Jhonathan, a project manager at a IT services company wants to meet up with some of his team to discuss the final draft of the tender submission for a project. He rises from his table and scans the meeting rooms. Some of them seem to have their lights on, indicating that someone is using it while a few are dark. He launches his outlook calendar and looks up the rooms that are dark. To his disappoint he finds that the dark rooms apparently have meetings going on in them. Another quick scan still shows that there is no activity in those rooms for another 10 minutes. He start looking up the participants in the meeting and starts contacting the organizers to check if they are still needing the room. By the time he is able to get started on his meeting, a solid 30 minutes is wasted.
Companies all over the world face this problem of meeting rooms that are booked but not occupied. The potential loss of business opportunity, the unnecessary stress created by those who need rooms and the wasted effort in trying to get people off the meeting rooms create wastage of time and morale.
In this article, we look at potential ways to improve the utilization of the meeting rooms by automatically detecting and releasing rooms that are not occupied. These techniques use a combination of software, hardware and policy implementations that can result in significant improvements in room usage.
The two primary approaches is automated and manual.
In the automated technique a grace period of 10 to 15 minutes is provided by the administrator within which the room needs to be occupied. If the room is not occupied within the grace period, then the booking is automatically released and the participants are notified. The process of detecting occupancy can vary by the technology being implemented. Some of the techniques are explained below.
Indicating Start Of Meeting
In this approach, all control is done directly through software. The room booking system has a timer that starts once the meeting time has started. The timer tracks the grace period for the meeting. If the participants indicate that they are using the room, then the timer is stopped and the meeting continues as per normal. However, if no one indicates that the room is being used, then the timer will trigger an auto-release once the grace period is over.
Card Access Scan
In this approach, the scanning of the card on the door access control system can trigger the room booking system to mark the room as occupied. This can be used only for rooms that door access control built into them.
In this approach, activity in the room can be detected using various sensor technologies such as motion detection, voice activation, image processing or AV triggering events.
In the manual technique, meetings rooms undergo routine spot checks by the receptionist or facilities team to identify ghost meetings and mark them as no-shows. Although this technique is not recommended as it is ad-hoc, some organizations prefer to have this method for certain reasons.
For example, a senior management meeting that was to start at 2pm but got delayed due to some reason cannot be automatically released. So, a level of manual intervention may be needed.
Secondly, automated room release may not be a viable option from a cost stand point. With the exception of software controlled triggering, other techniques may be cost prohibitive.
Thirdly, in some of the traditional buildings, the meeting room doors are operated by keys that need to be collected from the receptionist. In these cases, there is already a level of control by the receptionist. If they keys are not collected, then the room is not occupied. So, the receptionist can manually trigger a no-show.
Unoccupied meetings pose a real productivity loss to the organization where people with real needs are prevented from using the meeting room because someone forgot to cancel their bookings. With a combination of software and hardware, such no-shows can be easily detected and acted upon, freeing up the rooms for others to book. This can improve the room utilization as well as productivity of the staff.