Smart Offices of the Future Make Companies More Intelligent

Smart Offices of the Future Make Companies More Intelligent

The global smart workplace market is expected to hit USD $47 billion by 2023, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 13 percent. The Asia Pacific region alone is expected to grow at an even faster rate of more than 19 percent CAGR. But what accounts for this exponential growth?

Growing economies, such as China and India, are a major contributor, especially their service sectors. According to a report by Mordor Intelligence, the Asia Pacific region has some of the fastest growing economies on the globe. As a result, companies around the world want to expand into this region, driving up the demand and price for land and office space. Cities like Shanghai, Beijing, Tokyo, Mumbai, Singapore and New Delhi have seen significant increases in office rates, making them some of the most expensive cities in which to run an office. Smart offices allow companies to efficiently use their existing office space, literally opening up more floor space. The demand for efficient usage is driving smart office technology in the Asia Pacific region. The technology is changing the way employees work. Here are some trends to look for in the coming months and years.

Smart Desks Create Healthy, Efficient Environments

Over the last decade, companies have focused efforts on creating comfortable environments. One big trend that took off was standing desks or sit/stand desks. Many studies, including one from Texas A&M reported on by the Washington Post, found that sitting less improved health, especially back problems, and increased productivity. However, employees aren't the only ones that reap the rewards. In addition to simply taking up less space, IoT and data will be used to make this new working posture more scientific. Sensors on the desks will also send alerts to tell workers when they've been sitting or standing too long. Companies can gamify the experience, allowing employees to compete for high scores in healthy postures, all recorded by the desk. Companies such as Humanscale are exploring desks that can collect data that will show occupancy and utilisation. This is especially beneficial in shared work spaces.

Space is a significant expense, yet much of it is underutilised. Knowing which desks are occupied, which mediums are used how much, and which hallways and stairs are used the most help companies to design their space in the most efficient way possible. Heat mapping technology helps designers know where employees are, how often and at what times of the day. Where do employees choose to work? What rooms are used the most? Identifying those trends helps design an office that uses every inch to its fullest.

Building Management Systems Powered by IoT

When we think of cool gadgets for the future, building management doesn't immediately come to mind. However, smart technology is crucial to energy conservation and proactive maintenance. A survey from British Land and Worktech Academy surveyed more than 1,000 London office workers last year, including nearly 300 workers with decision-making authority. Ninety percent of decision-makers see a business reason for implementing smart office technology. The benefits they expect include productivity, well-being, attracting new talent and employee loyalty. What were the main areas where they want to see smart technology? Their responses included the following.
  • self-adjusting lighting and window shades
  • personalised heat and light settings that follow the employee around the building
  • circadian lighting systems that mimic natural light
  • heating and lighting systems that adjust to weather and occupancy
The Internet of Things creates a truly intelligent ecosystem. Devices already available such as Philip's hue light bulbs and Google's Nest thermostat enable companies to create optimal environments that are comfortable for every employee, and more energy efficient. Everyone has those awkward times of the year when it's not really cold, but not really hot and finding the optimal room temperature for everyone seems impossible. A Smart thermostat with ambient temperature sensors that interface with temperature control fixes that problem and saves energy. Smart lighting is becoming such a trend that "lighting-as-a-service" companies are popping up, specifically targeting companies that want the technology, but don't want to lay out all the capital up front to implement it.

Small building management also benefits from big data. Knowledge is power. Analytics software can capture invaluable data about the building's automation systems. Insight into building operations leads to informed decision-making, and ultimately an efficient and more reliable building. Identify rooms or spot where the temperature is not well-regulated. Quickly find out what's wrong with equipment that is broken. Get alerted when equipment is using more energy than the usual amount.

Consider more examples of smart building management.

  • Security cameras can send video directly to a smartphone, for 24/7 monitoring.
  • Sensors in plants can send a text when plants need water or fertiliser, or when the fish tank needs water.
  • Smart doorbells let employees see and talk to delivery drivers, clients or visitors, even when the employee is not in the office.
  • Update door key codes right from a mobile phone. Never worry about lost keys or rushing to change a code when an employee is dismissed.
  • Cut costs by programming smart window shades to move with the sun.
  • Motion sensors can alert managers when someone arrives in the office after hours, as well as automatically turn the lights on.

Flexible Work Options Demand Smart Technology

Flexible work options create a reliance on technology to connect teams. Shared screens, teleconferencing technology, shared whiteboarding and the ability to seamlessly connect any device instantly are tools of the present and future. At the end of last year Lenovo announced its ThinkSmart Hub 500, a device running on a 7th Generation Intel® Core™ i5 processor that manages collaboration within modern meeting rooms by making any space a Skype for Business meeting place. Seattle magazine recently reported that office furniture giant Steelcase is working to build a room to specifically accommodate shared screen- and connected collaboration sites. Multiple rooms will be connected remotely, each having shared whiteboarding capabilities available in real-time, making it possible for teams around the world to brainstorm and share ideas. In addition to seamlessly bringing in remote participants, smart rooms will be able to call up whiteboard notes from previous meetings and adjust the lighting and climate of the room.

Speaking of meeting rooms, productivity is drastically slowed when space is ineffectively used. Do employees book meeting rooms, then fail to cancel them when they don't need them? Frustration and lost productivity result when other employees need a room that appears booked when it is not, or book a room for 20 people when only two are meeting. Beacons, indoor positioning and awareness detection are technologies that help companies efficiently use their space. They record data such as when a conference room is really being used when it is free and when it's available to be rescheduled. A smart room will also automatically send a message to the next group if the current meeting goes too long. That data is invaluable to fully utilise space, and when redesigning conference room space.

Stop the Interruptions

Flexible work options mean teams are on the move. From home to office to the coffee shop, and in their vehicles, employees are constantly moving between workspaces. Smart technology, such as Oracle's smart office lab, make it possible to move from one place to another without work interruption. However, further development in the near future will focus on bypassing any unnecessary interruption, including finding a Wi-Fi password, booting up a laptop or simply having to stop and show credentials. Future technologies will allow workers to simply sit down and carry on as they were. Smartwatches and smart badges will soon carry all a worker's data, eliminating the need to log-in and remember passwords. Ideally, employees will use the cloud more than their individual devices.

Mobile phones already use thumbprint scanners and cameras to identify users. This credentialing method is bound to bleed into everything we do, eliminating the need to log-in anywhere. Work can begin immediately, and security is given a boost since thumbprints and every iris is unique. Although not available wide-scale now, Microsoft Windows Hello uses a biometric sign-in already. Users can opt to use facial recognition, allowing them to unlock their computer by sitting in front of the screen.  

Augmented Reality: The Future is Almost Here

It does seem very futuristic to talk about augmented reality. However, it's not far-fetched. Google is in the process of testing its Visual Positioning System, a GPS-like system specifically for the smart workplace. Think Pokémon Go, but more businesslike. In theory, employees could put on a virtual reality headset and join their team in the office, appearing as a virtual 3D person. Additionally, the technology can be used to map out an entire facility, from vacant desks to electrical outlets, every person and object can be tracked at any time.

Anticipating what employees need and want is key to designing a smart office. Use space more efficiently while providing a comfortable environment, and giving employees the flexibility to choose how they want to work. Keep up with what's trending in technology. Download our eBook to learn more about practical tools available today and inspiring technologies of tomorrow.


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