IoT Office Solutions Help with Cleanliness, Social Distancing

As more businesses and retail stores start to bring back workers from the COVID-19 lockdown, social distancing is becoming an important consideration of workplace safety. New IoT office solutions aim to help facility managers monitor cleanliness, manage workspace occupancy, and prevent overcrowding in communal areas. 

 

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Image credit: IAconnects Social Distancing Desk Management

As the world emerges from the lockdown restrictions from the COVID-19 pandemic, business owners and facilities managers are on the hunt for solutions that help them manage the occupancy of their buildings and workspaces. Office and desk spaces will need to be adapted to comply with social distancing guidelines, and communal areas such as lunchrooms and break rooms will also require close monitoring to prevent overcrowding.

Internet of Things devices and sensors can help businesses streamline workplace safety management in a variety of ways, helping to automate everything from temperature checking to social distancing rules and workplace cleaning protocols. Some examples include:

Workforce wearables such as wristbands and lanyards for employees that can monitor social distancing and send alerts, such as the solutions available from EmbedTek and Radiant.

Thermal imaging devices that can be used for daily staff temperature checks.

Other examples don’t require direct workforce participation but instead rely on environmental sensors: 

Room sensors that can count and monitor occupancy in shared rooms such as conference areas and kitchens and can automatically display real-time results.

Desk occupancy sensors that can help businesses manage individual workspace occupancy and configurations and send automated cleaning alerts. These could be especially useful in job-sharing arrangements or an open desk environment, where employees move freely and choose their daily workspace. 

Intelligent Workspace People Counters

One solution integrator taking the workplace sensor approach is IAconnects. Based in the UK, IAconnects has adapted its people counting and desk management solution to include two social distancing management functions: one for room management of communal areas, and one for individual desk usage and management.

Its Social Distancing Room Management kit monitors the people count and occupancy status of communal areas, including bathrooms, kitchens, and meeting areas and displays the access status outside each area. Once the occupancy count hits a specified number based on the social distancing rules set by the office manager, then the access status of that particular area changes automatically.

When the people flow count (in/out) reaches a certain limit, the office manager can also set a “cleaning required” status, which will alert building maintenance staff that a particular area requires attention. The solution kit includes a Web-based dashboard also provides an instant overview of the overall building status.

Another solution from  IAconnects, The Social Distancing Desk Management kit, enables business owners and building managers to monitor desk occupancy. Similarly to the room management solution, this kit can display desk availability and cleaning status when required, alerting building maintenance staff that a particular desk requires attention. Digital displays are used to locally visualize the status of each desk. The kit is pre-configured with 25 desk occupancy sensors and visual displays, and the number of devices can be scaled as needed for the business size.

Lowering Return-to-Work Anxiety

Dave Lister, Managing Director of IAconnects, notes that his company’s solutions were created to help ease office management as businesses start to bring back workers into the office environment.  “People will understandably be apprehensive about returning to work post-lockdown, particularly if they work in buildings with a smaller floor area,” he says.

The IAconnects solution helps employees visually--and therefore quickly--see space occupancy levels. For example, Lister explains that if social distancing measures at a company only allow three people in a kitchen due to the available space, then the room status display can be changed from green to red, or “enter” to “no entry” once this limit has been met. It will automatically change back again when the number drops below the specified limit.

With the Social Distancing Desk Management kit, a sensor can be placed under the desk, at a team table, reception desk, or any location typically occupied. By using the combined measurement of all these positions, the facility manager gains valuable insights into how the office space is used on a daily basis.

For management, the IAconnect ecosystem allows non-manufacturer specific sensors and control devices to be connected, managed, and controlled via the cloud and/or local browsers. The management component is the company’s MobiusFlow® configuration and commissioning solution, an IoT edge platform. The software can operate on closed networks, WiFi, or a 3G/4G connection if needed. Both the social distancing room management and desk management kits include the MobiusFlow Wi-Fi Gateway and a 12-month MobiusFlow subscription.

Real-time Occupancy Data

A similar solution but one that targets open spaces such as schools and libraries is Occuspace, a plug-and-play intelligent social distance monitoring solution from a San Diego, CA-based developer. Occuspace sensors scan for Bluetooth and Wi-Fi signal activity in an area. The scans pick up laptops, cell phones, wearables, and other connected devices. Then, machine learning algorithms are used to estimate the number of people in a specific space or room, which according to the company has a 90 percent accuracy rate.

AI-based Hygiene and Safety Module

Another solution integrator, Wobot Intelligence, has a different technology approach but also aims to help with COVID-19 workplace challenges. The Wobot Intelligence solution relies on artificial intelligence and computer vision technology to help companies more easily manage workplace social distancing and hygiene protocols. 

Screen image showing different parts of Covid-19 Protection system

Image credit: Wobot Intelligence

Its Hygiene and Safety Module, which is listed in the Intel® IoT Solutions Marketplace, can also monitor what’s happening with various office activities, including deep cleaning, floor mopping, and disinfection and hand washing compliance. The Wobot Intelligence module can also be used to provide crowd count analytics.