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Commercial buildings and IoT: The evolution of experience

Think a building stands to do nothing more than shield you from the elements, and house a collection of things and people? Think again. Technology advancements are revolutionizing how we interact with everything, including buildings, and the experiences we’re able to have as a result.

The connectivity enabled by the internet of things — from infrastructure to devices — has made buildings smarter, transforming them into strategic contributors to organizational outcomes, as previously discussed. This notably includes driving deeper levels of interaction with occupants and owners to help enhance overall experiences within buildings of all varieties, from commercial structures to hospitals and airports. Consider your own experience at work or when you visit hotels, hospitals and airports. How can technology enhance that experience and simplify day-to-day tasks?

In this post, we’ll delve into these experience advancements and what they mean for occupants — including app-driven changes and the tie-in with mobile devices — and how they’re enabling everyone in the building to get the best experience, regardless of role or industry.

Changing expectations

Connectivity impacting experiences isn’t a new concept; it’s already helping shape our everyday experiences, driven primarily by the ubiquity of smartphones. Consider this: Your day likely starts with a technology-heavy ritual that includes scrolling through email via your smartphone. With another swipe, you effortlessly check the day’s weather. If you’re traveling on business, you may then ask your phone to guide you to the nearest coffee shop before you dispatch a ride-sharing service to get you to your meetings. You might then check how long it will take you to get there through a real-time look at traffic, so you know if you have time for a quick video chat with a colleague — again, all from your phone.

All of this happens without much thought or effort, and in many ways, we’ve come to take this level of convenience and control in shaping our overall experiences for granted. As a result, these capabilities are influencing expectations for how we can do our work and go about our daily lives — expectations that don’t go away when we enter a building. Instead, with smartphones firmly in our pockets, we’ve come to expect the same level of interaction and engagement with our surroundings.

This is the fundamental challenge and opportunity with IoT. Fortunately, by taking advantage of connectivity, this amount of control and convenience can now extend to a building. And this is not change for change’s sake; commercial building stakeholders who embrace this trend and the underlying tenets, including occupant experience, can have a hand in benefiting operations and outcomes.

Building blocks

This notion of connectivity — and the improved experiences it enables for building occupants — is made possible through an interconnected framework of components. These components can include everything from connecting devices, mobile apps and cloud-based data management, to real-time services and social networking. These building blocks can help turn buildings into value-creators.

For example, integrating digital identification with core building functions provides a pathway to improving how an occupant can interact with his surroundings. That user can potentially control things such as occupant comfort, or how he is able to move about a workplace from both an access and way-finding standpoint. This can lead to more comfortable and empowered occupants. Facility managers, in turn, have improved insight to manage their buildings better, which can lead to downstream benefits, like easily managing credentials and keeping facilities secure, and saving time by quickly fixing comfort problems.

Enhanced experiences

With a set of standardized building blocks in place, the possibilities for enhanced experiences are endless, and can quickly benefit facility environments. Consider the following ways these benefits are coming to life in buildings:

  • Amplified awareness: Data and applications can help building occupants become more aware of their surroundings. For an employee of a large corporation, for example, enhanced awareness means knowing not just what is happening in a building, but what that means for occupant experiences — from comfort levels and what’s for lunch in the cafeteria, to knowing where the nearest available conference room is.
    Similarly, increased awareness for an airline passenger at an airport could mean quickly identifying the various food options near the passenger’s gate. For other types of building occupants, such as first responders who only occupy a building for a short time, enhanced experiences can take form in other ways, like easily being able to locate occupants in a building to support a safe evacuation.
  • Better insight: Data analytics enable key insights around events that occur within a building, including why they happened and if they’ll happen again. Those details are accessible via reporting, rules and diagnoses capabilities, as well as predictive analysis and the ability to explore what-if scenarios. These capabilities drive better insights and are all aimed at making experiences more predictably positive for occupants and organizational outcomes.
    For a healthcare professional, improved insight could mean receiving automated alerts if he fails to stop by hand-washing station prior to meeting with his next patient. Airport passengers could benefit by being able to determine if they have enough time to eat before boarding begins. And a real estate professional could use this improved insight to determine if she should lease a new building, or if an existing space is capable of accommodating new employees.
  • Improved control: The right connectivity building blocks can enable improved control for enhanced outcomes including the improved efficiency, optimization, personalization and effectiveness of building spaces and assets across industries. Employees in standard office spaces could benefit from real-time access to available spaces and resources to enable ad-hoc collaboration, or tap into the ability to improve the comfort of their surrounding environments by raising or lowering the temperature for enhanced productivity. Facility managers, in turn, benefit from being able to drive energy savings while meeting and exceeding occupant expectations surrounding comfort.
    And, as we’ve previously noted, vertical markets stand to benefit, as well. A hospital visitor could use this improved control to autonomously find his way to an admitted loved one he’s come to visit. For an airport passenger, we might one day even see this granular level of control result in the delivery of a meal right to her seat before she boards a plane.

The possible applications are numerous, but all share a common truth. With improved experiences for occupants, buildings stand to benefit in other ways not previously possible — or quantifiable.

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