Our first annual Sustainability Report, detailing 2023 performance, is now available. View Here

Our 2023 Sustainability Report is now available. View Here

Tango Analytics Logo


Get Updates

Stay up-to-speed by tuning in to Tango for top trends, leading practices and industry news in retail real estate, store development, construction management, lease accounting and facilities maintenance.

7 Types of Space Utilization Sensors and How to Get the Most from Them

Years ago, most office-based workplaces measured space utilization in one of two ways: badge scanners or manual walkthroughs. But these methods only provide limited glimpses into how your workplace is being used. They can show you who’s in the office or which rooms happen to be occupied at a given moment, but that’s not enough for you to make informed space management decisions. It’s like exploring your building through a keyhole. 

Since the rise of the hybrid workplace, space utilization data has become more critical—and accessible—than ever. With modern space utilization sensors installed throughout a facility, employers can find excess space to repurpose or downsize. You can detect when spaces are becoming overcrowded, or when demand for space is too high. You can also see if reservable spaces are being used properly. And by bringing all of this utilization data into a single platform, you can analyze usage patterns and plan your space more effectively.

The types of space utilization sensors you install will determine the kinds of metrics you’re best equipped to track, and the degree of visibility you’ll have into your office utilization. But which sensors are right for your organization will depend on the kinds of questions you need to answer, and the spaces where you need coverage.

For example, perhaps you want to ensure that your meeting rooms aren’t being misused. Installing occupancy sensors in these rooms can confirm that people are in the room at their scheduled time, and depending on the sensors you use, you can even see how many people are typically in the room. If a larger meeting room is frequently occupied by small groups of people, you may need to clarify or enforce a policy to keep it available for bigger groups.

Or maybe you want to know what percentage of workstations are occupied throughout a given work day. A walkthrough can only tell you which desks are occupied at a given moment, but sensors can collect hundreds of snapshots per day, giving you true visibility into vacancy, occupancy, and utilization rates—so you know how much of this space you can repurpose, or how much more you need.

Types of space utilization sensors

Some occupancy sensors are designed to monitor individual spaces, giving you more granular insights into how your workplace is being used throughout the day. Others monitor entire rooms and walkways, providing high-level information about how many people are in a space at a given time. Most likely, you’ll want a combination of sensors to construct a more holistic view of your workplaces’ occupancy and more nuanced analytics capabilities.

1. LiDaR strips

Light Detection and Ranging (LiDaR) is a technology that works similarly to echolocation or radar, but instead of using sound, it uses light. LiDaR sensors transmit a laser, detect the reflected light, and measure the time it takes the light to reflect back, quickly creating a precise visual map of an area. LiDaR is sophisticated enough to not only recognize where an object is, but to detect its shape.

While LiDaR is commonly used in modern vehicles (specifically autonomous vehicles) and larger applications like environmental mapping, it’s refined enough to make a valuable addition to the workplace, and some office-based organizations use LiDaR strips to analyze anonymous space utilization data. It can detect the presence of human bodies in real time, enabling you to easily measure and track the occupancy of individual rooms or workspaces.

2. Blurred vision cameras

Blurred vision cameras are another occupancy sensor that can work well for collecting anonymous utilization data. While employees may be understandably wary that they’re under surveillance, these cameras blur images by design so they can detect but not identify bodies. Using artificial intelligence with image recognition, it monitors the number of people in a space and their position within it. Some can also enable passive occupancy, where an employee’s belongings indicate that a space is still occupied, even when the employee isn’t there.

3. Motion detectors

Motion detectors are a broad category of sensor that can include just about any of the more specific types in this list. It’s often a description of how the sensor activates, rather than how it records information. For example, a blurred vision camera may be set to only activate when someone enters the space it monitors in order to save power, thus making it both a “motion detector” and more specifically, a blurred vision camera. But if the sensor only detects motion, it has pretty limited utility for occupancy analytics, as it can register movement in an area, but not necessarily the number of occupants or their precise location.

4. Infrared sensors

Infrared sensors emit infrared light and form pictures based on how that light bounces off objects. Infrared light is electromagnetic, and isn’t visible to humans. The amount of IR waves coming from an IR occupancy sensor isn’t significant enough to be harmful to humans, either. IR sensors can generate clear, but anonymous thermal pictures of bodies in a room or at a workstation, giving you accurate real-time data.

5. PIR scanners

Passive infrared (PIR) scanners don’t emit infrared waves—they passively detect changes in heat energy in an area. Most motion detectors use PIR. Since they don’t actively emit IR light, PIR sensors are highly efficient. They’re also affordable, simple, and . . . not all that accurate for occupancy analytics. While they can be tuned to essentially isolate the wavelengths that would be affected by humans, and they can have variable sensitivity levels, they’re still essentially just detecting presence, absence, and motion.

6. Desk sensors

Desk sensors are a common type of occupancy sensor for organizations that want to monitor the utilization of individual workstations. These are typically IR sensors that track when a desk is occupied or unoccupied, and thus won’t usually have the capability to count someone’s belongings as them occupying a space. Desk sensors offer granular data by monitoring single-person spaces, but that also means you need far more sensors to cover a room, floor, or building, and it won’t track occupants in the room if they aren’t at a location with a sensor. So if, for example, someone takes a laptop to work in an informal workspace (which may feel like a perfectly acceptable way to use the space), they won’t show up as occupying the space they reserved or were assigned to.

7. Badge scanners

Badge scanners are far from perfect, but they also double as a basic security measure, and to a degree, they can track individual employees’ presence at the office and in places within it that require a scan. The problem, of course, is when groups of employees walk in together. Holding the door for a colleague is an ordinary courtesy that allows people to “invisibly” enter the office and throws off your utilization data—if badge scans are the only datapoint you’re tracking.

As a supplemental piece of information, badge scanners are fine, especially if you require scans for access to other parts of the office, like meeting rooms or commons areas. But the problem is that even if it only takes an employee a second to scan in, it’s a process they don’t have to go through anywhere else, and unless you work in an industry that requires a high degree of security and varying clearance levels, it can quickly feel unreasonable to have them located throughout the building.

Get the most from your occupancy sensors

Whatever space utilization sensors you implement, it’s important that you have a single source of truth to consolidate and analyze all your spatial data. You don’t want to be stuck building and maintaining your own integrations or using multiple platforms to understand your space utilization. And that’s where Tango Space comes in.

Tango Space is a purpose-built space management software that syncs all your space utilization data into intuitive dashboards. Depending on the data you have, Tango can even assemble it into a live floor plan, giving you a real-time map of your office. And with robust occupancy analytics capabilities, you can analyze usage patterns and forecast demand for space.

By combining your space utilization sensors with space planning capabilities, Tango Space enables you to test “what if” possibilities and discover the optimal configurations for your goals. Find excess space with your sensors, then explore what you can do with that space in Tango.

Want to see what Tango Space can do for you?

Request a demo today

Tango 2023 Sustainability Report

We have released our first Sustainability Report for 2023, marking an important step in our sustainability journey. In the report, we announce our goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2030, setting us apart as a pioneer in the larger ecosystem of real estate technology providers.