Can sensor technology help keep office workers healthy?

Woman. Stanton spent time with building managers, learning about the commercial real estate sector and reviewing data. “I realized that we already have enough real estate in big cities,” she said. “We don’t have to build more buildings; we need to use them better.”

The company’s technology is also being used to improve workplace efficiencies, including space utilization, as offices transition to hot-desk systems, where employees are not assigned to specific desks but are grouped as needed. It can be used to reserve desks or conference rooms, reduce energy consumption by controlling lighting or heating and air conditioning, and even monitor water flow to detect leaks. Many companies using the technology have found they can reduce their real estate footprint by 20 percent or more, according to Dr. Stanton.

OpenSensors customers include Zaha Hadid Architects, who have used the company’s technology as a general tool in creating simulated design models, and the University of Utah’s ARUP Laboratories, who have used OpenSensors to monitor bat populations at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London . (Bats are considered an indicator species reflecting the general state of the natural environment.)

As Bryon BeMiller, who is marketing smart building technology for Semtech, a semiconductor supplier, said: “It provides a lot of very useful data for companies in terms of whether they are efficiently allocating the space they rent? Do they need more desks, fewer desks? Do they need more common spaces, fewer common spaces?”

But today, keeping workers healthy is perhaps the most important benefit of technology. In a recent National Science Foundation-funded paper on airborne transmission of respiratory viruses, researchers found that the optimal indoor CO2 level for disease prevention is 700-800 parts per million at a minimum ventilation rate of four to six air changes per hour.

A recent article in Science on tackling indoor respiratory infections notes that governments have invested heavily in food safety, sanitation and drinking water for public health purposes, but that airborne pathogens and respiratory infections, whether seasonal flu or Covid-19 19, have been largely ignored.

“We spend 70, 80 percent of our time indoors,” said Dr. Stanton said, “So air filtration is very important, especially from a productivity standpoint.”

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