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How does connected lighting support space utilization and wayfinding?

The management of real estate is one of the largest expenditures for most companies. Therefore, a comprehensive understanding of how a building is used is essential for proper facility management, especially in buildings where space comes at premium. Connected lighting systems can provide space utilization analytics that ultimately lead to the optimization of building resources.

Additionally, location-based services support wayfinding, or spatial problem-solving, within a facility. With this technology, facility users have access to a digital map that relies on the most advanced internet of things (IoT) technology to guide — and track — them throughout the space.

Today, connected lighting systems provide a natural platform for housing and deploying this valuable technology. We caught up with Ganesh Balasubramanian, product manager, connected buildings for Eaton’s Lighting Division, to discuss how connected lighting systems help facilities analyze space utilization and assist users in wayfinding.

How does connected lighting help analyze space utilization?

GB: It can be difficult to determine how a space is used in a large facility without the assistance of advanced technology that is distributed and connected throughout the facility. Connected lighting systems provide an ideal platform: all indoor facilities require lights, and fortunately, digital sensors are seamlessly integrated into this type of network.

For example, connected lighting solutions like Eaton’s LumaWatt Pro constantly gather data through an embedded digital sensor. In fact, LumaWatt Pro’s digital sensors capture occupancy data up to 60 times per second to provide granular information. The system has a network within a building that is very dense compared to traditional systems. Now, you have five or six sensors in a room, where before you may have only had one. These sensors tell you how densely a certain space is populated over time, and which spaces are unused or underutilized.

The application also collects high-level data on how people move within a space, while helping users find their way on the ground. Motion animation and heat maps are generated to provide insight into how much time people spend in certain places, where they came from and where they go next. This utilization and movement data is invaluable when it comes to auditing and optimizing services.

Take health care facilities, for example. They have patient rooms and exam rooms — what hospitals call revenue-generating rooms. Health care administrators want to maximize the usage of these rooms and ensure they’re never empty. That’s where the room analysis piece of the system’s Enlighted Space software comes into play. On a daily basis, you can see which rooms are most used or unused, how often they’re used and for how long. For example, if you have five exam rooms but only use two most of the time, you could reduce the number of rooms and, in turn, reduce operating expenses, creating value for the hospital.

Why is this technology so valuable to facility managers, owners and users?

GB: Seeing detailed, nonintrusive views of workspaces in the form of graphs, heat maps and an interactive dashboard, coupled with the movement of people within these spaces, allows facility managers and owners to increase productivity, optimize space and drive cost-saving initiatives. The visual insights help you make better decisions about egress routes, corridor congestion and even carpet wear.

Wayfinding capabilities are a major benefit for users, too. I remember being new to Atlanta and going to the hospital for some testing. The doctor told us to go to the lab, but we struggled to find the test location. We finally found a nurse who walked us to the lab, but only after finding someone else to give us directions.

If you incorporate this technology, it can help patients get from point A to point B with ease. Without it, you could compromise user experiences and the overall usability of your facility.

Which segments stand to benefit the most?

GB: Due to the manner in which health care, airports, education, retail and corporate office buildings are used, they can benefit the most from connected lighting technology. Deploying location-based services in an airport, for example, can help people find their gates or other areas of interest, such as shopping and restaurants. When you’re rushing through the airport to make a connecting flight and you need to get there fast, you can bring up an app on your phone to receive turn-by-turn navigation to the next gate.

In a retail scenario, this technology can help customers get through the store more quickly. They simply upload their shopping list, and the application generates a map that shows them how to get from item to item, allowing them to get in and out of the store in less than 20 minutes.

If facilities desire optimal space utilization, ease of use and unabridged safety, integrated location-based services technology is the ultimate solution — and connected lighting is the ideal way to deploy it.