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How data is shaping Corporate Real Estate Strategies

Technology shifts

Technology and the increasing need for data is changing the real estate industry, both from an investment and management point of view. With the wealth of financial information required by institutional investors, Real Estate Managers are increasingly challenged with:

  • Demonstrating return on investment
  • Finding smarter ways to reduce costs
  • Maximise building occupancy and prove value

Whilst some businesses are embracing technology capabilities, many are still lagging behind.

Real Estate Managers are relying on hard data to inform strategic decision making, future property investments and go beyond traditional approaches of twice yearly manual counting or gut feel. Real estate is the second largest cost to all organisations of any size – the need for managing it using evidence is indisputable.

The real question is how the industry will balance the needs of it’s users, the people using the space with the need for maximum optimisation. Site managers have to weave a balance between underutilised offices, where the industry norm is >50%, and over utilisation where people can’t find space to work.

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We all agree that half empty spaces are a waste of both money as well as having a significant carbon impact. Did you know that buildings currently account for 40% of all carbon emissions in North America?.

Local site managers should have plans for occasional overflow space when a company or team all have events, keep a sharp eye on real time utilisation metrics as above 85% has the potential to negatively impact the productivity and happiness of the people using the space. The goal most organisations we deal with are setting is to keep average utilisation within healthy 70-80%.

A connected workforce

It’s no secret that the changes we are seeing have a ripple effect in changing people’s behaviour. Technology is enabling people to work from anywhere in the world without the need to be in a fixed location, the ability to have online collaborative platforms means we are more connected than ever before.

This shift is having an domino effect on owners, occupiers and managers as they realign space occupancy strategies, flexible contract terms and environmental conditions to maintain and accommodate a changing workforce.

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In the 2018 Emerging Trends in Real Estate study by PWC, it found many businesses were already using data to improve decision making as well as hiring environmental scientists to support customer demand and investment analysis.

Customer outcomes are fast becoming a primary driver of value as Real Estate grows into a service rather than a passive asset.

The growing need for analytical skills

Whilst technology is clearly changing the state of play in Real Estate, having analytical capabilities is a growing trend for Facilities and Corporate Real Estate within their daily jobs. More and more Facilities and Corporate Real Estate teams are required to provide factual base evidence – have the ability to analyse data, spot patterns or trends and turn this insight into strategies that will drive work space improvements.

Facilities and Corporate Real Estate teams need solutions that will help them do this efficiently without having to spend hours sifting through layers of spreadsheets and systems. Some companies have adopted the use of sensors coupled with analytics to track how desk and floor space is used in real time. This has allowed them to make evidence based design and management decisions, saving millions in lease expenses.

Take Procurement teams as an example where only a few years ago the traditional approach to purchasing was the norm. Technology and data has transformed the way they operate, moving away from cumbersome in house systems to cloud based solutions that provide greater efficiencies, visibility of spend and cost savings across the business. The flexibility and accessibility of cloud solutions means Procurement teams are able to seek, source and recruit quality suppliers easily and  with data driven insights now the norm to justify investment business cases.

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For Facilities and Corporate Real Estate teams wanting to embrace this new era, there are less than a handful of suppliers who offer an end to end managed solution; and who are doing it well.

We’ve helped many large companies including Arup, Pramerica, TripAdvisor and Firmenich transition change and maximise their workplace occupancy  by quickly helping them:

  • See how meeting rooms are being used
  • Accurately measure person to desk ratio
  • Find space for new staff
  • Benchmark with real data
  • Plan desks or overflow buffers
  • Pinpoint peak hours and encourage work from home

By making analysis and reporting the easiest part of the job, we proactively interpret and provide recommendations for improvements to give customers the complete picture of space occupancy. Find out more about our workplace utilisation data software or speak to an adviser.

