Smart buildings, as well as retrofitted older buildings, are using sensor technology to provide organizations with data about their environment. This information, once analyzed, helps companies to make decisions around their ESG (Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance) compliance, energy strategy, and overall resource optimization.
For example, temperature sensors collect data, which, when analyzed, can showcase where excessive heating is occurring. Using data from the sensor, the temperature of the heating system can be adjusted, reducing energy use, saving money, and reducing CO2 emissions.
Without all the added analytics, sensors are also used in more traditional ways:
- water sensors can detect water from leaking pipes
- proximity sensors indicate the opening and closing of doors, windows, or refrigerators
- temperature sensors provide a historical record of ambient temperature.
IoT sensors can now be tiny, secure, robust, easy to use, and have a long life expectancy. The tiny size of the Disruptive Technologies sensors, for example, enables them to be installed exactly where they are needed and to provide accurate and near real-time data about many facets of an environment.
This flexibility means that sensor technology can be used in innovative ways, providing data for health & wellbeing areas that had not previously been considered.
How Sensor Data Can Help the Working Environment
Everyone must have a healthy environment to work in. The trend towards hybrid working has raised the bar for the workplace, with employees now expecting the same or better office working environments as they have at home.
Fundamental environmental conditions, such as a pleasant ambient temperature, clean air, and acceptable humidity levels must be provided in the office.
The Working Ambient Temperature
The temperature in an office is critical to well-being and productivity: too warm and employees can become drowsy, too cold and employees cannot concentrate.
By strategically placing temperature sensors within the building data about the ambient temperature can be automatically collected. The recorded information is transmitted securely and in near real-time to the cloud, where it is stored.
By analyzing the collected data, intelligent and automatic adjustments can be quickly made to the office heating systems to ensure that the correct temperature is maintained.
The proper ventilation of workspaces is extremely important for the well-being of employees. Several studies have shown that high concentrations of Carbon Dioxide can lead to a variety of health and wellbeing issues.
CO2 wireless sensors monitor levels of the gas in the office atmosphere. The data, once stored and processed, can be used to automatically adjust ventilation systems. Demand Control Ventilation (DCV) combines sensors, the Building Management System (BMS), and intelligent ventilation management to deliver optimized air flows and fresh air for employees.
This ensures that CO2 concentrations do not reach a dangerous level, maintaining employee health.
Containing the Risk of Virus Transmission
Having fresh air in an office is also important for reducing the chances of the virus spreading through airborne transmission. Viruses, such as COVID-19, can be transmitted through very fine droplets and particles in the air. Proper ventilation will therefore help reduce the build-up of these particles, thereby reducing the chance of infection.
Legionnaires disease is a potentially fatal respiratory illness caused by the water-borne Legionella bacterium. Legionella, which is present in small quantities in all untreated water, grows in stagnant water that remains at between 18 and 48 degrees Celcius (64.4 and 118.4 Fahrenheit) for a period of time.
Using temperature sensors to monitor and detect changes in water temperature in a building's pipes over time will indicate if the pipes have been used or not. Any pipes where water remains static must be flushed to eliminate the potential build-up of Legionella.
Removing Legionella not only protects the employees' health but also ensures that the company complies with strict legionella regulations that most countries now have.
Sensor Data & Your Wellbeing
Intelligent sensor data can also be used to help ensure that a clean office environment is maintained and that perishable items, such as foods and medicines, are stored at appropriate temperatures. A special focus is now placed on enhanced productivity, stress reduction, and mental well-being as well. Interestingly, sensors can also help there.
Having a clean working environment is an expected situation for everyone. Proximity and Motion sensors can track how frequently individual desks, restrooms, offices, and meeting rooms are used by employees.
By analyzing the recorded data, cleaners can be dispatched to locations that have been heavily used, for more frequent cleaning, or retained and assigned to other activities, for locations that have not been used. Both situations will ensure optimal cleaning schedules that are best suited to maintaining good employee health.
Further, the use of Touch sensors, through a touch button or touch panel, will enable employees to indicate that a specific location needs to be cleaned. A cleaning operative can be immediately dispatched to address the problem.
Fresh Food and Medicine
Temperature sensors can be deployed inside refrigerators to provide near real-time measurements of storage temperature. Should a temperature change be identified, an operative can be dispatched to investigate the issue. This helps eliminate potential issues associated with incorrectly stored foodstuff, such as bacterial growth, the main cause of food poisoning.
Proximity sensors can also be attached to refrigerator doors and will register activity about when the doors are opened or closed. Analyzing the data will allow customers to identify, for example, if a door has been left open for too long. An alarm can be sent to an operative's mobile phone requesting that he/she check the status of the door, and close it if necessary.
As organizations move towards hybrid working they are looking at the utilization of their expensive real estate and starting to reduce the number of offices and available desk space. As a result, some employees can become anxious with the hassle of searching for available desks, offices, or meeting rooms.
Using a combination of desk occupancy, proximity, and motion sensors, information can be collected and processed to identify unused desks in a hot seating area, available offices, and free meeting rooms. The data can be published to users, in near real-time, through the web or a phone-based app, thus reducing employee stress and frustration.
High CO2 levels can cause offices to feel ‘stuffy’, which is mistakenly put down to high temperatures. An increased intake of CO2 can lead to poor decision-making, slower reaction times, and increased tiredness among employees.
The easiest and most cost-efficient way to regulate this is using Internet of Things (IoT) based CO2 sensors together with a BMS and remotely manageable HVAC and ventilation systems. This can lead employees to work up to 60% faster in lower CO2 concentrations.
Organizations that optimize their workplace indoor environments will create the potential to improve their staff performance and productivity.
Employees, especially in larger organizations, feel that they are unappreciated and have no impact on how their environment functions.
One way to engage employees and make them feel more valued and put them in control of their environment is through the use of touch sensors. These devices can be deployed to:
- act as service buttons, allowing employees to request services right away, such as a machine is broken or a room needs cleaning
- provide feedback panels, allowing employees to give instant feedback about environmental conditions e.g. a room is too hot
The use and range of sensor technology, especially when considering health and wellbeing, are rapidly advancing. Traditional uses of sensors, to monitor room temperature and detect water leaks, are being supplemented by new and innovative uses such as ventilation control and legionella compliance.
The unique size, simplicity of installation, wireless range, and extended battery life of the Disruptive Technologies sensor range mean that many solution partners are now looking to build groundbreaking and effective solutions. These innovations are now further driven by the hybrid working trend and the shift in focus towards employee health and wellbeing.
The technology, which is proven and easy to deploy, will no doubt lead to many more exciting, useful, and healthy uses of these sensors.