By: Sara Upton
The IoT (or “Internet Of Things”) is becoming a more popular topic of conversation these days. Many have already realized this with regard to individual use (say, through fitness trackers) or “smart homes.” But the IoT can also have a huge effect on the workplace – here’s how.
As part of what may be the most sweeping benefit of the IoT in general, plenty of office spaces are already transitioning to “smarter” lighting and temperature control systems that conserve energy, thus saving significant amounts of money. Essentially, lights and thermostats turn off automatically when they’re not needed.
An office filled with energy conscious employees can of course make this happen already. The difference now is that lights and other electric appliances can recognize the need to turn on or off on their own. It’s a simple matter of sensors that allow them to “know” when someone is approaching or in the room. Or, in the case of a thermostat, a building may “learn” when to heat up or cool off based on office hours.
This is important for businesses on several levels. Perhaps most significant is cost efficiency. As an example, one article about IoT energy solutions in homes pointed out that water heating can make up 18 percent of a utility bill – largely by running constantly. This sort of expense doesn’t happen with a smart energy conservation system in place. Lights, water heaters, heating and air conditioning, etc. only run when absolutely necessary. And beyond cash concerns, comfort is another perk. Theoretically, an office taking advantage of modern energy solutions is an environment that is always adjusted to a comfortable and well-lit atmosphere.
Analyzing The Use Of Space
Another feature of some smart lighting systems is that lights can actually double as sensors, keeping track of where employees are moving within an office space. To be clear, they’re not cameras, and thus don’t record anyone’s specific face or features—you’re not going to get in trouble in a smart office for spending half an hour at the vending machine in the afternoon, or coming in a little late now and then. This particular aspect of the IoT shouldn’t get you worried about surveillance.
That said, by tracking general movement, sensors allow companies to analyze how space is being used, and potentially make the office more useful. Under-utilized space can be recognized and changed to facilitate greater needs. For instance, if a board room is only used once or twice a week, it can be broken down into smaller offices; if only one or two people are ever in the kitchen, part of that kitchen could be changed into storage. It’s all about gaining a fuller picture of how space can be utilized.
In large part this is simply about maximizing real estate. However, it also makes for a more intuitive and comfortable working environment. The idea is that by analyzing the use of space, that space can be optimized, not just so that offices aren’t wasting money maintaining unnecessary areas, but so that employees have the rooms they need, laid out in a sensible manner. It’s a subtle change, but one that makes for an improved everyday experience.
Improved fleet management
Depending on the nature of your workplace, you may have a shipping fleet— even if that means just a few vehicles that operate on the business’s behalf. For that matter, you may simply depend upon a fleet to deliver products to your office from time to time. Either way, businesses rely in one way or another on vehicles and deliveries, which can be a major hassle.
Once upon a time, delivery vehicles operated like their own division, handling shipping and deliveries, but not directly linked to office activity. Thanks to the IoT, that’s no longer the case. With WiFi sensors in vehicles, companies can now enjoy real-time sharing of vehicle diagnostics, locating vehicle whereabouts, staying on top of inventory, tracking the need for repair, and keeping drivers on schedule. Basically, the complex task of managing even a small fleet is fully automated, and you no longer have to worry about what’s going on with deliveries you may be sending out or waiting on.
Naturally the primary benefits here are for drivers and fleet managers. However, there’s also an important benefit for customers. The more smoothly a shipping or delivery process works, the more likely it is that a customer will have a positive experience, finding the products or services he or she wants ready and in stock.
Better building security
Just as homes are becoming more secure as a result of the IoT’s rise, places of business are experiencing the same benefit. Managers can handle security remotely, receiving automatic updates from cameras if someone is at the door, and setting locks on a schedule. There are also smart sensors that can recognize employee IDs and determine who is allowed into a given space at which hours of the day. And naturally, IoT security systems can also incorporate more traditional elements such as motion sensors and interior security cameras and the like.
These kinds of changes are most interesting for building owners and office managers, but it’s also worth noting that they can contribute to a sense of ease among employees. There’s just something pleasant about being able to walk into work knowing the area is secure, but not having to consciously worry about why or how! Plus, with more employees splitting their time between home and the office, it’s nice to have added security if and when you leave a device like a personal computer at the office while you work elsewhere.
This might be the most significant point for a lot of workplaces. As more devices and machines are connected to each other, manual data entry will fall by the wayside. Our computers and devices learn how to log activity and record data in the appropriate places, which can save a significant amount of time for the average employee.
Similarly, clients can have company data sent automatically to their devices for perusal during and after meetings; new applicants’ résumé information can be transferred to managers and HR departments in similar fashion. The improvement of data sharing and management techniques can greatly transform how things work on a day-to-day basis. Frankly, it can just make a lot of tedious tasks quicker and easier.
Improving data management can also facilitate the need or desire for a lot of employees these days to work remotely, at least on occasion. Syncing information via cloud networks makes it easier than ever before for employees to do all the work they need to do whether or not they’re actually able to be on site.
This should clarify just how impactful the IoT may soon be in your office and business all over the world.
By Sara Upton