Many regions have outdoor air quality advisories, yet the level of interior pollutants can go unobserved. This is despite the fact that the majority of people spend the bulk of their time inside. Fortunately, Internet of Things (IoT) advances provide access to the technology needed to improve workplace indoor air quality.
Indoor environments sometimes have higher levels of pollutants than found outside. Studies by governmental environmental protection agencies and independent scientific panels “have consistently ranked indoor air pollution as an important environmental health problem.”
And that was before COVID-19 caused employers and employees to think twice about the viral risk from poor indoor air quality.
Workplace air quality impacts quality of light, noise pollution, and overall workforce health, productivity and morale. So, it is no surprise that innovative minds like those at Disruptive Technologies and Infogrid turned their attention to developing IoT technology to provide a solution to the air quality problem.
Innovation in Workplace Indoor Air Quality
Infogrid is rethinking technology use in the workspace, and has seen a 4500% revenue growth in the past 12 months. The company’s healthy building technology was already making inroads. Then, companies wanting to bring their employees back to a safe environment, drastically transformed Infogrid’s business trajectory.
“This is a catalyst moment,” said William Cowell de Gruchy, Infogrid’s CEO. “People are now taking workforce wellness even more seriously, and that’s not going away.”
Founded in 2018, Infogrid set out to use connected sensor technology to meet everyday challenges. Its focus remains on providing simple, low cost, and scalable solutions to improve building management operations and decision making.
After all, Cowell de Gruchy said, the happier and healthier people are, the more productive they are. Plus, employees will take fewer sick days, have higher morale, and are less likely to leave the business.
Post-pandemic, taking workplace wellness seriously is no longer a competitive differentiator. It is now a must have.
Applying IoT Technology in Healthy Buildings
Air quality is one of many different metrics Infogrid’s end-to-end sensor systems monitor in real time. The company’s cloud-based platform helps building managers capture information that didn’t previously exist.
Consider one of Infogrid’s large financial institution customers. The company wanted to change its water management procedures across 550 sites. Using Infogrid technology they were able to avoid sending fully trained engineers out once a month to run every tap, at every site. Sensors now provide the granular understanding needed to predict failures or even leaks while also:
- Providing a labor savings of 81%,
- Reducing water usage by 8.5 million litres
- Cutting carbon emissions by 800 tons
- Offering $3 million in cost savings
Other applications of the small, zero-maintenance, and wire-free sensors include:
- Occupancy — providing data about how many people are in a space, how they are using it, for how long and more
- Cleaning — knowing occupancy it’s easier to see what needs to be cleaned and how to do so more efficiently
- Air quality — knowing how many people are in which areas, and when cleaning is happening, better decisions can be made in real-time about when to refresh the air and at what level of filtration and/or temperature
Air Quality at Work Matters
Any of these use cases can benefit not only from the real-time reporting, but from the ability to trigger notifications and alerts. For example, with air quality, if the viral risk reaches a worrying threshold the building owners would know to act soon. An alert might trigger a work order to address the need. Or, when integrated with other smart building technology, actually prompt the building’s ventilation system to kick into gear.
Most buildings do a 10% air refresh every hour. Or they were doing so before COVID-19. After all, it is very energy-intensive to filter outside air and bring it to the temperature appropriate to the indoor workplace.
More recently, businesses may have moved to a 100% air refresh hourly. But that dramatically increases energy consumption. With the simple sensors providing the data needed to gauge air quality needs more precisely, it is possible to determine the percentage of air refresh that building needs at that moment to reach a healthy level.
Even without the viral risk calculation, workplace indoor air quality can play a critical role in what work gets done and how well. If there is a build up of carbon dioxide in a workspace, the individuals will start to feel tired. Certain levels of indoor air quality can have the same impact on cognitive performance as four beers, Cowell de Gruchy said. And that’s not what you want for the heart surgeon or anesthetist performing your medical procedure.
Many Benefits of Smart Building Technology
Infogrid and other innovators in the smart building space are filling a data black hole. Historically, building systems have not communicated with each other making it difficult for building managers to see all of the data, especially real-time data, in one place. The Internet of Things (IoT) automates this, removes barriers, and makes it easier to connect all the data together.
The next question is, what will you do with so much data? This is the holy grail of IoT for building management – taking the data and turning it into insight and action. Take a healthcare cold space that needs to be at the right temperature to keep vaccines safe. Busy nurses might be tasked with visiting the space, taking a temperature reading, filling out the paperwork, and uploading it. All when they could be caring for patients. Now, with the IoT technology available, manual tasks like this one can be automated easily.
Further, by integrating the data from different sensors, process improvements, cost savings, reduced carbon emissions, and increased safety are all possible.
“Unlocking these data points is the first stepping stone to improving them,” Cowell de Gruchy said.
Real-time data transparency is the foundation of enabling new types of services that can forever change the way buildings are managed, and also deliver new, and enhanced tennant experiences. Employees can benefit from a cleaner work environment that is optimized with a focus on their health and wellbeing.