Jul 3, 2024

Building digital twins for advanced occupancy monitoring in the office

Julie Sylvest

The “Empty Spaces and Hybrid Places” report by Mckinsey & Company cites that office attendance is 30% below pre-pandemic levels. As we adapt to the post-COVID-19 era, the growing trend of hybrid work impacts space utilization in modern office buildings. Companies must manage the transition back to the office, optimize space usage, and ensure a safe working environment. 

Meeting everyone’s needs

Addressing the diverse needs of employers, employees, and real estate managers is important for a smooth return to the office. Each group requires specific data for different purposes. 

Based on current capacity, employees use real-time data to locate available desks and meeting rooms.

Employers benefit from historical data to manage resources and optimize workspace utilization. 

Corporate real estate managers use historical data to make decisions about property management and investments. 

Accurate occupancy data collection is essential to provide valuable insights to these stakeholders.

The importance of data collection

We can understand office utilization patterns by integrating people counting and desk/room occupancy data.

A variety of LoRaWAN sensors can support real-time data collection. For example, the EMS Desk by ELSYS is a body heat sensor that detects when someone is standing or sitting at a desk. The Xovis PC2S is a people-counting sensor featuring a high-precision stereo camera. It provides a great indication of building utilization when used alongside desk and room occupancy sensors. The akenza Device Type Library offers over 200 sensors that integrate into our platform. If the sensor you are looking for isn’t there, we can add it. 

The PC2S by Xovis (left) and EMS Desk by ELSYS (right).

The akenza platform also supports cloud-to-cloud integrations with services like Vergesense, Haltian, and Yanzi. These integrations can enhance data collection and analysis capabilities for those with existing systems. 

Data visualization and interpretation 

Creating visualizations is essential for transforming raw data into actionable insights. Without them, data remains abstract and difficult to interpret. Tangible and dynamic visuals enable stakeholders to understand data and make informed decisions. 

Let’s take a look at some of the visualization features on akenza.

Digital signage screens

Signage screens are effective tools for displaying real-time occupancy data. These custom screens, placed strategically throughout buildings, offer a direct view of the current space usage in various workplaces. This helps optimize the utilization of desks, meeting rooms, and communal areas.

Example of a digital signage screen.

Employee applications

In addition to digital signage, space usage data can also be accessed via employee applications. For example, we collaborated with headbits, a company known for creating innovative digital products. Together, we developed a mobile web app that delivers real-time occupancy numbers and trends using Xovis sensors. This app gives our clients’ employees direct access to occupancy data, allowing them to choose their next work location based on real-time information.

Mobile version of the Spotfinder web app.

Custom dashboards and building twins

The custom Dashboard Builder on akenza offers detailed analytics by supporting the creation of dashboards for real-time and historical data. With our 3D floorplan component, users can view a digital twin of their building, monitor desk and room occupancy in real time, and track CO2 levels and other metrics with heat maps. And best of all? It is customizable to meet unique needs.

The akenza Dashboard Builder including the 3D floorplan component.

Effective management of workspace occupancy relies on accurate data aggregation. Unlike other metrics such as temperature readings, occupancy data is best evaluated within specific time frames that align with working hours. 

Advanced occupancy data aggregation on akenza lets users customize these time frames by selecting working days and hours, identifying public holidays, and including or excluding other relevant days. The result of this occupancy aggregation is a percentage representing occupancy over the chosen period. This aggregated data can be displayed in akenza dashboards or passed to third-party tools and can be used to answer common questions such as: 

  • Which meeting rooms are more-/less popular?

  • How utilized are the desks of team X?

  • What are the seasonality effects?

Occupancy data aggregation configuration on akenza.

Integrations with third-party tools

The akenza platform offers output connectors to a wide range of third-party tools giving flexibility to choose the best solution for analyzing data. It is possible to connect to an open-source Grafana connector to build dashboards or use the advanced capabilities of analytics platforms like Tableau and Power BI. Additionally, akenza’s REST API and webhooks connect data to custom applications. 

We maintain a wide partner ecosystem and integrate into applications such as desk.ly, an all-in-one solution for desk management, meeting room booking, and more. 

In the evolving landscape of hybrid work, efficient space utilization and occupancy monitoring in offices have become critical. Companies can optimize their workplace and meet the needs of employees, employers, and real estate managers by using digital twin technologies and data management platforms such as akenza.

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