I want to build a smart office, where do I start?

The paradigm of workspaces has evolved: flex time is becoming more popular, teams have a global presence, and work does not happen in isolated cubicles. Organizational leaders are looking to technology to deliver new-age smart offices that can keep up with the times. The smart office market that amounted to $22.21 billion in 2017 is expected to reach an impressive $46.11 billion by 2023, according to a MarketsandMarkets report.

It’s an opportune time to make your office a smart one, too, as it can address multiple needs. A smart office is the way to go, whether you aim to provide a comfortable working environment for employees, showcase a state-of-the-art building that leverages all the latest technologies to your customers, enable building operations to minimize costs, or offer an attractive space for partners and vendors.

If you’re wondering where to start, we’ve put together a quick guide just for you.

What Is a Smart Office?

A smart office is an intelligent workplace that leverages technology to connect and engage employees with their work environment. Smart workplace technology, which can include networked platforms, sensors, software, and IoT technology, uses automation to improve workplace productivity and comfort.

The benefits of a smart office range from increasing productivity and conserving energy to improving collaboration, attracting top recruits, and improving time management.

A smart office also increases the attractiveness quotient for younger millennials. More than 80% of them would factor in workplace technologies before taking a job.

Building Your Smart Office

The definition of a smart office includes a wide variety of elements, so what needs to be implemented really depends on the organization’s profile, its goals, and the kind of work the employees do. However, some factors cut across industries and objectives, forming the basic building blocks of a smart office.

Smart Office Floor Plan and Design

The design of a smart office needs to accommodate different work environments and styles. This includes quiet spaces to get work done undistracted, collaborative hubs and hot desks for a quick huddle or meetings, vibrant break areas for informal meets, and entertainment zones that allow employees to stretch, read a book, or plug their music into a speaker. To accommodate such an open and flexible design, companies need to use their floor space efficiently.

Surprisingly, 30-40% of office space is underutilized during a typical workday. Given the enormous costs involved in real estate, this is a huge drain on resources. Technology can be a lifesaver here, mapping the physical workspace to a digital twin and providing the visibility to plan and utilize space efficiently.

Activity-based Workplace

The activity-based workplace (ABW) stands among the most popular workplace design strategies, which usually entails an open floor plan and hot desks tailored to promote collaboration and knowledge transfer amongst employees. According to the International Facility Management Association (IFMA), about 70% of U.S. offices have an open floor plan. Although open floor plans have become the norm, workplace strategists have the continuous duty of testing different floor plans and monitoring usability patterns to optimize workforce engagement.

In terms of productivity, Leesman studies claim that mobile employees who use different work environments and rarely remain stationary in one location have shown a productivity rate of 67%, the highest across activity-based workplaces (ABW). The use of smart workplace technology empowers these employees to navigate around the premises, find colleagues in real time, and book meeting rooms and hot desks through their mobile devices. The smart workplace provides an opportunity to really understand how their workspace can accommodate their next task, and truly maximize the utilization of their facility.

Internet of Things (IoT) and Sensors

IoT, the core component of a smart office, is the technology that enables devices to connect and talk to each other. At the crux of IoT are sensors that collect parameters and send it to the cloud. Data gathered this way from multiple sensors or devices can be used to make offices “smarter.” For example, a sensor can send the temperature details of a room to the cloud, which can then use this information to automatically adjust the thermostat based on individual preferences.

IoT has plenty of applications in various domains within the office. In corporate real estate, companies are expected to deploy nearly 1.3 billion IoT sensors between 2015 and 2020, marking a compound annual growth rate of 78.8%.

Facility managers can use sensors for preventive maintenance by monitoring equipment details continuously, thereby avoiding downtime costs. Whether it’s leak detection, checking air quality, or saving energy by automatically controlling the blinds, IoT plays a key role in maximizing efficiency for routine building operations.

For employees, it’s about working in a comfortable space, customized to individual choices.

Consider this: a digital sensor or a smart security surveillance system authorizes you into the office, replacing the physical ID card. Thermostats and dimmer switches set the temperature and lighting to your choice. The coffee machine remembers to prepare your drink just the way you like it. Even your chair and desk can be adjusted to individual ergonomic preferences.

IoT also enables real-time monitoring of conference rooms and hot desks. So, if an employee wants to find a hot desk or a meeting room, IoT assists by providing the necessary information to connect the employee with the available space. It also makes it easier to find the exact location of a colleague’s desk in a large building.

An environment this personalized may sound far-fetched; however, IoT-based personalization is not only possible but essential for a future-proof workplace. The huge amount of data gathered from the IoT sensors can be a lot to keep track of and analyze. The key is to find an indoor mapping solution that provides a way to visualize the data using 3D representations; this helps us comprehend the data and make decisions quickly.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) in a Smart Office

AI leverages the power of IoT, along with other available data, to make intelligent and real-time decisions. It shifts the decision-making framework from a preventive to predictive approach.

For example, equipment may normally need an overhaul every six months. However, AI may be able to predict advancing the maintenance date based on other factors in the building, such as change in temperature, humidity, or crowding.

Also, by leveraging a digital twin that is kept up-to-date with IoT sensor data, the AI systems can analyze the digital twin to make intelligent decisions. This makes a digital twin a useful tool for AIs, as well as humans. For example, if the sensors indicate that an area is unoccupied for certain periods, the AI system can reduce energy consumption by powering down HVAC or lighting systems during that time. You can see in the digital twin where operations have been adjusted, but it doesn’t require manual effort to optimize your resource use accordingly.

AI and AI-assisted technology has the power to transform decision-making and how the office operates on a daily basis, making it an exciting part of planning your smart office.

Virtual Reality (VR)/Augmented Reality (AR)

According to Accenture’s 2018 Technology Vision Report, 27% of executives say it is very important for their organizations to be a pioneer in extended reality solutions.

The impact of VR and AR comes alive in the digital twin solution. There are essentially two modes of use—”outside-in” and “inside-out.”

For “outside-in” use, VR can help building managers and employees visualize a physical space and plan accordingly through the use of a digital twin. In other cases, VR can be as simple as video conferencing. Using this technology, companies can mimic the real-life experience so employees feel that they’re all in the same room, without the need for companies to expense travel so teams can work together.

The “Inside-out” mode uses AR to show overlaying data on the real-world view of the office. For example, hold up your phone to a meeting room to see when it will be available, or hold it up to a printer to see how long the print queue is.

Both AR and VR solutions can assist recruiters in talent acquisition initiatives, as well. For example, AR or VR can be used to create rich, real-world scenarios that show how a candidate would react in different situations, giving hiring teams a better understanding of their approach to work and interpersonal scenarios.

The Future of Work and the Smart Office

Building a smart office is a great way of investing in your workplace and your workforce over the coming years. The sooner you integrate IoT, AI, VR/AR, and other technologies into your office, the better positioned you will be for the future of work (and the expectations of up-and-coming workers).

The first step toward such a smart office solution is to establish a digital twin. A digital twin, which serves as a semantically labelled model of the physical office space, forms the skeleton on which all other elements of a smart office solution can operate. It is the framework that allows to make intelligent connections between people, assets, rooms, sensors, and AI systems.

WRLD enables smart workplace management through immersive 3D maps and digital twins of any indoor space. Sign up today to start building your smart office map, or contact us to learn more about WRLD Smart Building Services.

Workforce Productivity