The 3 Most Popular Types of IoT Sensors In the Workplace

by Glenn Hicks on October 22, 2018

IoT sensors are quickly becoming a reality of the modern digital workplace. They’re the fabric that connects various technologies and allows us to gather valuable data about how employees interact with their environment.

Sensor technology has the power to unlock information that was impossible to track before, such as how employees are actually using a space.

But which types of IoT sensors are worth the investment, and how should they be used?

Here’s a look at the most common ones and the best ways to use them.

Motion Sensors

Motion sensors determine the presence of nearby objects or people. They’re most often used for security.

The most common types of motion sensors are:

  • Passive infrared sensors – Detect body heat and movement around a certain parameter and can trigger an alert when someone passes the threshold.
  • Microwave sensors – Send out microwave pulses and measure the reflection off moving objects. They cover a larger area than infrared sensors, according to independent review site Safewise, but they’re more vulnerable to electrical interference and more expensive.
  • Dual technology motion sensors – Motion sensors with combined features (such as passive infrared sensors and microwave sensors) designed to reduce false alarms. Because each type of sensor has a different trigger and both have to be activated at the same time, they are less likely to cause false alarms.
  • Area reflective type – Motion sensors that emit infrared rays from an LED. These sensors monitor the distance to a person or object and detect whether the object is within the designated area.
  • Ultrasonic sensors – Send out pulses of ultrasonic waves and measure the reflection off a moving object.
  • Vibration sensors – Detect vibration using a small mass or level, which is activated to an alarm.
  • Video motion sensors – Start recording when they detect motion, which can save memory storage by only recording important events, such as trespassing.

Occupancy Sensors

Occupancy sensors measure occupancy of workspaces and conference rooms. While motion sensors are primarily used for security, occupancy sensors are used more often to collect real-time data about space utilization. They can also improve energy efficiency when they are connected to lighting or temperature systems.

Types of occupancy sensors include:

  • Passive infrared sensors – Small, battery powered sensors affixed to seats or desks to detect heat and motion. Examples include Relogix, Coworkr, OccupEye and Current by GE.
  • Imaging Sensors – Larger, anonymous sensors that track entrances and exits through doorways; ideal for identifying occupancy patterns throughout the day. Examples include VergeSense and Density.
  • Lighting sensors – Automatically turn off the lights when people leave a room, reducing electricity usage and costs.
  • Temperature sensors – Lower the temperature when they detect people are no longer in the room.

Industrial IoT Sensors

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is applying IoT sensor data and connectivity to manufacturing. Machines can use sensor technology to improve efficiency, control quality and take a smarter approach to maintenance, among other things.

Industrial IoT sensors can analyze things like sound frequencies, vibrations and temperature of a machine to tell if it’s working within normal conditions—and trigger an alert if it isn’t.

A recent report by Accenture shows predictive maintenance can save up to 12 percent of repairs, reducing overall maintenance up to 30 percent and eliminating breakdowns by as much as 70 percent.

When you’re operating at a large scale with multi-million dollar equipment, the ROI of industrial IoT sensors can be huge.

Robert Schmidt, an IoT chief technologist at Deloitte Digital, notes one client used IIoT sensors to predict when machines would need to be maintained, decreasing downtime and improving the factory’s capacity. This helped them avoid building another production line and ultimately helped them save $25 million in new capital expenditures.

Taking the Next Step With IoT Sensors

IoT sensors can bring tremendous value to your workplace, but it’s important to think through your organization’s goals and processes for using sensor data before implementing them.

Sensors bring the most actionable insights when their data is connected with other workplace technology, such as space management software or an integrated workplace management system (IWMS).

Our team can help you select the right IoT sensor company or help you set up integrations to connect sensors to your IWMS. We can also help you make sense of your sensor data using the iOFFICE Insights module.

To learn more, talk with your account manager or request a demo of iOFFICE today.


Glenn Hicks

A member of the Business Development team, Glenn has years of experience with business process improvement on the Commercial Real Estate and Facilities Management sides.

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