More Essential Than Ever: Occupancy Data for Safer, Better Buildings


Two years ago, we identified occupancy measurement systems as an emerging technology that we believed would become a standard, indispensable feature of commercial real estate. While some organizations remain wary due to privacy concerns, which are legitimate, we believe these issues can be managed and the value that real-time space utilization data provides to real estate decision-makers will prove essential. Now, with the COVID-19 pandemic and the question of how to safely bring people back to work, school, and public gathering places, we believe occupancy measurement is more essential than ever.

Two Years, 35 Technologies, 14 Criteria

TEECOMlabs conducted two years of research and experimentation into occupancy measurement technologies and products, including those on the market as well as experimental technologies that could conceivably be used for the purpose. Why? These are still emerging technologies, and through the completion of our study, no single perfect solution presented itself. We did however identify multiple promising possibilities.

Our 68-page report contains the following:

  • Recommendations for selecting an occupancy measurement system;
  • Policy considerations for implementing such a system;
  • Case studies in the potential value of these systems;
  • Data from evaluating 35 different technologies across 14 criteria.

We completed the project early in 2020, just before the start of the pandemic; the report therefore does not specifically address a COVID-19 use case, but it does provide the reference foundation organizations need to select and implement an occupancy measurement system.

Broadly speaking, we see three major areas of value to be derived from occupancy data at this time. Each has a wide range of subsets, many of which have yet to emerge in full detail.

Occupancy Data for COVID Safety

Occupancy measurement systems are the only definite way to know whether a space has exceeded its capacity for safe distancing. These systems could push notifications to smartphones to inform people whether or not a space is currently available. When a space exceeds safe capacity, occupancy measurements systems could notify the user, trigger a building alarm, or notify building management staff.

Occupancy Data for Enhancing Indoor Experiences

Organizations need definitive, quantitative data to inform sound decision-making about their existing assets. Which spaces are in high demand? Which are not and should be repositioned? An integrated occupancy system can also interface with lighting, temperature controls, and AV systems to activate a room upon users’ entry and begin a videoconference if one is scheduled. Occupancy systems can interface with room management systems to return a room to “available” status if the party booked for a meeting did not show up, or automatically book a room in the case of a walk-in. With a likely increase in hoteling desk space as a greater proportion of the corporate workforce becomes mobile and flexible, occupancy systems can effectively manage these resources and report real-time and historical usage data.

Occupancy Data for Optimizing Design of Future Space 

The only way to design the next building so that its ratio of room types matches user demand is to inform that design with a rich history of occupancy data from existing buildings.

Whether for existing or future buildings, space optimization means not wasting money on empty rooms, making the room resources users want readily available, and making the process of finding and booking those rooms as easy as possible. This should both reduce costs and increase productivity, boosting ROI.

Commercial real estate is entering a period in which safety is the first priority and aligning resources to the needs of an increasingly mobile and flexible workforce is the second. Occupancy measurement systems will prove critical to both of these objectives.

Interested in talking with TEECOMlabs about occupancy measurement and your needs? Fill out the Contact TEECOM form at the bottom of this page to get in touch with our TEECOMlabs team.


At TEECOMlabs, it’s our mission to provide clarity around how emerging technology affects the built environment and the people who use it. We test products by putting them into real-world simulations, we push the limits of systems compatibility, we prototype our own hardware and software, and we provide consulting and thought leadership.