IoT and the Intelligent workplace

20th September 2018

The Internet of Things (IoT) is already having a transformative impact on our home lives, enabling the automation of everything, from smart door locks to connected thermostats and lighting. As the IoT gathers momentum, many of these technologies will be used within the office environment. Innovative companies are already exploring new ways to boost productivity and cut costs through workplace automation. There are already many benefits that can be associated with developing an automated office space, from lower utility costs through managed lighting and heating, to increased communication and better security. Today we’re exploring the future of the IoT and the intelligent workplace.

We now live in a world that is dominated by connected devices. From, smartphones, tablets and wearables, to web connected coffee makers and vacuum cleaners, the Internet of Things is starting to change the way we operate on a day-to-day basis, both at home and in the office. The number of mobile workers is increasing exponentially with research showing that 40%  of the global workforce will be mobile by 2020; and in advanced economies like the EU and the US, that number will edge to 75 per cent. By the year 2025, there could be as many as 1 trillion different types of devices connected to the web.

What does the connected workplace look like?

Smartphones, tablets and wearable devices are embedded in our everyday working lives with the smartphone representing a seismic shift in the way we work. It’s now taken for granted, the smartphone acting as a ‘pocket office’, enabling us to do multiple ‘work-based’ tasks such as edit documents, access KPI dashboards and analytics, browse the web and respond to emails, from any location at any time.  Of course, beyond this immediate level of functionality, there are numerous apps designed and developed to meet a variety of everyday business demands. One of the great things about smart devices, is the fact they enable businesses to gather vital data in real-time. As an example, directions to meetings can be displayed via push notifications on a smartwatch and businesses can receive instant information on inventory shortages, stock and supplies. The reality is that most of the required components for a smart office are already in place, it’s just a question of creating the underpinning infrastructure to tie them all together in a meaningful way, and this is where the IoT comes in.

The IoT and the potential of the intelligent workplace presents a host of unique and highly lucrative opportunities for forward thinking enterprises. Many are already heavily focused on developing products that work seamlessly across multiple devices, creating a platform for the development of custom built mobile apps that can easily integrate with existing services and products. We are surrounded by different types of technology and connected devices, from wearables to smart glasses and beyond, but the real opportunity arises when these devices can be connected together. When joined together, they offer massive opportunities and symbolise the next major leap in human-device interaction. This is the intelligent workplace, but what does it look like?

Business intelligence and data interpretation

The intelligent workplace radically alters the way that data is gathered, analysed, interpreted and used to make strategic business decisions. The smart office is already enabling business owners and CEO’s to make sense of masses of data – and put it to good use. One of the biggest problems with data in the modern enterprise, is not the ability to collect the data, it’s the ability to interpret the data, gather the right insight, and act upon in it in order to deliver more value. The intelligent workplace will enable workers to access the most pertinent information, without having to trawl through masses of irrelevant data in order to generate actionable insights and decision making.

In today’s world, building and operating a well-oiled CRM (customer relationship management) system is a fundamental component of any successful marketing and sales operation. Making sure that the right sales staff have access to the right data is extremely important in terms of selling to new customers and harvesting an existing database. The IoT will have a huge impact on the way sales and marketing data is collated, organised and used to action strategic decision making. This means that KPI’s and crucial performance based metrics can be brought together in a concise and meaningful way, via a multitude of new devices and sensors, in order to save time and focus on essential meetings and sales opportunities. Rather than data being an inconvenience, the intelligent workplace will provide a platform for competitive differentiation and advantage, but the key for businesses is timing and getting ahead of the curve as fast as possible.

How to create an intelligent workplace

There are currently many devices available that can be used in order to start creating an intelligent workplace for your business. Intelligent devices such as Google’s Nest thermostat, or the Philip’s hue lightbulbs can enable a traditional office to become a smart and connected workplace environment. It may sound trivial, but very often workplace temperature can be a serious source of disagreement. Using a web connected thermostat product such as the Nest thermostat will mean that disagreements over the office being too cold or hot will become a thing of the past. Office managers will be able to crowdsource data in terms of individual employee preferences in order to define a happy medium.

