A growing workplace
specialist is making an impact in sensor-based office space management, as
firms seek better returns on real estate and new ways of working and retaining
Hundreds of corporations
worldwide have introduced Abintra’s WiseNet system to monitor and manage the
use of desks, meeting rooms and other office spaces.
The patented system, two
years in the making, relies on industry-leading sensors that detect if anyone
is occupying a desk or a seat in a meeting room. The Wisenet software then
delivers a real-time visual display of space usage floor by floor. Crucially,
it gathers statistics over time that can be used to make space saving decisions
such as implementing desk sharing, how many desks are required and
rationalisation of office space. This in turn creates opportunities to
introduce new ways of working with wellbeing spaces, such as break out and cafe
Once a desk sharing system
has been implemented, the system delivers information on communal screens so
that employees can locate free desks, meeting rooms and other spaces.
Meanwhile, for managers, it
allows for ongoing review of space usage and for dealing with that trickiest of
tasks, managing use and abuse of meeting rooms. It displays information about
how many people, if any, are in a meeting room against booking information for
a better understanding of space requirement.
Abintra says Wisenet sets
the standard in space utilisation systems. Unlike competing solutions, it
doesn’t rely on employees to log on to a computer, upload an app to a phone or
carry a sensor around with them to sense that someone is using a space. Methods
like these have obvious drawbacks because they fall down if the employee
accidentally or on purposes fails to use them. They also raise the spectre of
employers spying on employees whereas the Wisenet sensors effectively record
that someone is in a space without reporting on what he or she is doing or his
or her identity.
Wisenet also scores against
systems using off-the-shelf sensors, because its purpose-built devices are more
precise and more discreet because they can be mounted underneath and at the
back of a desk rather than close to the edge. That precision is important
because it enables monitoring of other kinds of spaces than desks, notably
individual meeting room seats. Wisenet says other systems can’t match its
reliability in those areas and often amazed how companies get talked out of this
most important requirement.
Tony Booty, director at
Abintra, says: “Most organisations know they could reuse some space, probably a
lot of it, but fear staff won’t understand how that can happen without them
being cramped together. We can help. Instead of corporate real estate managers
being seen as the enemy by building users, we give you a way to prove what will
best support the requirement. Once people understand the statistics, they will
understand the solution, which can be a better environment with a variety of
spaces, better suited to the changing world of work.”
Wisenet maintains that any
organisation can benefit from reviewing its space utilisation, but the company
is typically called in when a corporation is going through a reorganisation,
restructure or merger, or when it is considering moving offices.
“Once you have the data,
you might discover you do not need to move to bigger premises, after all, but
if you do, you will have a much better understanding of how much space you need
in the new location,” says Tony Booty.
Banks, insurance companies
and local authorities are among those who have used Wisenet to inform decisions
about real estate, sometimes making huge savings in space usage and associated
costs. Another significant benefit that Abintra points to is staff retention
and reduced HR costs, by allowing customers to reconfigure floors for agile
working with collaborative spaces and even coffee shops.
When the system was used to
reconfigure one floor of an insurance company’s building, it opened the door to
staff welcoming a move to new offices where they knew all floors would be
configured that way.
There are other uses for
the data, including risk management, providing information on how much space
would be needed if an operation has to relocate because of an emergency such as
a flood. It can be used to plan efficient security routes and to reduce energy
costs and carbon footprint by managing heating and air conditioning based on
utilisation. The sensors record temperature as well as occupancy.
Perhaps the feature that
resonates most loudly with customers is accurate meeting room scheduling.
Unlike button systems or paper trails, the system reports on how many people,
if any, are in a meeting room at any time without those people being required
to do anything. One customer discovered a senior executive was routinely using
a large meeting room as an annex to his office. Another found that staff were
regularly booking pricey hotel meeting rooms in Belgravia when, contrary to
what their Intranet was telling them, there was meeting space free in the