Sensor detects wasted office space

Infrared sensors, coupled with algorithms, could allow enterprises to better identify unused space, and drive hot-desking forward.

Are you using that office space?
Credit: flickr/Michael Coghlan

We’re demanding more flexible working environments, but there’s a downside to it for building planners.

It might be lunchtime, maybe a sales team is out in the field, or working from home, but a stroll around some offices will reveal empty desks. Those empty desks cost money, whatever the reason.

The idea that there should be one allocated desk for each enterprise employee doesn’t work anymore. Hot-desking is becoming increasingly prevalent.

[ See also: Hot desking in paradise: 11 exotic coworking locations ]

Condeco Software, a workplace scheduling solution provider, thinks that a combination of algorithms and sensors can be used to identify that wasted space, and let enterprises use the resource better.

Real-time data

We’ve seen occupancy and vacancy sensors before. They turn circuits on and off automatically when they sense heat or movement in a room, and can help with building power consumption.

But Condeco’s idea is that data should be collected and analyzed to identify the actual usage of the space. Real-time, continuously updated analytics is then provided on a cloud-based dashboard for company and building managers. That instant read-out should allow businesses to re-assign under-used space—in real time, Condeco thinks.

Infrared sensor

A small, discreet wireless heat and motion sensor, using passive infrared, and powered by battery, is stuck to the underneath of each desk surface.

Fourteen-hundred readings per day are taken from each desk. The data is analyzed using algorithms, and then displayed for the client through cloud-delivery on a device, like a tablet.

The developer says that its system, called Condeco Sense, is good for measuring any space ranging from an entire real-estate portfolio, to building, floor or individual workspace.


Interestingly, from a marketing perspective, it pitches the product as a cloud-based solution “running outside your corporate network with no impact on your network or IT department.”

In other words, aimed at building or enterprise management, rather than IT—who could also benefit from knowing which desks are getting used. IT can use it for allocation of resources.

In fact, Condeco also says it will come and install the system.

Working styles

Advantages to a system like this include the ability to identify work styles and behaviors, without having to walk through the building frequently.

It might be particularly useful in a newer company, where no-one has yet identified how the space is getting used.


Fast-enough broadband at home and smartphone adoption are two elements that will accelerate a reduction in the need for enterprise to supply work space.

Add to that a general competitiveness for the best employees, along with a desire by those employees not to be chained to a desk, and that might mean that the office, as we know it is on its way out.

Space saved

Companies want to replicate “agile businesses” like Google and Facebook. It could do this, in part by introducing smartphone and broadband-driven flexible working, says Gideon Spanner writing in the Times newspaper, which was reproduced on Condeco’s website.

Condeco’s product could help provide the analysis and evidence needed for this shift.


Over 75 studies have been setup so far, the developer says in a blog post. It reckons it has identified over 60,000 square feet of wasted space, and provided $198,000,000 in real-estate savings with the program.

It may be that it’s only an office’s superiority in the communication of ideas between workers, that’s keeping it alive at all.

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