Jan 01, 2019 in Product

Having a sense for sensors

We began this four-part blog series with the idea that big data is at the core of smart office life. The collection and analyzation of data starts with the sensor. In this final blog of our series on data, we continue to unravel the big data black box of office life.

Bouwe de Planque
by Bouwe de Planque
Prototype Mapiq Workplaces sensor
Prototype Mapiq Workplaces sensor

Why it’s important to define your choice

If there’s one thing the holiday shopping season teaches us, it’s that gadgets are appealing. They sit on shelves or in online stores, all shiny and promising to solve all our problems. Which they can — sort of. That beautiful gadget can solve one specific problem, but not everything. You can have a kitchen full of high-tech food processors, but if you don’t know the cooking basics, all they’re going to do is collect dust. If we figure out what exactly we want to fix and choose the gadget that works best for that issue, our problems can be solved. Literally.

Nowadays, there are sensors for everything: sensors that detect occupancy, sensors that detect motion, temperature sensors, IR sensors, WiFi sensors, sensors for how you like your coffee, the sensitive sensor — oh my! It can be tempting to just get the newest and the shiniest one. But choosing the right sensor is complicated. The pricing and quality of sensors vary greatly. There are sensors that work well together and others that won’t fit into your building’s system.

As a facility manager, it can be pretty overwhelming to figure out the best fit for your office. But don’t worry, we’re here to help. Before even looking at available sensors, you need to answer some questions about your needs.

• How accurate do you need your data to be?
• How will you use your data? Do you gather data for the overall evaluation of your office, or are you looking for something more focused on the end user, like occupancy sensors for desks?
• How much are you willing to invest?
• Which needs need to be fulfilled?
• Which needs are flexible?

The trick is to focus on the information that is actually necessary to your system, not the product functions. It’s easy to be tempted by low prices and added convenience. Make sure that the tech you buy can meet your actual needs.

How does this apply to facility management?

As an example, here are some situations we experienced with our clients and the solutions recommended.

Some facility managers just want broad insights about workplace occupancy without noticeable disruption to employees. They don’t necessarily need real-time per chair occupancy, but they do need good estimates. Which floor and which area is the busiest? While the shiny new smart sensor may be attractive, this could be handled through a combination of WiFi data and heat maps. In most cases, WiFi data is not exactly real-time and only accurate to a number of meters, but a heatmap from this data will give you a decent impression of your office's occupancy.

Sensor quality
During a workday, room sensors with a delay in the reaction time measure a 60% occupancy rate in a meeting room. This is fine for collection room data for analytics. Unfortunately occupancy is measured with a delay of 15 minutes, which causes an distorted image for the end-users. The room appears to be free but is actually occupied (false negative) and vice-versa (false positive).

Find the perfect solution to achieve your goals

Another group of facility managers want more specific information about individual desk occupancy. They want to be sure there are enough places even during peak hours. Average usage would answer this, so they don’t need precise usage. They could easily be lured in by a network of real-time reporting sensors, but the fact is a much simpler network would suit their needs. They could use generic battery-powered sensors in combination with Mapiq Workplaces, Platform and Analytics solutions. The graph above shows how the battery powered sensors report their status with a slight delay, but this delay won't affect your averages making them perfectly fine to use for this use-case. 

Or maybe the facility managers want to offer employees a way to easily find an available desk or conference room. They want employees to have smooth access to accurate data, so employees don’t have to waste time locating a "free" desk only to find it occupied. To provide employees with that kind of peace of mind, we recommend the Mapiq desk sensors, Workplaces, People, Platform and Analytics solutions. Our products are designed to answer a variety of problems and we only recommend the products that will suit those individual problems.

At Mapiq, we pride ourselves on our partnerships with top technology companies and using only the best sensors available. We’re here to help you find the perfect solution to achieve your goals, and it all begins with a chat with one of our team members.

This wraps up our four-part blog series on big data. We hope you enjoyed! Stay tuned for more in 2019.

Can’t wait that long? We have an entire Resources page filled with smart building goodies.

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