Back 2 Office in Corona times

Back at the Office: IoT Automation Ensures Clean Air at the Workplace in the Times of Corona

Goodbye to working from home! Plenty of people are now returning to the office. However, we need to proceed with caution: the corona threat is by no means a thing of the past. Even following the hygiene rules to the letter doesn’t entirely eliminate the risk of catching the virus. The cause: infectious aerosols in the air in offices. However, putting smart measures in place keeps  the amount of airborne particles low. We show you five ways of how staff returning to the office can use the internet of things to get to grips with building airing, safety and power consumption in the time of Corona.

 

1. Sensor Automation Helps Lower Airborne Particle Mass Concentration

Mit Sensorautomatiken Aerosole in der Raumluft verringern
Image courtesy of Netatmo

 

In the pre-Corona days, airing rooms at regular intervals has already been a contributing factor when it comes to keeping staff productivity levels high. Now, the importance of airing has gone up massively: new studies carried out at the TU Berlin show that people congregating indoors without airing expose themselves to a significantly higher risk of catching Covid. Besides carbon dioxide (CO2), air exhaled by humans also contains aerosols that can carry, among other germs, SARS CoV2. In turn, other people inhaling these airborne particles may get infected with COVID-19. Opening the windows replaces room air with fresh air thereby lowering the particle mass concentration of potentially infectious aerosols.

How to detect high aerosol concentrations? Unlike CO2 levels, determining and monitoring the precise amount of airborne particles in the air in rooms is complicated. However, since indoor particle mass and CO2 concentration increase proportionally, the latter serves as a useful indicator for when it is time to let some fresh air in.

There is one problem though: “A lot of studies show that most people can’t tell when rooms need to be aired, to keep CO2 levels below the limit,” points out Professor Martin Kriegel who heads the Hermman Rieschel Institute at TU Berlin. Fact is, rooms need to be aired much more often than you think. “Make sure you open the windows in office building every hour for about three to ten minutes,” explains Kriegel, quoting EU Workplace Health and Safety Guidelines. However, a more accurate method is using carbon dioxide detectors, for example the ones supplied by Netatmo.

Sitting at the desk focussing on your work normally means you are not paying attention to CO2 sensor readings. So the devices making themselves unmistakably heard comes in handy. This can be achieved by choosing IoT compatible products that come with built-in wireless technology. If you link a suitable Netamo device to a push message function, the sensor alerts you via text, email, Slack or WhatsApp notification. If you like to keep your phone muted during working hours, why not use smart colour light bulbs by Philips Hue, or by other suppliers, or opt for bright large-size LED panel lights Nanoleaf to draw peoples’ attention?

This means everyone in the room gets the message that NOW is the time to open the windows. Which serves two purposes at the same time: boosting creativity by supplying your brain with a chunk of fresh air, and minimise the Corona risk at the workplace by lowering the amount of airborne aerosols in the room.

2. Save Money on Utility Bills when Airing Smart Office Space

Energiekosten beim Lüften des Smart Office senken
shutterstock_117008611 - AdobeStock_163418717

 

We are now approaching the time of the year when heating office space is back on the agenda. Tip: turn down thermostatic radiator valves when opening the windows to let some fresh air in. Otherwise you are just wasting money. And it’s bad for the environment, too. However, we all forget things once in a while, and even more so when you get tied up at work. This is where smart office routines come in.

Interlinking IoT-enabled radiator valves (TRVs) and window contacts on our platform makes your heating control instantly smarter. The sensors detect windows being opened and tell the TRVs via the Conrad Connect platform to turn down the heating. Once you are done airing, the sensors let the valves know it’s time to get the room temperature back to comfy levels.

Above automation make reducing energy costs and contributing to a company’s sustainability goals as easy as it gets. And particularly so, if you are airing a lot more than usual to limit the amount of airborne infectious aerosols to minimise the COVID -19 risk.

3. Open Space Traffic Light-type Corona Warning Displays

Corona-Warnampeln für Open Spaces
Shutterstock-1700844079

 

Keeping a safe distance will stay top of the priority list after being back at the office – regardless of how well you air to get rid of potentially infectious aerosols. Talking about facilities occupied by fixed number of people, planning ahead isn’t really an issue. However, when it comes to open office space, things tend not to be that easy, requiring appropriate crowd management. Assigning staff is both inconvenient and expensive. Using smart technology to automate access control is both effective and unobtrusive - like the smart customer flow management by Conrad Connect, by Conrad Connect and Smart City Solutions.

The system revolves around IoT sensors placed at the doors counting people and detecting the direction they are moving in. Conrad Connect uses these data to calculate how many people are currently in this part of the building. If the numbers reach a preset upper limit, text displays tell new arrivals to wait until a sufficient amount of individuals have vacated the space. As an alternative to screen messages, the setup also works with smart colour bulbs in a traffic light type arrangement.

Many high street retail outlets and community buildings are already using this kind of smart crowd management, with the system capable of being easily modified to service office space.

4. Smart Room Booking during the Time of Corona

Intelligente Raumbuchungen in Corona-Zeiten
AdobeStock

 

Video calls aren’t a blanket approach suited to replace each and every face-to-face meetings for the foreseeable future. People returning to the office also means resuming staff meetings held in conference rooms or other indoor facilities. Smart Room Booking helps attendees maintain a safe distance by ensuring proper room size, also preventing people from bursting into ongoing meetings where the maximum permissible number of people is already present. Using our platform to interlink digital time planners and Joan digital signage on meeting room doors shows everyone on site which facilities are free or occupied. Conrad Connect also allows time planners to interact with smart locks that ensure nobody is able to enter a room outside of pre-booked time slots.

5. Using Wi-Fi Speakers to Issue Coronavirus Rules Reminders

Mit WLAN-Lautsprechern an Corona-Routinen erinnern
Image courtesy of Sonos

 

The current pandemic turns our old life upside down, with many daily routines now requiring a thorough rethinking. Especially at the office where decades of old habits tend to kick in automatically, and where written guidelines quickly lose their impact drowning in an onslaught of signage plastered all over the place these days. To avoid Corona fatigue, audio reminders are a really handy and very effective way of keeping everyone aware of the procedures.

Sonos Wi-Fi speakers and motion detectors are basically all you need to set up automated reminders. “Sonos Talks!” services that turn the audio system into a smart assistant are available on Conrad Connect. At the heart of it: a text-to-speech converter that generates voice messages to be announced via loudspeaker whenever the motion detectors register movement in the area. Message content can be customised according to the requirements. For instance, this allows reminding visitors arriving at the building as well as staff using kitchen facilities at work, or entering storage rooms and open space office areas, of any applicable coronavirus rules.

Want to find out more about how the Internet of Things makes returning to the office in the time of Corona easier? Check out Conrad Connect!