The office as we know it has changed dramatically in the last two decades. Gray cubicles have given way to open floorplans, collaborative spaces, and even things like slides and swings, as companies try to make their employees as comfortable as possible. The Internet of Things is also moving us toward the collective adoption of smart offices. What are intelligent offices, and why are more businesses starting to add the Internet of Things to their workspaces?
What Are Intelligent Offices?
First, what are smart offices? We can break the rise of the smart office down into three phases and it dates back more than 20 years. — and as with most things, millennials are to blame for this technological transition, but in this case, this isn't a negative thing.
Phase One took place between 1996 and 2006 when technology started appearing in offices. Laptops, cell phones, and the internet all took their place in the modern office. Today, we couldn't do most of our jobs without them.
Next was phase two, between 2006 and 2016. Technology took off, bringing us smartphones, cloud computing, and apps for nearly everything.
We're currently in phase three, where companies are actively seeking out intelligent and even automated systems to increase efficiency and reduce operating costs.
As their simplest, smart offices use technology to let people complete their jobs better and faster than ever before.
Adopting This Technology
How are companies adopting smart technology for their offices? Some are definitely ahead of the curve. The Watson IoT headquarters in Munich is an entirely smart building that pairs IoT sensors with cognitive computing that allows the building to adjust to the needs of its inhabitants automatically. The sensors can even tell who is sitting where in each office and adjust the area to that individual's lighting and temperature preferences.
Offices that use sit/stand desks or simply standing desks to improve employee health and reduce sedentary behavior can adopt smart technology to keep workers from sitting or standing too much, tracking their movement with IoT sensors.
Smart technology and the Internet of Things, when used correctly, can make the office and the people working there more productive, but it isn't always the best option.
The Perils of Smart Technology
There are plenty of benefits to creating smart offices but they aren't always the best option. Trying to cut corners and purchasing cheap IoT devices could leave you vulnerable to equipment failure or even cybersecurity issues. Companies are expected to spend $3.1 billion on IoT security in the next three years. Cheap equipment will leave you hanging.
There's also the problem of power outages. The entire Internet of Things relies on power to keep it running, and to fuel the wireless internet signal that allows the devices to communicate. Power outages can take your entire office offline, costing you quite a bit. 98% of organizations say that a single hour of downtime costs them more than $100,000. That number could be much higher, depending on your bottom line for the day and how much of your business depends on power and the technology that it runs.
Just like every other piece of equipment in the office, smart technology will require constant hardware and software maintenance. Contrary to popular belief, these devices can't take care of themselves — at least not yet. Neglecting your maintenance schedule can cost you a lot of time and money when the equipment inevitably fails.
Working Smarter, Not Harder
Don't let the negatives scare you away. Businesses around the globe are creating smart offices to improve productivity; save money on utilities; and create a happier, healthier workforce. Many of the negatives we've listed can be overcome with a little bit of preparation. If you're planning in on building a smart office, start by figuring out how this technology can improve your existing operating procedures.
If the answer to that question is yes, don't cut corners when you purchase your equipment, keep up with a regular maintenance schedule, and have a backup plan in case the power goes out. The goal of creating smart offices is to work smarter, not harder. Don't bring in IoT if it's going to make your job harder. Use it as a tool to make things flow more smoothly.