Smart Building Technology in action
A gym or similar location for sports or working out presents quite a unique environment to supervise and maintain. With many people coming and leaving all through the day and expecting a high-quality location for their activities, monitoring things such as the flow of people, machine usage, and air quality become key to giving customers the best experience. It is easy to ensure that the facilities are always presentable and optimal by monitoring such areas, making the business competitive in a rapidly expanding industry.
Smart building technology is used in more industries to monitor and optimize operations, and training facilities like gyms are no exception. With smart building sensors and associated software, it becomes easy to see both negative and positive trends in facilities often used 24/7 but only rarely or ever staffed. With businesses leaning more and more towards less staff and increased automation, smart building technology is quickly becoming necessary to run a modern-day business successfully.
Some issues to address
Heavy load on machines
If you go to gyms, you most probably have experienced some machine or piece of equipment being busy for a long time, leaving you to be creative while waiting for your turn so that you can finish your workout plan. While some days, this seems to be the issue with almost all machines, there are certainly some machines that are way busier than others. Determining what machines are causing too much waiting time for customers can be vital to optimizing operations.
Nobody likes overcrowding; the verb sufficiently says it all. If you come to a gym full of people with hot, sweaty air and most equipment being busy, you will probably find yourself at a better gym pretty soon. While this has always been an issue, it becomes a severe problem in times of a pandemic. Suppose a person is hesitant to visit a gym out of fear of catching infection due to sharing an indoor space with strangers for an extended time. In that case, a gym with good air quality and lots of space and machines will likely be the only option for that person. If a gym cannot uphold those standards, then that gym is likely to lose many customers.
Sweaty machines, trash containers filled to the brim, and equipment spread out all through the facilities – Keeping the facilities in top condition is always a challenge, which often results in business owners either doing too much or too little to reach that goal. Optimizing expenses is key to running a successful business, and with the right information, there is often an opportunity to trim some costs in the facilities’ services.
One of the most significant issues that gym owners face is maintaining good air quality. By facilitating an exercise location that lacks air quality, it is easy to lose many customers. People with respiratory issues or that hate poor and smelly air will quickly determine that such a location will not be suitable for them.
WHO estimates that 334 million people globally have asthma, which translates to 4% or 4 out of 100 people, for whom it is vital with good air quality. In the US alone, asthma affects 5-10% of Americans, while 1 out of 7 older adults has some form of lung disease, with 1/3 of these people experiencing severe issues. Not even looking at the multitude of other common respiratory problems such as allergies, it is easy to see the demand for a gym to provide good air quality to maintain customers and care for their health.
The cost of the resulting churn
Looking at costs, or rather losses in these examples, we see customers switching their gym provider to be the prevalent cause of revenue loss.
2,36% of people globally, with up to 21-22% in countries like Sweden, Norway, and the US, are gym members. With each gym member being worth everything from about $200-900 annually depending on the country, with European and North American gym members typically worth around $500 each, we can easily calculate quite a high potential loss due to poor air quality alone.
Let us use the US as an example; By dividing the total of 64,2 million American gym members with the 41 370 gyms in the country, and by generously counting as low as 5%, or 1 in every 20 people, being sensitive to poor air quality, we could expect a loss of about $38 500 from that gym’s annual revenue. The number 5% is probably much higher if you consider the people who can’t handle the foul smell of old sweat. This is a substantial loss considering that air quality monitoring and optimization are very cost-effective when using smart building technology.
Other factors that can nudge members to switch gym can be; machines that are always busy, staff not being present when needed, or facilities being in poor conditions or lacking maintenance—adding even more churn. Monitoring the facilities with smart building technology could have avoided an unnecessary loss without overdoing maintenance and unnecessary staff expenses.
Keeping mind and body in good shape is a given foundation for all people’s health, and during times of a pandemic, it becomes increasingly important. Further looking at lifestyle-related respiratory issues, it is paramount that people can get back on track in healthy environments that promote success and wellbeing. With this in mind, it becomes clear that proper maintenance of every aspect of the facilities is paramount.
The challenge, then, is how to do this cost-effectively. With smart building technology, it becomes easy to gain valuable insights to avoid losses and attract new clients. If we look at what sensors can aid within these environments, we can see many data points that would be valuable to measure.
