Sensing Spaces

Meet the latest technology to take over your office: the desk sensor. As real estate costs weigh heavily on firms’ bottom lines, it has become ever more important for executives to measure the value of their office spaces.

Enter Condeco Sense, a workplace occupancy sensor that tracks space utilization.

“Desk utilization in the U.S. averages around 35 percent, and it peaks around 60 to 61 percent,” said John Anderson, chief revenue officer of Condeco Software, which makes the sensor. “It’s important to really understand how your space is being used.”

The Condeco Sense resembles a large computer mouse and sends out pulses to track space use. For each seat in an office — each cubicle, conference room chair, private office space, etc. — a sensor, which detects heat and movement, is placed indicating if that space is being occupied.

The battery-operated device then collects that information every few seconds and sends the data to a wireless router. As sensors proliferate an office over time, a company can then see how their office space is used. But how much use is necessary for a good return on investment?

Anderson said this all depends on a company’s culture. One company might demand 100 percent space utilization, while another might think it’s important to always have space available. Economically speaking, Anderson said an office should see 70-plus percent utilization.

Think space utilization isn’t important? Think again.

Anderson gave an example of a large multimedia company (he declined to name the firm) that considered adding a new floor to its office to accommodate 400 incoming employees. But after installing sensors at six locations, the company found it could actually consolidate and save more than $12 million in real estate costs per year.