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Privacy First in Space Occupancy Solutions

Privacy First in Space Occupancy Solutions

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Cybernews

DAte

July 7, 2023

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You can read Honghao Deng and Jiani Zeng's interview with Cybernews here.

It’s been three years since the pandemic was declared. To adapt, companies had to enforce work-from-home arrangements in 2020 and later eased into hybrid arrangements in 2021 and 2022.

Today, companies think it’s time to go back to the office. According to a survey, 9 out of 10 companies are requiring employees to physically report for work. Some companies require employees to fully RTO (return to office) while others are willing to continue a hybrid arrangement.

Whether the company requires full or hybrid RTO, there is one type of solution that is necessary for understanding how people are using the office: an occupancy sensing platform

What Is Occupancy Sensing Technology?

Occupancy Sensing technology is basically motion sensors on steroids. Often combined with smart technology, it detects motion or occupancy in a building. For example, if you have a smart office, the spatial data captured by the occupancy sensing solution will enable you to automatically turn on the lights and HVAC system when an employee enters the office.

The technology employs a variety of triggers for its automatic responses. These include:

  • Infrared (detects heat and movement)
  • Microwave (measures reflections from moving objects)
  • Radar (relies on radio waves)
  • Ultrasonic (measures reflections from moving objects using pulses or ultrasonic waves)

How Is Occupancy Sensing Used in the Office

Occupancy sensing has many uses in business settings.

Automated Occupancy Rates and Social Distancing Compliance

As companies slowly transition back to old norms (or a semblance of it), occupancy sensing can be used to evaluate occupancy rates, determine high-traffic areas, and optimally design workspaces.

Based on estimates from the United States Environmental Protection Agency, there are significant savings to be had from these devices:

  • Classrooms can save 40% to 46%.
  • Private offices can reduce electric consumption by 13% to 50%.
  • Restrooms can eliminate 30% to 50% of consumption.
  • Conference rooms can lower consumption by 22% to 65%.
  • Corridors can consume 30% to 80% less electricity.
  • Meanwhile, storage areas can lower their use of electricity by 45% to 80%.

Additional Security

Since they indicate which areas are occupied, occupancy sensors can also provide businesses with additional security.

Minimizes Light Pollution

Occupancy sensors must be triggered before certain amenities are switched on, including lighting. This means that lighting fixtures in hallways and rooms that are unused remain turned off unless someone is passing through or occupying the room. Light pollution can thus be significantly reduced.

Responsive and Efficient Sanitation

Since managers of business facilities can monitor which areas of an office were occupied, they can more efficiently dispatch sanitation crews in these areas.

What About Privacy?

Because of how some aspects of occupancy sensors work, privacy can become an issue. This is especially true for camera-based occupancy sensors that transmit images of employee movement and activity. A perfect example is camera occupancy sensors that are installed in bathrooms and other solutions that capture visual information to detect implied occupancy.

In addition, employees with personally identifiable information (like badge data) that is detected or captured through occupancy sensing may fall victim to wily criminals who have sophisticated access to the Internet of Things (IoT).

Hence, occupancy sensing can potentially lead to an invasion of privacy and may compromise employee security and safety.

Fortunately, these risks can be circumvented by following a few best practices.

How To Deploy the Best Occupancy-sensing Solutions for Your Company

By carefully evaluating your occupancy sensing hardware and software, you can reap the benefits of the technology without dealing with the headaches of common issues like security and privacy.

To find the right occupancy-sending solution, look into these aspects:

Privacy

Safeguard your employees’ privacy by:

  • Avoiding sensors that extract images
  • Relying on platforms that allow you to adjust their privacy levels
  • Being transparent to your employees about the occupancy-sensing technology you’ve chosen to employ
  • Using quality antivirus software and a VPN for your computer systems

Privacy is a delicate matter that can have ethical and security-related repercussions. As long as you follow these four tips, you will considerably reduce the risk of such concerns.

Evaluate Your Overall Tracking System

Instead of viewing occupancy sensors as an individual measure that you need to deploy, consider them as part of your office’s overall tracking system. This means taking a step back and evaluating occupancy sensors alongside other practices that help you monitor human movement and activity.

Think about the effectiveness of your sensors when they’re combined with other practices like:

  • Manual surveys and logins
  • Access badges
  • WiFi and Bluetooth tracking
  • CCTV cameras

Once you have a clear picture of your current tracking system, it will be easier to choose from the different occupancy sensing solutions out there.

Get an Accurate Estimate of How Much They Will Cost

Avoid unpleasant surprises down the road by getting as accurate an estimate as possible. Figure out placement and how many sensors you need so you can get a better idea of how much the hardware will cost. In addition to the price of occupancy sensors, don’t forget that you’ll also have to pay for installation and possibly software.

Many firms offer their own occupancy sensing hardware and software in one package. This helps ensure that the two components are compatible and can make pricing simpler.

While considering prices and budgets, note that cheap sensors may not offer the same level of accuracy and reliability as more competitively priced models.

Accuracy Level

Remember that the type of sensor you choose will affect the accuracy and depth of information you have.

For instance, passive infrared sensors are cheaper than other sensing solutions but they’re less accurate and can only tell you if an area is occupied or unoccupied. Meanwhile, infrared array sensors can provide more detailed data like the temperature, dwell time (how long an individual stayed in one place, static) and shape of the occupant.

Conclusion

Occupancy sensing is an important component of any modern workplace. By deploying secure automated sensors, you can design more optimized office spaces, enjoy savings from greater energy efficiency, and make your sanitation teams more effective. Plus, you won’t have to deal with security and privacy issues.

Thank you to Cybernews team for the insightful piece!

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