First, it was our computers that connected to the world wide web, then our phones. Then followed printers, copiers, faxes, webcams, phones, tablets, tele- and video-conferencing devices, fridges, thermostats, air conditioning units… Most of the devices we use at the office today are connected to the internet, collectively known as the ‘internet of things,’ or IoT. In 2020, 31 billion devices worldwide are projected to be connected, from driverless cars and smart TVs to wearables and office productivity devices.
The motivations behind building connected offices are often similar: recruit and retain the best talent, increase staff efficiency and productivity, improve team communication, reduce overhead. Having a techy, state-of-the-art office is arguably a perk for team members and should boost morale in the long run, too.
Next, we look at some of the most exciting technology that promises to make our offices more connected and our communications – more efficient and streamlined. Although its cost may still be prohibitive for smaller businesses, we expect prices to drop as adoption increases and the manufacturing scale adjusts.
Cutting edge collaboration tools
Connected digital whiteboards are an example of a simple office aid, designed to boost team collaboration, regardless of the physical location of its members. These types of connected devices make it easy for distributed teams and remote workers to get things done without the limitations typically imposed by the lack of physical proximity. Their usage is only going to grow going forward, as offices become a rarity and more workers switch to the homeworking model.
Video conferencing using state-of-the-art 360-degree cameras and audio equipment also supports the new world of work and reduces the cost of travel for many team members. On top of this, it increases productivity and minimizes distractions common when people are on the move or in a noisy office environment.
Always arguing about who should take minutes at team meetings? Voice recording and transcribing tech enables automatic note taking once all participants are present in the meeting room (or online), and can even send the final notes out to people at the end of the meeting, while they’re en route to their next calls or appointments.
Procurement teams and office managers are hard pressed to keep up with demand for office supplies like printing paper or copier toner, kitchen supplies like water, coffee or tea, and general cleaning supplies. The same goes for scheduled equipment maintenance, which needs to be constantly managed and followed up on. What if smart devices could signal when they need replenishment, maintenance or repair, or even go a step further and order supplies or service independently? This would result in tangible productivity gains, including reduced downtime for vital office equipment, as well as improved employee satisfaction once running out of things becomes a non-issue.
No longer will the office workers of tomorrow need to scan badges when entering buildings or rooms. IoT-enabled entrance cards will make this process completely touch-free as communication occurs seamlessly between the entities in the background (buildings or rooms on one hand, and cards on the other). This will also eliminate the need for time-keeping, which is still done the old-fashioned way, using punch cards, in some less modern offices.
Ambient temperature and optimized energy consumption
An ongoing challenge for any office is maintaining the most optimal temperature for both warm-blooded and cold-blooded team members, while also keeping rising energy costs down. This summer there have been record-high or record-low temperatures measured at various points around the globe, which has resulted in higher spend on air conditioning or heating, respectively.
Implementing smart systems with responsive thermostats makes sense at every home or office environment. Those systems can connect to power companies, which have access to global data about the current and expected state of the weather, and can adequately prepare systems remotely for what’s coming, further maximizing savings. Finally, not setting thermostat temperature too high or too low is sensible not just for the environment and energy consumption but also for employee comfort and health.
Light sensors are yet another type of connected device that ensures lighting’s on only in building areas that are being used and adjusts automatically according to the levels of natural light coming through at any given moment.
Technology for the connected office
Modern technologies that are already on the market and enable smart devices to communicate include Google Brillo and Eddystone, Google Home, Amazon Alexa and Echo, and Apple HomeKit, to mention a few. Which one you should ultimately choose to use at your office will depend on your specific needs, as well as the size/complexity of the system setup and number of connected devices.
The flipside of all around connectivity
With hyperconnectivity come certain risks, stemming from the fact that all these devices communicate with each other through the internet, wirelessly. These include data protection, cybersecurity and personal privacy, and are yet to be tackled in a meaningful way by software/hardware manufacturers and legislators.
One thing is for sure, IoT is expected to be the biggest driver of productivity and growth over the next ten years, not only at the office but also in manufacturing and logistics. We can expect futuristic technology from sci-fi books and movies to become mainstream in the very near future.
Is your office currently meeting your needs? Let us know @pegusapps
Copywriter: Ina Danova