Smart Building Sensor Network Deployment Checklist

At OpenSensors, we have acquired much knowledge in planning, conducting, and managing real-world sensor network deployments.  Our checklist is based on our experience with field deployments. We have found the checklist to help manage the following risks:

  • Site specific risks: gateway/sensor placement for signal quality, ensuring connections with gateway has been established, ensuring gateways connect to cloud
  • Prepare risk – staging to verify design
  • Maintenance risk  – detecting sensors that have failed (e.g. stopped transmitting)
  • Connectivity of network, connectivity from gateway to cloud, deploying – setting up staging, maintenance – keeping the data flowing
  • Scoping process – identify and ensure impact on key KPIs


Site specific checklist

  • Gather CAD drawing or floor plan
  • Plan gateway placement
  • Identify any mounting and placement issues
  • Test building corners for signal quality
  • Confirm gateway locations and pre-installation requirements with onsite contacts 

Staging checklist

  • Order sensors and gateways
  • Develop schedule
  • Plan deployment rollout: floor by floor
  • Plan for safe storage
  • Plan and implement staging to pre-configuring gateways and sensors
  • Assemble Project Kit with all hardware (inc adhesives, screws, mounts, etc) 

Connectivity

  • Connect gateways and test connectivity using some sensors
  • Test remote access to the gateway
  • Mount gateways into position and document
  • Test end-to-end network connectivity with a few sensors

Implement

  • Deploy sensors according to the rollout plan
  • Test end-to-end

Handover

  • Prepare handover documentation with asset register
  • Review visualisations

Frequently Asked Questions

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What do Space Planners and Facilities Managers really want to know…?

Q: What type of sensors are available?

hook-1727484__480.png Office utilisation monitoring: desks, meeting rooms and breakout areas

hook-1727484__480.png Footfall monitors

hook-1727484__480.png Air quality

hook-1727484__480.png Environmental sensing

hook-1727484__480.png Asset management

hook-1727484__480.png Parking sensors

Opportunities for sensors to provide reliable data inc. averages and peak demand:

  • Desk utilisation
    • How many flexible desks and bookable desks do you need?
    • What are the trends of usage over the course the day, week or month?
    • When is peak usage?
  • Footfall (circulation and breakout areas)
    • What is the usage and traffic for common and breakout areas like toilet facilities and kitchens?
    • What are the trends of usage over the course the day or days of the week or weeks of the month?
  • Meeting room quantity and size
    • What is the right mix of meeting rooms for collaboration and communication?
    • How many and how big should they be?
    • What type of equipment such as projectors, large monitors, and white boards are needed and can be accommodated?
  • Environmental issues (noise, lighting, CO2, humidity and temperature)
    • What impacts employee wellness and productivity?
    • What is appropriate noise level for the tasks employees are performing?

Q: How do sensors detect desk occupancy work?

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There are different techniques that are used to detect desk occupancy, the most common and inexpensive is based on heat. The sensors look for a temperature reading at 37 degrees because in most offices unless you have an office cat like we do (hello Princess), most of the time there isn’t something warm sitting in a chair unless it’s a person. If there’s body heat registered, the desk is occupied.

Q: Do we have issues around privacy?

icon-2174737__480Well, there are always concerns about privacy. It’s very important for management to be clear with employees why they’re installing the sensors. The sensors are used to understand what the current usage of a space is and how to improve the design, or having already redesigned the space, they’re now trying to determine whether it is getting better results. The people we’re working with are primarily concerned about employee well-being and the types of sensors used to support this are air quality, temperature, noise, light, humidity and CO2.  

We recommend phased implementations vs. big upfront design i.e. encouraging an iterative model but with clear aims.  We don’t believe that ‘smart buildings’ are binary, and upfront large investment both with software and especially with IoT projects usually just end up in frustration.  We’ve found that showing information and gathering feedback quickly, really helps inform the design process based around evidence and real data.

Starting from a prioritised list of problems and working backwards to the necessary data and then installing sensors is easier.  We spend a lot of time testing sensors and we are totally neutral in our recommendations. With that in mind, we also encourage a bit of consideration of what the basic infrastructure should be, for instance we use gateways, etc. that work using open protocols to enable future sensors to ‘talk’ to the same network.  

