With digital transformation embraced by the rising number of companies across industries, smart office technology has become a significant driver for intelligent office automation improving employees’ working space and well-being. Moreover, implementing advanced technologies powered by IoT and backed by ML/AI can bring enormous outcomes to your organization by minimizing energy consumption and saving up on utilities. Just imagine: once your employee enters his modern office space, the lighting is aligned with his previous experience and the environmental conditions are tweaked automatically by IoT sensors according to the user’s preferences. In this case, you take care of the well-being of your employees while ensuring the cost-effectiveness of your HVAC systems.
The global smart office automation market is anticipated to grow to more than $66 million by 2027. In this article, we are going to cover all the specifics of smart office solutions. Let’s see how your business can leverage smart office applications to gain huge benefits.
What is a smart office?
A smart office is a tech-powered space geared at ensuring advanced control over the work environment by incorporating IoT technology that connects critical assets and people across the building environment. By utilizing connected technology and real-time analytics facility managers and office owners are equipped with the state-of-the-art office automation possibilities to:
- Identify key areas in the building that waste energy
- Monitor the space with connected systems allowing to collect data to transform it into meaningful insights
- Optimize business performance
- Boost employees’ well-being and ensure their healthy states
- Automate business processes by leveraging remote building energy management systems (BEMS)
- Monitor and control office safety.
How does smart office work?
The principle of smart office aims at providing a new data layer to the building management systems. IoT plays a dominant role in connecting building systems and integrating all the data obtained from IoT sensors and devices deployed over the building environment. Via IoT getaways, the data is moved to a building management system or a software platform. It analyzes, processes this data, and generates insights to efficiently monitor and control HVAC energy consumption and costs, forecast maintenance budget, and improve workspace conditions.
To better understand the specifics of smart office technology and how it’s functioning, let’s take a particular example of the use case relating to meeting room underutilization. Our client, a Canadian provider of IoT getaway sensors and applications, addressed the Euristiq team to implement the solution that allows tracking of meeting room occupancy to facilitate the enhancement of its efficient utilization. With this purpose, we started to elaborate upon the IoT fully-integrated smart office application which would represent data regarding room occupancy, the number of people in the room, the time, etc. With acceleration-based movement sensors which are applied to each chair, managers are able to take full control over occupancy and floor plan, and synchronize data with Outlook and Google calendars. As a result, office managers got the possibility to record the performance and use statistics from user-friendly dashboards to optimize facility capacity by identifying the most popular hours, room booking by each employee, and free time slots.
Why is smart office technology on the rise? Benefits to gain.
The potential of smart offices has been estimated across industries, especially incentivized by the strong demand of businesses to adapt to new realities affected by COVID-19. Prioritizing employees’ productivity enhancement and improving their work-life balance has become the driver to looking for advanced solutions embracing the trend of a sustainable working environment. The adoption of IoT technology in the form of motion sensors and beacons, resource scheduling applications, and machine learning models leads to the contribution of energy savings, simplification of occupancy processes, and healthy workspaces while maximizing business ROI. So that you can monitor air quality via sensors, and control other utilities characteristics to save costs and energy.
Smart office technology enables facility managers to accelerate their efforts toward resilient, productive, and cost/energy efficient workspaces in their buildings. Let’s shed light on the advantages of implementing smart technology in offices.
1. Enhanced employees’ productivity and well-being
The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly affected the way how employees perceive the environment they work in. Therefore, social distancing has become one of the main priorities for facility owners and managers when setting up the space for their employees/occupants considering the proximity distances. Smart IoT-powered technology is able to empower office workers with dashboards where they can view data on capacity limits to certain areas deployed with IoT sensors. Moreover, by monitoring workers’ behaviors and locations in real-time, office owners can enhance employees’ working conditions according to their preferences and past experience and also redesign underutilized areas.
One more advantage is optimizing indoor environmental conditions by monitoring air quality, CO2 levels, humidity, lighting, and noise levels to further transform this data into meaningful insights to adjust them accordingly. IoT technology incorporated with machine learning enables office tenants to get a positive experience from facility amenities powered by sensors and predictive maintenance data analytics. For example, if one day you set up a lighting level according to your needs in your office space, the system will automatically adjust the lighting accordingly the next time. By providing your employees with customizable digital solutions that embrace their health states and well-being, you increase their productivity level. According to the report on the hybrid workplace, 58% of those surveyed say they feel more comfortable in the workspace where their employers utilize data to improve air quality and building occupancy.
2. Efficient space and equipment management with advanced analytics and predictive maintenance
Monitoring capacity in offices can help identify areas in the space that require optimization when they are underutilized or whether they should be redesigned to make them more efficient in terms of energy usage as well as cost-efficiency. For example, with indoor monitoring sensors, you can detect the most frequented zones of entering, how and how often the space is used, what types of employees use the space, etc. To optimize the office environment and business processes, IoT devices and sensors are backed by machine learning algorithms. With predictive maintenance capabilities, ML patterns are identified which serve as a backbone for business future strategy and decision-making.
