Everything to know about People Counting with LoRaWAN (Part 2)
In the first article, we covered the technical fundamentals of LoRa and LoRaWAN and looked at the predominant types of LoRa devices used in Smart Buildings applications. Here, we dive into the specifics of how these devices are used in Smart Buildings applications.
Considerations for Smart Building solutions
Desk occupancy sensors, occupancy sensors, indoor air quality sensors, and people counters are the four types of sensors used to understand space occupancy in Smart Buildings. However, as Frederic Tabus explains, each device type has its limitations.
“Desktop occupancy sensors typically require each desk to be equipped with a sensor. This can quickly turn into a massive sensor deployment.
“Occupancy sensors, on the other hand, typically require additional calibration and are not adapted to large rooms or spaces. In addition to this, RGB-based sensors introduce GDPR or privacy concerns,” says Frederic Tabus. (1)
“Air quality sensors suffer from accuracy and latency issues when used for occupancy monitoring, which limits the effective use of data for remedial action.
“Finally, for people counters, data from multiple devices must typically be aggregated in order to obtain occupancy metrics. People counters that rely on RGB or stereo vision raise GDPR and privacy concerns too.”
Battery vs. wired power
In many ways, LoRa technology goes hand-in-hand with battery-powered devices. Low power consumption rates coupled with long communication range means that the LoRaWAN communications protocol is perfect for sending infrequent data packets from battery-powered sensors across large areas, for example, in silo monitoring applications.
However, while battery-powered devices can undoubtedly work well with LoRa, they may not be the best solution for occupancy monitoring in Smart Buildings.
The primary reason is that occupancy monitoring in busy buildings requires constant monitoring and provides the best performance when data is transmitted frequently. In addition to this, mains power is readily available inside Smart Buildings.
“Mains-powered devices buy peace of mind,” says Frederic Tabus. “Mains-powered sensors can work continuously and transmit data frequently without the risk of running out of power.”
“While putting a power wire may be more expensive in the short-term than installing a battery-operated device, keep in mind that organizing a battery replacement campaign for hundreds of devices can be extremely costly and complex to execute.”
There’s also an important environmental angle to consider. “We anticipate 500 million LoRa devices deployed in the field by 2025,” explains Frederic Tabus. “But this is not without consequences. About 78 million batteries powering IoT devices will be used and thrown away globally every day by 2025 if nothing is done to improve their lifespan.”
Limiting battery-powered sensors’ deployment is easy in a smart building setting.
The lean sensing approach
When considering Smart Building sensor implementations, it’s important to look at the big picture.
“Ask yourself these questions,” says Frederic Tabus. “What do you need to measure? The occupancy of each desk, specific desks, or the overall workspace availability?”
“Once you’ve determined your objective, we always recommend following the lean sensing approach. That is, once you know what you want to achieve, you minimize your points of measurement. In general, this means minimizing the number of devices to install.”
Lean sensing not only means lower expenditure on sensor hardware but also makes it easier to collect and process sensor data.
Case study: monitoring workspace occupancy
Terabee recently worked with the owner of a large office complex to install Smart Building solutions that would reduce expenses and maximize available space.
“Our customer was a property owner with multiple buildings of several floors each. Our goal was to reduce and optimize their real estate expenditure by making the most of their available space,” says Baptiste Potier, Product Manager for Smart Buildings, Terabee.
By monitoring meeting room and workplace occupancy, the customer also wanted to ensure a comfortable and productive environment for building occupants.
“In this case, there were several challenges to contend with; the building itself was difficult and costly to upgrade and contained very large open workspaces and meeting rooms. “
“This customer also had GDPR concerns from their employee union and customers – which means no RGB cameras. Here, we needed a solution that ensured there was no way for devices to be able to recognize individual people.”
In addition, the customer required that the implemented solution be separate from the existing IT infrastructure. “This is a common challenge of existing buildings where it’s difficult to put Ethernet cables to every location,” explains Baptiste Potier. “Here, the chosen solution also needed to be integrated with the building’s HVAC system, enabling heating and ventilation to be controlled in response to people counting data and thus reducing energy consumption and costs.”
Terabee People Counting L-XL LoRa
“In this case, our People Counting L-XL LoRa device fulfilled all the different requirements of this application,” says Baptiste Potier. “First, because the device uses LoRaWAN technology, it provides widespread, reliable, and cost-effective coverage for large spaces compared to other types of wireless technology. It also has secure and decoupled people counting data transmission, sidestepping any issues with IT networking and security.”
Mains-powered LoRa devices are highly reactive and provide up-to-the-minute data so that HVAC systems can react quickly for better energy savings.
“Another advantage of the Terabee People Counting L-XL LoRa in this application was that only two devices were required. By covering the two entrance/exit points to each floor, we were able to gather all the insight needed.”
Finally, the People Counting L-XL LoRa offers a major advantage over other types of people counting technology. Using infrared ToF technology means completely anonymous people counting, avoiding any concerns around privacy and GDPR. (2)
“The Terabee People Counting L-XL LoRa is GDPR compliant by design. The 3D ToF sensor used makes it impossible to identify people,” explains Baptiste Potier, but this doesn’t hinder its performance.
“Despite this, it has a typical accuracy of 98% even when monitoring crowded bi-directional traffic.”
- Only a few devices are needed above passageways to cover building floors
- GDPR by design. Preserve anonymity, guaranteed by Time-of-Flight technology
- Typical accuracy of 98%, multiple and bi-directional counting
- Uplink/downlink commands for remote device management
The Terabee People Counting L-XL is also supported by a diverse ecosystem of gateways, network servers, application servers, and marketplace and distributor partners.
Terabee’s advanced Time-of-Flight people counting solutions, like the People Counting L-XL Lora, enable business owners and building managers worldwide to achieve robust, secure, private, and cost-effective occupancy monitoring.
Get in touch with us today to find out more.
References and further reading
- Blackman, R. How to Monitor Your Employees — While Respecting Their Privacy, Harvard Business Review (2020)
- Terabee | People Counting L-XL Specifications https://terabee.b-cdn.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Terabee-People-Counting-L-XL-Specification-sheet.pdf