Q: What type of air quality sensors are available?  

Commercially available sensors can measure the level of potential contaminants including; O3, NO2, NO, SO2, CO, PM2.5 and lead.  Most of the devices are easy to connect and provide quality data measurements so that non-technical staff can deploy them.

Q: Is it possible to benchmark for instance comparing occupancy and other metrics between buildings?

images.pngYes. We can tell you, for a set of desks, the average occupancy by the day, week or month. Data is typically sampled every 10 minutes as it’s tagged with the date and time so the aggregate information tells you a lot about the space needs. It’s as if you had high speed, invisible survey takers running around, just making a note of whether the desk is occupied or not every 10 minutes.

Q: How do you select sensors?

We spend a lot of time testing sensors but we are absolutely neutral in our recommendations. Here are some factors to consider in assessing options for sensors.

hook-1727484__480.png cost

hook-1727484__480.png operating lifetime

hook-1727484__480.png accuracy, precision,and bias of measurement

hook-1727484__480.png  range of sensitivity

hook-1727484__480.png speed of response time

hook-1727484__480.png maintenance requirements

hook-1727484__480.png reliability

Q: What is the process of deploying sensors?

OpenSensors recommends a phased approach, from proof of concept to full-scale deployment, to ensure a successful installation of an IoT network in a business environment. Our aim is to reduce the time to go live and minimize risk.

Phase 1 Evaluate sensors:

Evaluate different sensors for quality, signal-to-noise ratio, power consumption and ease of setup by trying them out on a very small scale in a lab.  

Phase 2 Proof of concept:

Do a full end-to-end test to verify that the queries and analytics were feasible by connecting 5 to 10 sensors to a cloud infrastructure.

Phase 3 Pilot phase:

Move out of the lab into your actual environment. Typically, this requires somewhere between 30 to 100 sensors. We suggest a one to three month test to ensure that the sensors work at scale and the gateway can handle the load, similar to production usage.

Phase 4 Plan and implement full-scale deployment:

After the pilot phase, there should be enough data to verify network performance and your choices for sensors and connectivity, after which, full deployment can be planned in detail and implemented.

Contact us if you would like assistance on sensor selection, network design, or planning a proof of concept deployment.

 

3 years in and processing 10 million messages: a retrospective

Our company is built around and dedicated to enabling customers to access data they haven’t previously been able to using sensors.  Three years into this journey finds us now processing over 10 million sensor messages per day from more than 100 companies in Europe and North America!  

What have we learnt so far?
– Multi disciplinary teams; In IoT we believe the strength of a team is in building expertise in project management, hardware, networks, software, data and open APIs.   

– Minimising sensor installation headaches are key; our latest sensor deployment in London last week saw us reduce installation time to only 20 seconds per sensor.  We believe sensors should be easy to place and simple to move which is why we also have training schemes available to our clients so that they can manage the physical repositioning of their own sensors post deployment should they choose to. Flexibility and control are as important to us as they are to you.

We are always investigating and building partnerships to find the best solution for our clients and this has focused us on standardising around open network protocols such as LoRa.  We now have a large number of happy customers using the following types of LoRa sensors.

  • Office utilisation monitoring: desks, meeting rooms and breakout areas
  • Air quality
  • Environmental sensing
  • Parking sensors
  • Footfall monitors
  • Asset management sensors such as vibration, temperature monitoring

Recent clients include; Zaha Hadid Architects, 360 Workgroup, Fourfront group, TripAdvisor and many others.

As much as possible we have tried to share tangible learnings and experience reports with the wider community. Some examples of our publications and webcasts that have proven hugely popular include:

  • An IoT university – with over 1,500 registered students

https://university.opensensors.io/university/

  • Webcasts with Multi Tech about LoRa and the pros and cons

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M1jMheYnRq4&t=326s

Thank you to all our customers, partners, advisors and the wider IoT community.  We look forward to the next 3 years of learning, growing and being part of this incredible ecosystem.