You can use data obtained from the IoT sensors represented in your phone or your corporate system to:
- Get 360-degree visibility of available spaces and synchronize all the workers’ calendars accordingly
- Reduce double-booking meeting rooms
- Automatically notify employees of time changes in meeting rooms
- Detect leaks, damages, equipment downtime, and malfunctions in advance
- Estimate facility usage history through certain time periods and adjust space management
- Prevent meeting room overbooking
- Improve occupant’s comfort.
Use case: Here we will take an example of The Edge, an IoT-networked smart building located in Amsterdam which covers efficient equipment and space management ensuring individual superior comfort that is “set” in the in-house app in the smartphones. Workers can be guided to the nearest parking slot or hot desk with just a few clicks. Applying IoT sensors across the whole building and providing individual users’ access in the app to the system adapts energy and space usage according to employees’ schedules and workspace preferences.
3. Better resource management and optimizing energy consumption
With smart lighting and intelligent climate control solutions, you get the opportunity to reduce energy consumption and costs drastically. According to Gartner, smart lighting equipped with sensors, controls, connectivity, analytics, and intelligence, can lead to a significant reduction of energy costs by 90 percent.
Nowadays, traditional building energy management systems backed by IoT technology yield even more valuable and unprecedented levels of building insights thanks to remote monitoring and collecting data across multiple touch points. The ability to automate control and monitoring of items and objects, low-cost sensors, and real-time data access are the drivers of IoT device proliferation among facility owners, in particular office managers. With IoT-based platforms, adjustment of energy storage systems becomes seamless and effortless. By connecting power-consuming systems at a granular level, building managers are able to reduce energy waste significantly. So if there is no need to use energy because the room is not occupied, IoT sensors can detect the occupancy and deliver the data to the network to disconnect the HVAC system.
The main pillar of smart office technology is real-time data that impacts ROI increase thanks to accurate determining of profitable areas of upgrades and immediate estimation of savings and returns.
To prevent energy systems from working at idle and optimize their workload, smart HVAC systems are used. The process is as follows: Smart thermostats and motion sensors are used to collect the data and transmit it to the central cloud-based/local hub to process and analyze it. With remote controllers attached to the HVAC unit (heating or cooling device, for example), you can control and regulate the processes through a smartphone or a tablet.
Use case: Utilizing a power usage pattern that allows the building system to switch to the backup power, Intel SRR3, the office building in Bangalore, India, is 48% more energy efficient. With smart meters, IoT sensors, and real-time remote monitoring, facility owners manage to optimize power usage and reduce CO2 emissions by 60%. The smart office unleashed opportunities to significantly save costs by installing renewable solar thermal heat hybrid systems on the rooftops allowing to generate 13% of office electricity. Moreover, 10K sensors are installed to track heating, ventilation, air conditioning levels and smart LED lighting to optimize energy consumption as well as adjust light levels and temperatures according to users’ preferences.
By 2035, global power production will come from renewable resources. In the era of digital transformation, businesses tend to unlock new possibilities to enhance their profits while paying attention to digital sustainability. Considering the adverse impacts digital technology can bring to business, the market offers diverse possibilities to optimize product wastes, decrease power usage, use energy-saving materials, and make accurate predictions to facilitate sustainable resource usage.
To diminish the environmental footprint of your office space, follow the next tips:
- Leverage AI to predict the usage of resources
- Reduce water consumption using IoT sensors
- Eliminate carbon emissions by implementing smart grids and smart meters
- Optimize energy resources by using solar panels, wind turbines, and smart lighting
- Incorporate green roofs and walls that are automatically irrigated through smart building energy management systems (in addition, it will balance the optimal temperature climate in the office)
Use case: To reduce energy consumption by up to 40%, Carlo Ratti Associati’s Office in Turin, Italy, uses WiFi-powered sensors to collect data to further process it by HVAC and lighting systems. With the BEMSs backed by smart technologies, facility managers are able to monitor data in real-time on occupancy levels, CO2 emissions, employees booking in the meeting rooms, etc. By integrating data on energy usage and employees’ occupancy, heating and lighting consumption is diminished leading to achieving sustainable development goals in a smart office.
5. Advanced analytics
With advanced analytics that is generated with the help of connected sensors, devices, and applications, facility managers are able to bring new values to their building processes considering occupants’ preferences and their well-being. Captured data by IoT sensors are transformed into actionable insights that can be further backed with AI technology. As a result, you get full visibility of how your office is functioning, and what is needed to be done to reduce costs across the building areas. Let’s outline the main benefits you can get from data-driven insights. Data analytics allows you to:
- Monitor systems and assets in real-time and identify the need for maintenance before a breakdown happens
- Efficiently allocate people and assets
- Optimize sanitation schedules
- Make faster and more intelligible decisions for future planning (for example, based on the data about the employees’ capacity rates, floor plans can be rearranged).