There are currently a number of different products available that are designed to replace traditional office key cards, key fobs and traditional keys. Intelligent  office access control systems such as Kisi provide a neat solution, not just in terms of providing access to the work premises, but also in terms of enabling office managers to understand who is in the building at a particular time. Kisi works so that as an employee approaches the office door, with an authorised smartphone or wearable device, the Kisi app can be opened and tapped to grant access to the building and deactivate the lock. This enables each employee to unlock the door in less than three seconds and the door can then be securely locked again once the employee is granted access and through the door.

Apps such as Kisi offer highly innovative, and increasingly secure means of providing office access. But they also provide valuable information in terms of who is in the building and when by leveraging cloud data. The way the app works is very simple. Using the Kisi cloud platform, each employees smartphone effectively becomes a key. When an employee approaches the Kisi enabled office entrance point, a signal is sent from the device itself to the cloud network, the key opens the door and the door opens and closes all in a matter of seconds.

This offers many benefits that go way beyond offering a convenient means of entry and exit to the workplace. Use of such apps and cloud data provides massive amounts of useful information and can help to perform a variety of tasks such as notifying a sales rep that a client has arrived for a meeting and is waiting in the office reception area. This is just one example of how connected offices are providing greater levels of convenience for employees (which in turn boosts productivity and moral) but also in terms of how data can be used to prepare for meetings and make smarter decisions based on who is in the office and when. What’s also great about Kisi, is the fact that the office manager can have access to a dashboard that enables them to quickly manage access and usage rights and new keyholders can be added to the system within a matter of seconds.

Intelligent and connected products

For visitor attractions and events (see our recent blog about geofencing), very often if a piece of machinery breaks down, the first sign of trouble arises when it’s already too late. Maintenance managers are told that the problem has occurred after the machinery or product has broken by which time its too late. Nowadays, connected devices and products can be used to alert technicians before a problem arises by accessing data on the performance, uptime and state of each machine. If a problem looks like it might arise, the technician can be alerted before it’s happened which prevents downtime and loss of revenue. These connected products can also offer astonishing insight in terms of data.

One great example of this is Disney’s use of the ‘MagicBand’ which acts as a smart, wearable bracelet for customers. To put this roll-out into some context, Disney receives more than 15 million guests every year and employs more than 65,000 people per site across an area of over 160 acres. General maintenance of the site costs in excess of $100 million per annum. Throughout the company’s history, Disney has always tried to stay on top of new technological innovations and the MagicBand represents the next phase in this process. The Disney MagicBand enables guests to store tickets, credit and debit card information, hotel roomkeys and can be used anywhere across the resort via a series of intelligent, connected sensors. This has helped to dramatically increase customer satisfaction levels and provide a highly engaging experience for guests.

Whilst this is great for customers and guests, the real benefit lies in Disney’s ability to gather and analyse data. The MagicBand enables employees to carefully monitor and redirect traffic flow throughout the resort in order to avoid congestion and monitor the length of each queue. The Disney marketing team can also monitor the location of individual guests and gain actionable insight into their spending habits and behaviours. This enables Disney to optimise virtually every aspect of its experience from staffing requirements to traffic flow and buyer behaviour insight.

For marketing departments in particular, data is crucial. It’s no longer acceptable to rely on anecdotal evidence in order to make decisions. The IoT and the connected products that are being used to create it, offer vital insight into how customers behave in response to certain things. Whilst the Disney theme park is vast, it’s still a product, and connecting devices and sensors enables them to provide a better experience for customers and guests.

The power of collective intelligence and decision making

The IoT has the power to provide collective intelligence across every company. When it comes to creating new sales proposals, listening to customer feedback or defining a new product or marketing strategy, working in small teams can be highly effective. But the IoT offers the ability to provide real-time insight into new ideas across thousands of people within a single organisation. By connecting thousands of employees across a single organisation, companies can dramatically increase collaboration and productivity. Finding the right answers to questions can be achieved at the touch of a button and the right people can be access at the right time in an instant.

If you’re a business or brand new to the world of IoT and intelligent workplaces, getting to grips with the right information can be difficult. We already know that web connected devices and IoT data is changing the way our work environments are run, but getting started (and knowing where to start) can be tough. But the reality is that there are huge opportunities available for forward thinking companies to create connected, intelligent workplaces that improve employee productivity and provide a distinct competitive differentiator. If you’re keen to get started, contact Waracle today to kick-start the !

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