OpenSensors is a great example of the IoT in action. The company’s deployment of sensors within their clients’ workplaces is offering new insights into how commercial buildings are actually used. This helps firms optimise their office spaces to both save money and provide better environments for employees.
In this interview with OpenSensors’ founder and CEO, Yodit Stanton, explains what her company does and how its customers are using the sensor data to improve their workplaces. Yodit shares her thoughts on what our offices may look like post-COVID and how data on usage and occupancy rates can help with the transformations to working patterns we can expect to see in the coming months.
Martin: Can you give a brief overview of what OpenSensors does and what led you to set the company up?
Yodit: OpenSensors is a technology company that delivers data-powered workplace transformation solutions. We use sensors to collect structured data to understand and aid building managers to design more efficient workplaces which are also great places to work.
Martin: COVID-19 has clearly focused minds on how buildings are used from a safety perspective. How can your monitoring service help with this?
Yodit: Adapting workplaces for COVID-19: Research has shown how occupancy, air quality and conditions can affect COVID-19 transmission. OpenSensors monitor humidity, CO2 levels, temperature and provide alerts and data of busy zones. This gives building managers accurate information to prioritise tasks such as managing cleaning teams more efficiently, guide optimal capacity, reduce transmission and more. From monitoring CO2 and humidity levels to reduce virus transmission to monitoring high-utilisation areas that need deeper cleaning and booking employee shifts and spaces, OpenSensors helps companies use workplace data effectively, create a safe environment for employee return and adapt to changing work patterns for COVID-19 and the world beyond.
Martin: Apart from helping building managers create safer working environments and measuring occupancy rates how else can your sensors be used?
- Accelerating the move to flexible working: Before COVID-19, workplaces were already trending to provide more flexible schedules and environments, and that change has dramatically accelerated. Now, employees don’t want to go back to five days a week of commuting to an office desk.
- Recent trend: from previous lockdowns until today, more workers want to have a hybrid model of workplace flexibility, with some days in the office vs. home
- Reducing environmental footprint: Buildings represent 36% of global energy usage & 39% of CO2 emissions.
- As companies look at their own businesses and how they can build back better, managing their carbon footprint from their physical spaces is one of the top priorities.
- OpenSensors can help companies understand and reduce their carbon footprint, one of the greatest areas of impact for a business’s overall sustainability and environmental goals.
- Managing costs and optimizing resources: Building costs are the 2nd highest expense for organizations, with office costs over £20bn per year in the UK. Yet, nearly half of office space is unused at any point during the day and only reaches 55% peak utilization.
- COVID has accelerated the trend of businesses re-evaluating their real estate and workspace requirements. OpenSensors helps companies evaluate their portfolios to make data-informed decisions.
Martin: Your air quality monitoring service relies on the deployment of sensors within buildings. How are these installations managed?
Yodit: We have the end to end managed service, from testing and recommending hardware to rollout and project management. Our motto is that our clients shouldn’t have to worry about the underlying complexities of IoT and the whole thing should ‘just work’. Our system doesn’t touch the company’s IT infrastructure which allows us to seamlessly integrate our workplace solution effortlessly.
Martin: What are some of the key scaling issues you face in growing the business?
Yodit: Covid-19 especially has brought new challenges with inability to travel etc, we have had to re-engineer our deployment processes and recruit and train team members across multiple geographies for rollouts.
Martin: How do you help customers manage and make sense of the data they collect from your sensors?
Yodit: Our Customer Success team is on hand to support businesses with recommendations on what their data tells them about their office space and environmental conditions. We also provide recommendations on how to translate their data into tangible outputs, making the process of analysing data as easy as possible.
Our powerful analytics dashboard provides regular notifications of metrics customers want to measure. From busy to low periods of utilisation of any workspaces such as collaboration areas, seats or meeting rooms to comparisons of workspace assets, to really help understand how space is actually being used. This allows our customers to make future plans to adapt their offices and space capacity, especially in light of social distancing occupancy limits.
Martin: To what extent do you see OpenSensors as a platform for other products and services to be developed by yourselves as well as third parties?
Yodit: Personally, I am passionate about developing products. Many companies try to prematurely attempt to turn themselves into platforms unnecessarily so we will be resisting attempts to go down this direction. We welcome integrations with other products that suit our customer needs and have APIs built on web standards to enable us to do this easily.
Martin: From your experience of working with commercial building managers and owners, how do you see working patterns changing post-COVID?
Yodit: There is definitely going to be a huge shift in the way people work. The surveys are clear that the majority of people do not want to go back to the office full time again with stated preferences being 2-3 days a week on average.
The nature of why people will use the office will likely also change in that it will be much more for collaborative and social needs rather than for ‘just using a desk’. I would add though, this varies greatly on individual’s circumstances as there are many people that have less space for home working for instance.
Organisations will need to categorise the raft of employee needs and design offices that balances a lot of needs, so managing workplaces overall in the future will be much more complex than just providing space.
Martin: You recently raised $4m in funding. How does OpenSensors plan to use that investment?
Yodit: We will be using it to grow to launch new product lines and also train the customer success teams to ensure we are able to support our client base better.