For more than a decade, we’ve been analyzing, forecasting, and building our homes and workplaces around the Internet of Things (IoT). What once seemed like a futuristic concept straight from a science fiction film is now so commonplace that we take it for granted. From internet-connected doorbells and speakers at home to smart light bulbs and motion sensors around offices (not to mention the wireless earbuds we use during daily workouts), IoT applications are deeply integrated into every facet of our lives.
And this is just the beginning. Experts predict we’ll reach 83 billion IoT connections by 2024, according to Juniper Research — which would mean a growth of 130% from the 35 billion connections reported in 2020. At this rapid pace, it will soon be hard to recall a time when most of the objects in our lives weren’t connected to the internet.
As a facilities leader, you’re likely already using the power of the Internet of Things in your workplace. To continue outpacing your competition, you need to make the most of ever-evolving technology. In fact, the Internet of Things can help solve some of your biggest challenges right now.
Here are seven ways you can draw on the IoT ecosystem to create a happier, healthier, and more productive workplace.
7 Internet of Things applications for the workplace
Managing office occupancy
As more people become vaccinated, businesses are beginning to reopen their office spaces. One of the biggest challenges for corporate real estate and facilities leaders during this period is ensuring employees can still maintain an appropriate physical distance in the workplace.
Without the right technology, managing office occupancy is challenging. While reviewing security badge swipes can tell you how many people are in your building at a given time, it doesn’t provide any insight into how those employees are using each space.
Occupancy sensors help solve this challenge by showing you where people are on each floor or room. Modern occupancy sensors are connected via the Internet of Things and integrate directly with your IWMS or space management software so the data appears on your digital floor plans. This makes it easy to identify areas that are becoming overly crowded and may need to be reconfigured — like small conference rooms or break rooms.
Once you have identified these areas, you can use an intelligent space planning algorithm like Space-Right™ to instantly update your floor plans.
Even after the pandemic, occupancy sensors can help you identify space utilization patterns so you can optimize your workplace according to employees’ needs.
To say you have a lot to manage is an understatement. Keeping track of everything from building systems and hardware and office furniture and various technology is challenging, especially in today’s hybrid workplace. The Internet of Things makes it easier to track everything and get up-to-the-minute data on how each asset is performing.
One of its greatest benefits is the ability to use the Internet of Things for predictive maintenance.
You probably already use preventive maintenance to keep building systems and equipment from developing bigger, more expensive problems. Predictive maintenance takes this a step further by tapping into the power of IoT sensors to determine exactly how each asset is performing. You can pinpoint when malfunctions are most likely to occur to prevent unexpected failures.
Making buildings more energy-efficient
Powering corporate spaces isn’t just a drain on the planet — it’s also a drain on your budget. As you probably know, heating and cooling costs alone can make up one of your largest line items.
For years, global organizations have been striving to create more energy-efficient, smart workspaces. The Internet of Things is one of the best tools you can use to achieve your sustainability goals.
While the cost of workplace IoT sensors is continually dropping, they’re growing in sophistication. Today, they’re smaller and more reliable than ever and can collect and transmit data across further distances than in the past. This gives you significant insight into a wealth of information. You can determine average and peak occupancy during different times of the day and adjust lighting and thermostats accordingly. This conserves energy and lowers your utility bills.
Increasing employee autonomy
After a year of working from home, employees are used to autonomy — and most aren’t willing to give that up. Even as people re-enter office spaces, they’re seeking environments where they can move around with ease. That means having the ability to work from a desk, courtyard, conference room, huddle area, or any other location within the building, and change their scenery throughout the day.
The Internet of Things can help you accomplish this too. Your sensors, cameras, and beacons can all communicate directly with building systems and even employees’ smartphones to create an ideal experience no matter where they are. This results in an office experience that’s as untethered as remote work — and hopefully less distracting.
Improving employee productivity and safety
IoT systems cultivate productivity in a variety of ways. Connected devices help us find things easier and get directions to people and places. In the workplace, sensors can help employees find unoccupied rooms or desks and reserve them simply by sitting down.
You can easily connect that sensor data with your facility management software so your janitorial team knows which spaces to clean first, making them more efficient.
IoT devices can also help improve the safety of those working in potentially hazardous conditions.
For instance, they can predict patterns within factories to mitigate the risk of injury or monitor large worksites and instantly alert workers of potential dangers — like plant disasters or inclement weather. And IoT-powered predictive maintenance can help prevent system failures that may jeopardize worker safety.
In other words, IoT literally saves lives.
Fostering collaboration in the hybrid workplace
One of the biggest challenges facing organizations right now is determining how to support a hybrid workforce. If given a choice, some employees will choose to work from home permanently while others are eager to get back to the office. How can you ensure this model is most effective?
As you may have guessed, you can use workplace IoT with emerging and immersive technology tools, such as augmented reality (AR). With AR, employees could interact with documents that appear directly in front of them, whether they’re in a meeting room with others or joining through video conferencing.
“We’re used to having a myriad of apps and accessing them through glass screens on our mobile devices or laptops. Now with the advance of IoT and progressive technology such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), these applications are going to interact with the physical environment in new ways.”-Steve Wilson, VP of Product for Citrix Cloud and IoT, in aninterview with Steelcase.
Creating more personalized experiences
Imagine you walk into the office, and your mobile app immediately displays the most relevant announcements and services available to you. As soon as you choose a workspace, all settings adjust to your preferences – from the lighting over your area to the window shade above the desk. This could soon become your reality.
Today, we’re racing toward a time of peak automation — when technology handles all of the menial, repetitive tasks so we can focus on the sorts of creative, big-picture thinking our human brains were created to do. Thanks to the Internet of Things, this reality is much closer than you might think.
How to make the most of the Internet of Things
To maximize the power of connected devices in your workplace, you need to ensure your IoT data integrates with the other systems you use daily.
This allows you to act on real-time insights and also provides more context for reporting.
For instance, if you want to make the case for eliminating assigned seats, you’ll need to collect data on how often employees use available desks. Based on your findings, you might decide to reduce the number of desks by half and have employees share them on alternating days or make all desks reservable with desk hoteling software.
With sensor data feeding directly into your system, you can monitor desk occupancy trends over time and make adjustments if needed. This can result in considerable cost savings. For instance, one company saved $300,000 by implementing sensors on a single floor! The sensor data allowed workplace leaders to justify desk-sharing, which significantly improved space utilization.
iOFFICE’s integrated experience management system (iXMS) connects easily with IoT sensors, transferring data directly onto your floor plans. You can see how employees are using your office space throughout the day and monitor trends over time.