Most coffee lovers would agree they can’t live without their Keurig. So when a $400 IoT juicer debuted last year, the concept of “Keurig for juice” seemed like a great idea to investors. But for consumers? Not so much. Considering all it did was squeeze concentrated vegetable matter from $5 packages, we can file this one under “tech for tech’s sake.”
But sometimes it’s hard to know what technologies will become household names and which ones will fade into oblivion. That’s why at iOFFICE, we’re constantly evaluating new technologies to help our customers make better decisions about which ones are worth the investment.
Over the past year, we’ve been experimenting with different types of IoT sensors in the workplace. With all the advantages they offer—from tracking real-time occupancy to helping maintenance teams prioritize cleaning—it seems clear that sensor technology is here to stay. The question is, which types of IoT sensors work best in the workplace?
Although new IoT sensor technology is being introduced all the time, here’s what we’ve learned so far.
Our Take On the Hottest IoT Sensor Trends
These are tiny indoor networks that link to phones. Although the technology sounded promising at first, we’ve discovered a number of issues. First, they are not anonymous; each can be traced back to an individual employee. Employees have to opt in to allow their use, so it’s impossible to get 100 percent adoption in the workplace. Additionally, they sap phone batteries, so in addition to privacy concerns and the feeling that they’re being constantly monitored, employees aren’t going to be thrilled to adopt them.
Our verdict: Not recommended
Passive Infared Sensors
These sensors detect heat and motion. They are battery-powered, small, relatively inexpensive (most cost less than $10) and easy to install under desks or chairs. Keep in mind that the batteries need to be replaced every 6-24 months, depending on the brand. A few examples are Relogix, Coworker and Current by GE. To use these sensors for tracking real-time occupancy, you just need to connect them to our space management software.
Our verdict: These have potential. Try them on a smaller scale before you buy them for the entire office.
Imaging sensors track entrances and exits through doorways. They are anonymous and a good way to get accurate, real-time occupancy data. (We’ve even determined they can distinguish between dogs and people, which is a good thing if you have a dog-friendly workplace like ours.)
Because imaging sensors show a live occupancy view, they are ideal for identifying occupancy patterns throughout the day. You can place them outside conference rooms, offices or even outside restrooms to determine when you need to service them based on usage. These sensors are more expensive than passive infared sensors (about $100 on average), but you won’t need as many since you’re placing them above doorways. Two examples are VergeSense and Density.
Our verdict: These are definitely worth a try as well. Ask if you can lease a few of them before buying.
Tips for Implementing IoT Sensors
If you’re considering implementing IoT sensors in your workplace, understand that your employees will have some valid concerns. No one wants to feel like they’re being monitored, and there are privacy and security concerns to think about, too.
Here are a few tips to make the implementation go smoothly:
- Be transparent with employees. Nothing will arouse suspicion faster than allowing employees to come to work and discover sensors hidden underneath their desks.
- Clearly explain the benefits. Just as your C-suite will need to understand how IoT sensors will impact your bottom line, employees will want to know what’s in it for them. Explain the goals to both groups in terms they’ll understand. Tell executives about how having better space utilization data will allow you to optimize your workplace design and reduce real estate costs. Talk to employees about how you plan to use underutilized spaces to add amenities like a fitness room, quiet rooms or collaborative areas.
- Get IT involved early. Nothing will short-circuit your IoT sensor initiative faster than realizing too late that your organization doesn’t have the bandwidth or infrastructure for it. Talk to your IT director about your goals for implementing sensors and ask for recommendations.
IoT Sensors: The Potential To Deliver Powerful Insights
IoT sensors have incredible potential if they’re implemented strategically and for the right reasons. While most of us aren’t very good at gauging how we use the workplace or what patterns we follow on a daily basis, sensor data doesn’t lie. It can reveal valuable insights that can help us design a more effective workplace.
One of the first companies to take advantage of sensor technology in the workplace was Bank of America (BoA). BoA recruited 90 call center employees to wear sensors for several weeks. The sensors monitored employees’ tone of voice and body movements.
After studying the data collected by the sensors, the company discovered that when employees took breaks simultaneously, they would collaborate together to solve workplace problems. To facilitate this more often, BoA began planning group breaks for employees. As a result of these additional opportunities for social interaction, productivity jumped by 10 percent.
IoT sensors are a hot topic, and you’re going to hear a lot more about them. To hear how other leading organizations are using them, check out our IoT sensors eBook.