Below is an example from a large Swedish real estate customer of Sensative, where we have added further suggestions for applications. This client runs our IoT platform Yggio as the foundation for the whole office building’s operation, including a gym. Yggio enables the customer to combine sensors and technology from different brands, allowing them to choose the most appropriate technology in each case. Through Yggio, our customer decided to deploy both Presence sensors from Sensative and multi-sensors from Decentlab.
Managing machines, overcrowding, and maintenance
There are many places in a gym where you could gather valuable information through what is known as presence sensors. A presence sensor measures the presence of something in an on/off fashion. Presence sensors are produced by Sensative and other IoT companies working with smart building technology, offering different designs, features, battery life-time, and more. In this case, our customer chose to put Sensative’s presence sensors on all machines to measure the level of activity overall and on each machine.
Continuously occupied machines could be an issue in the long run as customers will get tired of waiting every time they want to work out. Placing presence sensors on every machine makes it easy to see what equipment is the most popular. You can thereby determine which, if any, of those would benefit from further investments. While machines might be expensive, it might very well be a mistake not to install one or two more of the overused ones. Otherwise, you might be at risk that customers might very well switch to a “better” gym otherwise, and the company might lose a more significant amount of money than what the machines would have cost.
Looking at facility maintenance, especially cleaning, monitoring with smart building technology can quickly “alert” when there is a need for cleaning. By placing presence sensors or magnetic open/close sensors like Strips +Guard on, for instance, toilet doors, trash cans, and machines, you can learn a lot and improve efficiency and service level. You can set up rules where your staff can act upon certain events, like having Yggio sends out an alert when a certain amount of people have visited a toilet or used a machine so that you know when it is time for cleaning services.
Apart from using data in automation, presence sensors can also tell if some areas of the facilities are more crowded than others based on data from machines, doors, and more. After monitoring and gathering data for some time, it would become apparent if it is necessary to change the gym layout and move machines to spread out the more popular machines or areas. It might even show that larger facilities are needed.
Optimizing air quality
In this specific case, our client chose to place multi-sensors on several places in their facility to measure air quality to optimize the usage of their HVAC system and notice any alarming trends overall. With these multi-sensors running through Yggio, our client could measure air quality by values such as carbon dioxide, relative humidity, and hydrocarbons.
People breathing in a closed space indoors can quickly accumulate carbon dioxide due to poor ventilation. Still, the sometimes unhealthy high amounts of carbon dioxide found indoors are usually a result of air pulled in when people enter or exit the facilities.
As commonly known from many situations, lack of ventilation and a buildup of carbon dioxide makes people very tired. It would become very strenuous for anybody exerting themselves during a workout in a gym or similar facility. Something that could easily cause customers to look for better facilities for their workouts.
Relative humidity is a typical value to measure and is often featured in multi-sensors. High values of relative humidity can become quite a problem when high temperatures combined with high humidity can lead to the body not being able to expel enough heat, making it unbearable to work out. It is not wise to be a cheapskate during a summer heatstroke when it comes to the HVAC.
Customers will quickly find themselves another gym, where they are likely inclined to pay more per month as long as they can work out in a comfortable environment.
Hydrocarbons, measured as VOC (volatile organic compounds) or TVOC (total…), show a wide range of organic compounds that can pollute the air. In a gym environment, this could be emissions from plastic carpets and other materials or alcohol from hand sanitizer.
While alcohol is not very strenuous on the lungs, other pollutants such as plastic nano particles can be harmful in the long run. A person without any respiratory problems will likely not notice the pollution before it builds up and becomes a real health issue. In contrast, sensitive people could easily find breathing difficult in such an environment and easily cause customers to leave for another place to work out.
After our client implemented smart building technology with Yggio as master control and data gatherer, it became clear from the data, shown in the graphs above, that some values were alarmingly high at times. Through Yggio, it was easy to see that both carbon dioxide, relative humidity, and hydrocarbons spiked dramatically during weeknights and weekends. The levels dropped again during weekdays and continued dropping exponentially until the next weekend, where they would again return to the highest levels.
After further investigations, it was discovered that the HVAC system had been programmed to run at reduced flow during weeknights and weekends to preserve energy and reduce cost. It all came down to underestimations of how much was needed by the contractor. In a case like this, it is easy to see how smart building technology can let business managers optimize operations and expenses to care for customers while providing a better and healthier environment.
The key is to get the data and insights needed to make truly informed decisions, giving customers the climate they thrive in and happily pay for, while neither wasting resources nor making the facilities worse by overcompensating.