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The promise of the smart workplace and why it's ready to deliver

Let’s face it — the hype surrounding the internet of things and how it would magically transform your home into an oasis of seamless automation hasn’t exactly delivered. Consumer products like Google’s Nest and Amazon’s Echo have yet to fully live up to the promise of the connected home. But don’t be so quick to knock IoT in general; it’s becoming more advanced every day. There are plenty of devices and machines — backed by millions of lines of code — that apply the same automation in less visible, but no less impactful, corners of the world.

Industrial spaces, in particular, are ahead of the IoT adoption curve, applying networked sensors and systems to the benefit of their facilities and organizations. From heat maps that provide insight into occupancy and traffic patterns within a warehouse or factory, to asset tracking technology that helps monitor inventory and equipment via sensors, intelligent systems within industrial spaces are invaluable tool. Simply Google “industrial internet of things (IIoT)” or “industry 4.0” and you’ll quickly understand just how prevalent and influential these systems can be.

This has paved the way for IoT infiltration in the “smart workplace.” Maybe (okay, probably) even yours, regardless of if you work at a desk in a high-rise building or on the floor of a manufacturing plant. So, what makes workplaces ripe for the IoT revolution?

Data — and lots of it

Similar to a warehouse or other industrial environment, the office is a hive of activity and patterns, both obvious and unrecognized. People come and go, creating an ebb and flow around conference rooms, printers and other destinations, all of which can reveal something more meaningful about the state of the business at large. When wired for IoT, a building can track these behaviors, providing all sorts of data and applying analysis to turn that raw information into office-wide intelligence that improves productivity, engagement and safety — as well as the bottom line.

A new appreciation for employee engagement

Consider everything that contributes to a “good” day at work. In all likelihood, it’s not just what you accomplish, but how you accomplish it. With technology playing a larger role in our everyday lives, its ability to work with us, and not simply for us, has come to the forefront. This also means that many offices are no longer designed to be “one size fits all,” and IoT helps make this possible.

Customized individual lighting and temperature controls ensure a comfortable and optimized environment for specific desks or stretches of assembly lines. Sensors located in conference rooms can detect occupancy or usage trends and map to Outlook or Google calendars for dynamic room scheduling, creating a convenient solution to the “this conference room is always booked” problem. Collectively, these seemingly small improvements minimize distractions, improve engagement and allow employees to focus more completely on the responsibilities that matter most: increasing satisfaction and efficiency.

IoT-ready infrastructures

To deliver on its promise, IoT requires a few elements. It needs power. It needs a network. And it needs to be spaced appropriately so that the system is collecting data from a meaningful and representative swath of real estate and occupant behavior. Workspaces are, by nature, perfectly equipped to provide all of these things. Building management systems can integrate with the existing infrastructure, from power to HVAC, to provide some degree of automation and, in some cases, intelligence. Lighting systems can also provide a natural smart building network and, through embedded sensors, can leverage their power sources and evenly-distributed spatial design to easily capture the data necessary to truly understand the way a business operates. Companies can use these systems to not only change the way employees interact with their workspace, but also to make informed decisions that optimize their operations.

Intelligence and beyond in the new smart workplace

The trifecta of data, employee engagement and existing, equipped infrastructure make the workspace the natural next horizon for intelligence and smart building applications. And existing conduits, such as lighting, make this new world of integrated insight easier to achieve than once thought. With the workplace a daily destination for most of the population, it’s there that the benefits of this intelligence are likely to inspire new applications as well as the continued evolution of the IoT movement as a whole.

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