The Next Generation of Smart Sensors in Commercial Real Estate

Beacons and Sensors Research Brief

The internet of things (IoT) is helping the CRE industry to make fine-tuned, data-driven decisions about increasing operational efficiencies and improving tenant and customer experiences. IoT-connected beacons and sensors are able to track equipment, the movement of goods and people, and report on conditions such as indoor air quality. Data continuously streaming from these devices enables real-time analysis and visualization.

The NAIOP Research Foundation took a closer look at how these tiny, affordable and ubiquitous sensors are being used in commercial real estate in its new Research Brief, Beacons and Sensors in Commercial Real Estate. The brief provides an overview of some of the types of equipment currently in use in CRE settings such as radio-frequency identification (RFID), geofencing, beacons, and WELL™ and RESET™ technologies.

Many beacons and sensors use technologies such a GPS, Bluetooth™, radio waves, and Wi-Fi to gather and transit information. RFID, a comparatively older form of tracking technology, uses radio waves to identify and track tagged objects. RFID is widely used to determine the location and identity of workers and equipment on construction sites, as well as enable warehouse robot pickers to fill retail orders.

Geofencing makes use of GPS-enabled smartphones to determine when a person has entered into a geographic boundary or perimeter. For example, JLL developed PinPoint, a tool to monitor shoppers within a geofence at shopping centers the company manages or leases. The data collected by the geofence interface provides an exact count of foot traffic, as well as accurate and quantifiable examples of consumer behavior.

Beacons are used in location-based messaging and tracking, but the platform generally relies on Bluetooth™ technology rather than cellular or Wi-Fi networks. Beacons also have a smaller target range than a geofence. Initial beacon applications were limited to retail settings, but they are increasingly being used in other industries such as manufacturing, logistics and health care.

The WELL Building Standard™ (WELL) has partnered to combine its performance-based system for measuring, certifying and monitoring features of the built environment that impact human health and well-being (such as air and water quality, optimal lighting and availability of fresh food) with GIGA’s RESET ™ environmental sensors and cloud-based analytics. The sensors, placed around various locations within a building, collect ambient data and store it in a secure server where it can be analyzed and used toward building wellness certification.

Beacons and sensors are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Instead of a single sensor performing one task, as with motion-detector lighting in conference rooms, devices are now networked to each other, connected to the internet, and collecting data that can be parsed and longitudinally analyzed. The data collected are becoming increasingly valuable because they can be monetized or used to improve outcomes. However, technology is changing so rapidly that keeping up with how to collect, store and protect data, and which hardware and software systems to use, can be overwhelming. To expedite decisionmaking and mitigate risk, companies are hiring IoT consultants who advise them about where to locate and connect sensors, as well as how to manage the data.

The use of sophisticated devices to monitor and assess environments, despite the challenges, will continue to bring about transformation in commercial real estate. As the rate of adoption increases, material and implementation costs will decrease and approaches will become standardized. Data privacy and protection will continue to remain a primary concern, even with increasing regulations.

Read the Beacons and Sensors in Commercial Real Estate research brief for a more in-depth look at these topics and the implications for commercial real estate.