What if a modern office could live on its own? What if it became an ecosystem that could function clearly, without any extra controls, providing all that is needed to support work activities? Sounds too perfect, doesn’t it? However, here we are going to consider the office of the future and focus attention on crucial issues that the IoT office is able to solve.
A Few Words about Smart Office Forecast
According to MarketsandMarkets research, smart offices will be a driver of tangible growth. The current smart office market is valued at USD 22.21 bln, with this expected to reach USD 46.11 bln by 2023. This means there will be a strong demand for IoT programmers in this area.
The Internet of Things is gradually immersing all spheres of life. Smart cities, Smart homes, Smart vehicles – it is reaching almost every system in which we need to control components remotely and/or implement their interaction. The Smart office is no exception. While we can currently see a bold border between these various just-emerging technologies, in the future the border is likely to disappear and several related smart areas will merge in a whole global IoT concept combining all existing similar systems – smart cars, smart homes, smart buildings, smart offices, smart infrastructure, smart cities... In other words, when speaking about the direction of IoT in one area, we touch on other areas because all of these mutually link to each other. The result is a common impact. A Smart lock is adopted by Smart buildings in Smart cities. A Smart car merges with a Smart home at the technological level.
Having said and recognized this, what however will the Smart office look like?
The smart corporate reality already exists, and advanced tech-savvy owners have endorsed the idea of intelligent digital workplaces responsive to the needs of the staff. Currently though the technology is still driven by human capabilities and market demand – it may take up to 20 years for the Smart office to have evolved and deployed enough to be a common illustration of the ideal future work space.
The Internet of Me, or IoT in HR
A human in the context of the system – a player in the context of the team. The Smart office concept can be considered in terms of it being an item in a community involved in a closed system that is designed to provide what is needed for efficient work. We can start treating the IoT system through ‘The Internet of Me’ approach.
Popular HR editor Steve Boese has discussed his vision of HR innovations. In his opinion, the Internet of Me takes the IoT concept a step further by integrating increasingly personalized products and services into corporate culture. Thus, in the same manner that a group of people begins from a single person, such a personalized approach will find the best way to create an efficient management system. If we keep track of following issues that Smart office technology resolves, we’ll see that each issue is a problem for every employee, and we therefore see that the main mission of the IoT office is to help the employee to do their work smoothly, to easily incorporate separate employees into a solid team, and to take control of and facilitate working and personal needs in the office.
What challenges will Smart office solve?
Speaking generally, IoT allows us to automate all office activities, including parts of the workflow to deliver more efficient work results and the work environment to form the conditions and the highly-equipped workspace where an employee has all they need at hand. Any network system consisting of some items integrated as with each other or directly with processing equipment can be considered as a future IoT system. So, we need to manage this network of objects to:
- reduce the time we spend for fulfilling any tasks;
- evenly spread actions and tasks to avoid over- and underloading;
- reasonably spend energy resources to reduce financial ones;
- automate all the things to simplify system management.
IoT office solutions can serve employees as well as employers. In the Smart office context, implementation of IoT technologies can not only speed-up workflows but cover the most topical business issues. Let’s consider them.
1. An intelligent environment to make convenient conditions for work
The Smart environment provides the capabilities of a smart building. For example, the organization of an office can include automation of electric lighting and work equipment, an intelligent security system (biometric and remotely-controlled locks), smart counters to collect statistics on electricity consumption, office microclimate specifications and differences, checking of the water supply, ensuring sufficient household and office supplies, and smart support for staff requests.
When an employee enters the room, sensors identify the visitor via motion sensors or other access controllers and send signals to the lighting system and all equipment inside the room to be switched on. Lighting, computers, conditioners, air-humidifiers all start working at levels pre-set for the employee’s comfort.
On one hand, the Internet of Me works because all the conditions are changed to be favorable for the employee. From the business perspective, the intelligent environment is beneficial for employers because its usage considerably reduces office maintenance and ongoing costs.
- monitoring humidity, temperature, air quality, illuminance;
- maintaining comfortable office environment;
- sensor monitoring and automatic device control;
- lighting failure analysis and replacement notification;
- roller blinds control;
- blocking standby power (reduction of power consumption).
To provide such operations, the room is equipped with sensors that detect the environmental status and devices such as air-cleaners, air-conditioners, humidifiers, lighting wall switchers, and smart plugs, which execute programmed commands according to various scenarios:
- turn on the office lighting based on information regarding the beginning of working hours and motion detector readings;
- gathering the temperature and humidity information in the office;
- when the temperature is high, air-conditioners are automatically turned on;
- when humidity is low, humidifiers are automatically turned on;
- when equipment is turned off, smart plugs are also turned off to block standby power;
- when the lighting in the office fails, the IoT system sends the administrator information about failure and turns on lighting from an extra generator if this is provided (in the case of a power cut).
2. Smart reception service to automate meeting visitors
The smart reception desk helps to unite in-house office life with some activities from outside. If we recently had a receptionist who met visitors, in case of automated reception service, it could work in the following way – a customer uses the wallpad to call the necessary employee, and the IP camera sends the employee a notification and a recorded image of the person waiting for him.
- easy calling service and searching for an employee;
- notification of customer visit to employee’s smartphone;
- customer identification through the camera image.
3. Smart meeting rooms
This works well in big companies of 200 persons and over. In this case, visiting a colleague can be difficult – finding a mutually convenient time and place, for example. However, the inner smart meeting system organizes all arrangements and discussions to avoid over-loading them when things are busy or under-loading when things are calm.
The smart meeting system can have several connected devices and software to provide all opportunities. Firstly, it is a web or mobile service to enable preparations for the upcoming meetings, and secondly, it is a service for remote control of devices. For example, you can customize your presentation remotely through a projector in advance, and coming to the smart meeting room, you can control the whole demonstration through your smartphone.
We should also mention that using AR and VR technologies at the junction of the IoT office can massively expand the opportunities for remote meetings – especially when thinking about very long distances.
- automated convenient booking system for meeting rooms;
- email request to attend a meeting;
- push notifications of meeting attendance;
- distribution an email of meeting minute;
- auto mode function (presentation start, complete);
- broadcasting to employees’ smartphones and possibility to join the meeting online.
4. Smart security zone
Security inside the office can also be smart. It’s not just the outside wall that needs to be secure for many offices. The system is outfitted with door sensors, IP cameras, motion sensors, smart alarm integrators and others, providing fully-automated control of every action in the office during the day, when staff are working inside, and at night, when all people have left the office. We can treat security in general, but overall it means more ways of control, enabling control over employees’ actions to avoid information leakage and intervention against insiders. A separate direction is the use of smart locks, smart cameras, smart tracking software, etc.
- intrusion detection and notification;
- real-time camera images;
- video recording;
- smart locks status and remote control.
5. Smart space management service
Speaking about smart office opportunities, we shouldn’t forget about the personal necessities for employees. One example concerns the automation of restrooms and kitchens. The employee can use connected devices when – for example – going to get a coffee and relax in the lounge zone: the system will tell him before he goes there how many people are there and whether the zone has free spaces for him.
- occupancy checking using Smartphone;
- real-time update of occupancy information.
To sum up the smart office opportunity, we see that there are many corporate scenarios where IoT can make a difference to the enabling of business activities, rather than spending resources on redundant actions. This is the main idea of IoT development as a whole: the technology helps to make a system efficient, reducing all expenditure and increasing its potential.
Photo Credit: Tayloright