Embracing the Smart Office
Often forgotten in the rush to deploy IoT sensors and connected devices is a place where a great deal of people spend a great deal of time: the office. In most cases, moreover, workspace systems that control lighting, window shades, conference rooms, temperatures, and security lack digital integration and are expensive to operate.
Integrators shouldn’t overlook this burgeoning opportunity. According to research firm Markets and Markets, smart office revenues will reach $46.11 billion by 2023. Among the key technologies: sensor networks that support energy efficiency, IoT solutions that increase productivity, and safety and security systems.
The Markets and Markets report groups smart office business opportunities into three primary areas: consulting services, installation and support services, and managed services. The last of those categories is especially compelling for buyers, according to the report, because it helps businesses “maximize network performance and uptime, minimize operational risk, and significantly reduce capital and operational expenditures.”
A number of companies offer products for the smart office market, including ABB, Cisco Systems, Crestron Electronics, Honeywell, Johnson Controls, Philips Lighting, Lutron Electronics, Schneider Electric, Siemens, and United Technologies Corp.
Here’s a look at some of the key opportunities in the smart office space:
Security. IoT security systems may include doorbell cameras, motion sensors, video cameras, and other components. For example, motion-activated cameras, including those with night vision, can send alerts to a smartphone and allow live monitoring. The most advanced connected security systems tie into lighting and door controls.
Locks. Several manufacturers offer Internet connected door locks. Often equipped with smartphone tokens that automate entry, these devices allow a firm to provide each employee with a unique digital keycode. This makes it possible to track a person entering and exiting the office and revoke the code when an employee leaves the firm. There’s no need to reclaim physical keys or worry that someone has copied them and might misuse them in the future.
Lighting. Smart lighting systems improve productivity while boosting safety and security for office and parking areas. Their biggest appeal, however, is that they can save money by shutting themselves off when employees leave a space. More advanced IoT switches and outlets offer smartphone programming and controls. Don’t overlook smart window shades that can automatically adjust to changes in weather and external light either.
Climate Controls. Smart thermostats can slash utility bills by thousands of dollars or more annually. Today’s systems are highly programmable and many also learn and improve their performance based on weather and how people use them. The most advanced IoT HVAC systems use sensors in rooms and cubicles to deliver precise and targeted cooling and heating.
Smart Office Productivity Systems. Whiteboards, smart displays, and other systems are introducing convenience and automation that change the way people work. For example, a system called Robin automates conference room reservations. Using beacons and smartphones, a person steps into a room and the software books it instantly. The system can also cue presentations and handle other tasks.
Of course, integrators should focus on how products and solutions fit together, and how to create a sum of connected devices that is greater than the individual components. That’s where the real value of the Internet of Things lies, as well as a potent way to generate ongoing revenue.
Samuel Greengard is a business and technology writer based in West Linn, Ore. He is the author of The Internet of Things (MIT Press, 2015).