to Z of People Counting (Part 2)

Image Credit: Terabee

Case Study: Monitoring Workspace Occupancy

Recently, working with the owner of a large office complex, Terabee installed a package of Smart Building solutions that optimize the available space while providing cost-saving benefits.

Our customer was a property owner with multiple buildings of several floors each. Our goal was to reduce and optimize their real estate expenditure by making the most of their available space.

Baptiste Potier, Product Manager for Smart Buildings, Terabee.

The customer’s aim was to ensure a comfortable and productive environment for building occupants through accurate monitoring of meeting rooms and workplace occupancy.

“In this case, there were several challenges to contend with; the building itself was difficult and costly to upgrade and contained very large open workspaces and meeting rooms,” said Potier.

“This customer also had GDPR concerns from their employee union and customers – which means no RGB cameras. Here, we needed a solution that ensured there was no way for devices to be able to recognize individual people,” they added.

Moreover, the solution also needed to be implemented independently of the existing IT infrastructure: “This is a common challenge of existing buildings where it’s difficult to put Ethernet cables to every location,” explains Baptiste Potier.

“Here, the chosen solution also needed to be integrated with the building’s HVAC system, enabling heating and ventilation to be controlled in response to people counting data and thus reducing energy consumption and costs.”

The A to Z of People Counting (Part 2)

Image Credit: Terabee

Terabee's People Counting L-Xl LoRa

The People Counting L-XL LoRa device was installed to meet all of the specific requirements for this particular case: “First, because the device uses LoRaWAN technology, it provides widespread, reliable, and cost-effective coverage for large spaces compared to other types of wireless technology. It also has secure and decoupled people counting data transmission, sidestepping any issues with IT networking and security,” explains Potier.

Mains-powered LoRa devices are extremely sensitive and offer real-time data so that HVAC systems are able to react quickly for enhanced energy savings.

“Another advantage of the Terabee People Counting L-XL LoRa in this application was that only two devices were required. By covering the two entrance/exit points to each floor, we were able to gather all the insight needed.”

All-in-all, the People Counting L-XL LoRa delivers many advantages over other types of people-counting technology. Utilizing infrared ToF technology, the system facilitates completely anonymous people counting, which mitigates and alleviates any concerns surrounding privacy and GDPR.2

GDPR compliant by design, the 3D Terabee People Counting L-XL LoRa makes it impossible to identify specific individuals without hindering performance: “It has a typical accuracy of 98% even when monitoring crowded bi-directional traffic,” says Potier.

The A to Z of People Counting (Part 2)

Image Credit: Terabee

Product Benefits

  • GDPR by design: Time-of-Flight technology guarantees and maintains anonymity
  • Only a few devices are necessary to cover building floors
  • Accuracy of around 98%, multiple and bi-directional counting
  • Remote device management facilitated by uplink/downlink commands

Terabee’s innovative Time-of-Flight people counting solutions, like the People Counting L-XL Lora, allow building managers and business owners across the world to achieve secure, private, robust, and economical occupancy monitoring. 

A diverse network of gateways, application servers, network servers, and marketplace and distributor partners also strengthens Terabee’s People Counting L-XL.

The A to Z of People Counting (Part 2)

Image Credit: Terabee

Click here to read part 1

References

  1. Blackman, R. How to Monitor Your Employees — While Respecting Their Privacy, Harvard Business Review (2020)
  2. Terabee | People Counting L-XL Specifications https://terabee.b-cdn.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Terabee-People-Counting-L-XL-Specification-sheet.pdf

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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