What tech do you need to build a smart office application
Devices, networks, platforms, and user access
To get started with building the IoT-based smart office system, first of all, you need to identify the architecture type that will best fit your business specifics and needs. Let’s follow the step-by-step plan of how to implement your smart office solution:
How to build your smart office solution: a checklist
- Identify data that needs to be collected and analyzed by the system.
- Determine what types and number of sensors your office needs (motion, thermostats, humidity, light sensors, noise sensors, occupancy sensors, etc.)
- In order to transmit data to the central hub, you have to select the appropriate IoT network (communication protocol) based on such criteria as power consumption, coverage area, data specifics and amount, objects’ density, security issues, and costs. This protocol enables seamless communication between IoT components by connecting IoT devices to getaways. To name a few, there are such protocols available for smart office purposes:
- Zigbee network: Combining cost efficiency advantages, low-power consumption, and high level of security due to the mesh network interconnectivity, Zigbee is considered to be the solution on the rise, particularly with the introduction of Zigbee 3.0.
- Sigfox network: is mainly purposed to transmit data flows consuming low power. Taking into account that devices are not connected to any specific node, the Sigfox protocol perfectly fits wide-range coverage (across 3-50 kilometers) but with small data rates.
- LoRaWAN network: this is similar to Sigfox since this protocol allows covering large areas with low power consumption. It is a perfect solution for remote asset conditioning monitoring and tracking, and smart lighting.
- Bluetooth/ WiFi protocol: Although it uses low power, this protocol functions on short ranges. However, it is a good fit for smart office automation solutions. WiFi is one more favorite network between users, but mind that this protocol requires much more power consumption. What technology to choose: WiFi or Bluetooth depends on the business’s technical specifics, requirements, and capabilities.
- To combine IoT sensors, devices, and the cloud environment, you need to choose the right provider with state-of-the-art gateways which meet your IoT app requirements.
- Afterward, you can move forward to IoT platform selection. IoT platform manages the interactions between remote devices and users’ applications by collecting and processing data and regulating remote system coordination. Google Cloud IoT platform, Microsoft Azure, and Amazon Service IoT platform, to name a few, are the top ones worth considering.
- All the data processing is transmitted to an external/central database (hub) or to the cloud environment. Find out what option will best suit your smart office project: on-premises vs. cloud computing.
- The final step is the development of an application, either as an embedded software or an app for end-users. The end-user app can be web, mobile or cross-platform. They present the analyzed data in form of visuals and dashboards and gives control over the system to the user.
What are the must-have features of a smart office?
Intelligent climate and lighting control. Smart climate and lighting control systems are geared at carbon emission decrease and cost-efficiency. Being able to detect usage patterns and preferences via smart thermostats, motion sensors, and smart lighting sensors, such systems can be seamlessly controlled in the app or web browser.
Smart meeting/conference rooms. They are smart thanks to meeting management/online booking platforms which aim at efficiently utilizing working spaces, streamlining the booking process, and ensuring greater control over reservations, alerts, and other items needed for employees’ workflows. How does it work? Smart meeting management systems allow facility managers to book appropriate spaces according to such room features like size, occupancy, light and climate preferences, etc. If there are any amendments in time or place or cancellations, the attendees of the conference meeting will be notified via the app. In the case of extra services required, the employees can ask them via the system, which makes the meeting process simplified and without downtime. With smart screens, the company staff can get a holistic view of all the events in the meeting room. In smart conference rooms, all the data is analyzed to further incorporate insights obtained into providing all necessary amenities and adjusting facilities.
Indoor maps. They are used to easily navigate office spaces and find available desks or a meeting room. Indoor mapping includes a Geographic Information System (GIS) and Indoor Positioning System (IPS) to ensure employees, customers, and visitors with a positive experience. With indoor mapping, you can:
- Visualize space and estimate resource utilization
- Find direction to destination without hassle
- Easily find available meeting rooms with the necessary equipment
- Send location-based alerts in case of emergencies
- Report issues about overbooking, equipment damages, wasted resources
- Boost recruiting process and attract the best candidates.
Optimized building performance and capacity calculation. Building owners might lack information on which parts of the office are underused and whether they are utilized to their best potential. By analyzing workplace performance facility managers can calculate a safe office capacity, improve employee seating, define which parts of the building need optimization, and reduce operating costs.
How to get started with a smart office software solution?
Once you determine your business goals and identify areas that need to be equipped with additional points of remote monitoring and control, you can move forward with estimating what type and how much data need to be collected and generated into actionable insights. Our team of experts is willing to facilitate your project idea implementation, outlining and discussing with you all the technical aspects of a smart IoT-connected solution tailored to your specific blueprint. Get in touch with us to proceed with elaborating. To better assess our expertise you are welcome to check out our portfolio.