5 Things You Need To Understand About Sensor Evaluations
Understanding how and when to deploy sensor technology will save time and money.
Many workplace executives will make decisions around changing workplace trends that affect millions of dollars of capital and operating expense with little – if any – empirical data on workplace performance.
Perhaps you have wondered how well your workplace performs as a function of employee engagement and believe sensors are the solution, but don’t know exactly where to start.
The objective of this article is to address 5 key considerations (plus one bonus!) that workplace strategists should take into account before choosing the best sensor solution for their workplace.
Begin With The End In Mind
Before you choose the right sensor, you need to consider the benefit or use case.
Many people think big data alone presents sufficient insight, once deployed, to generate return on investment. The truth is, there are different sensors for different use cases and not every sensor is purpose–built for each use case. Some sensors are more general purpose and fit a wide variety of use cases.
Avoid being enamored by technology and focus on fit-for-purpose. Check with your sensor vendor on use cases and expected returns as part of your investment decision.
Keep It Simple
Once you have identified your use case, seek the most effective technology solution.
Occupancy sensor systems involve many moving parts and the adage that you are only as strong as your weakest link applies here. Hidden costs, like ceiling mount configuration, WiFi connectivity, or data integration may end up costing more than the project itself. Additional insurance, security compliance, or installation specialists add cost and delay that could sink your project budget.
A good complexity litmus test is whether or not you could do it yourself.
A key aspect of simplicity is independence.
Many projects come to a grinding halt because of external dependencies. A common dependency is on enterprise IT networks for sensor connectivity and/or internet access.
To security specialists, WiFi connectivity becomes a potential exposure – requiring many months of threat and capacity testing. Another dependency is on building tradespeople for installation, or IT developers for data analytics – requiring weeks to months of advance scheduling – jeopardizing project due dates. The best sensor solution is one that is entirely independent.
A good test is whether or not the sensors can be installed and streaming data within hours.
Knowledge Is Power
Knowing the differences between sensor technology is helpful, but awareness between observation and occupancy data is more important.
Sensors typically observe behavior. They do not interpret results – which is where the valuable data and insights are found. How and where is raw sensor output processed? On premise? In the cloud? How is an occupancy assertion made? Is there a learning period? What policy control does the customer have? Can the data be filtered and/or visualized?
Interpreting sensor data and making accurate occupancy assertions is where the ‘magic’ (read: value) occurs.
If the data is not interpreted correctly, the results can be meaningless. You may end up thinking you have more (or less) available space than you actually have. This problem is exacerbated by multiple space types – since every workplace is unique. Data interpretation is not something you want to attempt on your own.
A good test here is to determine how much data your vendors processes per month – and in what formats (e.g. open API, analytics platform, etc.) that data can be provided
Expect Change And Be Flexible
There are always differences between the best floor plans or space lists – and reality.
Sensor relocation or reassignment is often the norm, not the exception. It is best to adopt the boy scout motto: “Be Prepared”. This becomes an issue if the sensor technology is not portable or needs field of view alignment.
Portability defines how easy it is to relocate sensors without requiring changes in infrastructure (e.g. power) or business disruption. A corollary is whether data is stored and can be reprocessed around changes?
Portability helps reduce costs as multiple locations can be staged (depending on use case) for rapid data collection and analytics.
(Bonus) Communicate Early And Often
No guideline would be complete without addressing the elephant in the room. Employees are prone to question “Are sensors tracking me?”
It may be tempting to try and hide sensors, perhaps overhead, in an attempt to avoid this issue, but you will be found out. The best solution is always transparency.
Sensors are meant to determine if the workplace is meeting employee needs in a new dynamic market. That is workplace performance not employee performance.
Measuring workplace performance is an open, collaborative, social effort where employees participate. Their behaviour, observed by sensors, informs space planners what workspaces are effective.
In order to ensure success, check to see if your vendor has a communications package that helps facilitate transparency.
We hope you find these guidelines helpful in your search for the right workplace sensors.