The use of occupancy analytics has been a rising trend for buildings in recent years, driving productivity by helping enterprises balance occupant health and comfort with occupant density. As we come to terms with the return to the office being a stop-start process, applying occupancy levels in line with public health guidelines, we begin to realize that occupancy analytics is set up to limit density for health and comfort, while driving productivity. We have moved from ‘how to get the best out of your building’ to ‘how to get the best out of your building at 30%, 50%, or 75% occupancy’.
Our 2020 report on the Occupancy Analytics & In-Building Location Based Services market estimated system sales of $2.17 Billion in 2019, rising to $5.73 Billion by 2024, growing at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 21.5%. Since then, every industry and almost every building has been impacted, many workplaces have not seen staff since March. After the initial attention on remote work, enterprises are now focused on how to get their employees back safely, comfortably, and productively, which is creating more interest in the occupancy analytics market.
One of the big new entrants trying to find their way into the space is Sidewalk Labs, the smart cities arm of Google’s parent company Alphabet. The firm has been relatively quiet since it was forced to shut down its Toronto Quayside development project due to rising public resistance to the project’s privacy policies. Last week, the firm announced its new commercial building kit called Mesa, which promises to reduce electricity costs by 20%, improve tenant comfort, and enable real-time visibility through its pre-commissioned plug-and-play product suite.
The building kit is designed to intelligently cut heating and cooling usage, as well as “plug loads” —the electricity consumed when inactive appliances are plugged in — and sends maintenance alerts to building operators, it even responds to air quality sensors to trigger ventilation. Using temperature, humidity, motion, and proximity sensors, as well as a manual user comfort button-pad and smart plugs, the kit connects via WiFi to collect “non-personal” information about office environments. Sidewalk Labs have omitted cameras from the kit all together, seemingly taking no chances in rebuilding their reputation for privacy after the Toronto debacle.
Other firms don’t have the same limitations and are continuing to show the undeniable power of cameras within a broad sensor ecosystem. On September 15th, four year old startup Verkada announced a new set of environmental sensors, that combine with their cloud-based surveillance and access control infrastructure to give customers even greater insight into building conditions. The evolution is a result of an $80 million Series C funding round in January this year, adding to $60 million from previous rounds and giving the company a $1.6 billion valuation.
“What we do today is cameras and access control — cameras, of course, provide the eyes and the view into building in spaces, while access control controls how you get in and out of these spaces,” said Verkada CEO and co-founder, Filip Kaliszan, when introducing the new range of sensors. “You can think of all the data being combined with the other aspects of our platform, and then begin delivering a truly integrated building and setting the standard for enterprise building security.”
As we have highlighted numerous times in recent months, occupancy analytics is one of the big winners of the pandemic. In these times of uncertainty, enterprises are looking for the visibility that will allow them to maximize efficiency and value in an ever-changing public health landscape. Occupancy limits will continue to rise and fall with safety regulation that rides the waves of new COVID-19 cases, HVAC will require new configurations to reduce the spread of the virus, and with no room for mistakes, cleaning teams could also use some help from technology.
“I think we’re fortunate that our products can help customers mitigate some of the effects of the pandemic. So we’ve seen a lot of customers use our tools to help them manage through the pandemic, which is great,” continued Kaliszan. “But when we were originally designing this environmental sensor, the rationales behind it were these core use cases like monitoring server rooms for environmental changes.”
Occupancy data was a growing trend before the pandemic, driven by the productivity value of improving occupant health, wellbeing, and comfort. The tools required to effectively manage and optimize office space utilization had been evolving rapidly and adoption was on the up. Our 2020 report on Occupancy Analytics & In-Building Location Based Services included case-studies citing increases in density of 80-90%, as well as up to 30% less wasted space. While the world has changed, density is still the name of the game and workplaces are only getting more occupant-centric.
“One major trend reshaping the smart buildings market is the increased focus on occupant-centric workplaces, which has developed over the past few years. Organizations are looking for new ways to attract and retain the best people and empower them to be productive,” explains our in-depth market report. “Shifts in the landscape of work are driving a greater focus on occupant experiences and interactions with buildings. Although challenging to quantify, the impact of employee surroundings on business performance is receiving increased attention.”