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What you need to know about Occupancy Sensors

As students and employees returned to buildings and offices, sensors were an obvious choice for many administrators. They made sense for many hybrid work environments with so many companies trying to determine how many employees or students are in a space at one time.

There’s reasons to appreciate and reasons to be wary of sensors – and there’s no denying they have a place in the current Corporate Real Estate (CRE) environment, and even some Higher Education Institutions (HEIs).

Although this year in September, when Northeastern University students physically removed desk sensors to protest their use, the intrusive nature of sensors was brought front and center.

So, where do sensors help? And when can you receive useful utilization and occupancy insights without them? Let’s dig in to learn more.


What can you learn from sensors?

  • Desk – level occupancy – If it’s important to know how many people are seated at particular desks, then sensors can help. An example might be hot-desking reservations. Sensors could help determine if the person who reserved the desk occupied it. Platforms like Lambent Spaces, which utilize Wi-Fi for space utilization insights, integrate with sensors to enhance desk-level data with predictive analytics and utilization metrics.
  • Conference rooms – with physical boundaries, such as doors. So, if you wanted to know how many people are in the Executive Conference room right now – sensors could help. 

In general, specificity is the key to sensors. They are the most precise way to see drill-down analytics for how desks and rooms are occupied.

However, there are also drawbacks to some sensor installations.


  • Cost and Complexity To ensure stability, security, and the capacity to make adjustments as needed, sensor installation calls for a well-thought-out hardware configuration. Because if anything isn’t hooked up properly, the system can react strangely or space and facilities managers could wind up wasting time on installation. What many people don’t realize about sensors is that decisions around replacing them, or replacing batteries in them, should be factored into overall cost.
  • The “Tracking” Factor There are ongoing legal and ethical concern over employees’ and students’ ability to maintain privacy in public places. The use of sensors sometimes makes people feel like they’re under surveillance. Students and staff in the Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Complex, or ISEC, fought back against Northeastern administration in September after the institution sought to monitor their desk activities using occupancy sensors. A group of graduate students took the sensors off their desks and put them on a kitchen table as a protest. Because of this, the sensors were removed. “I want to make it clear that all of the desk sensors installed in ISEC have been removed and will not be reinstalled,” Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs David Madigan wrote as he clarified the sensors were installed just to assess desk occupancy and nothing more.

There’s also supply chain demands to consider; many industry experts predict sensor prices will increase as supply chain woes delay them, and demand rises.

To learn more about sensors, and sensor integrations with scalable Wi-Fi for space utilization experts, check out our Resources Hub and our SaaS for Smart Space Planning Datasheet.

To talk to one of our sales staff reach out directly to today and book a demo.

​​Nupur Patra contributes to the Blog and Social Media channels for Lambent. She is currently a Graduate Student at Northeastern University in the Digital Media program.

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