Here’s how IoT sensors are changing the modern workplace
The Covid-19 pandemic has left a huge slew of changes in its wake, dramatically altering the way we work, travel, socialise, and, indeed, interact with the world around us. The pandemic has raised some pertinent questions around the status-quo norms associated with various aspects of our lives - for instance, the rise of online classes and remote work has brought widespread attention to the outdatedness of our education systems and work cultures.
Over the past couple of years, an incredible proportion of the global workforce has had to adapt to a new modality of work. The work-from-home culture, which was started by the pandemic, still remains the preferred modality of work for many, who have come to relish the control and flexibility it grants them.
This is an incredible example that illustrates how dramatically our social and professional landscapes can change with the help of new technological standards - pandemic or not, remote work simply would not have been a possibility for the overwhelming majority of us just two decades ago. As we evolve in our technological prowess, there will inevitably be major ripple effects seen all around us.
In this post, we thought we’d take a look at some of the big ways in which the ongoing IoT boom is evolving the modern workplace. Connected technology, enabled by the burgeoning growth of IoT technology, allows enterprises to increase productivity, cut costs, drive up employee satisfaction and identify new opportunities to scale up. In the following sections, we’re going to explore some of the key use cases for IoT technology within the modern workplace or office.
Smart office appliances
This is possibly the lowest hanging of all the many IoT-driven fruits that feature in the modern workplace. This one’s a bit of a no-brainer really - when appliances and devices are connected to the internet using IoT sensors, they become dramatically more functional, seamless and efficient. Instead of working as standalone devices that perform pre-assigned tasks, they can come together as a connected ecosystem with which the end-user can interact and transact from almost anywhere.
The smart home idea is, in essence, based on this simple principle of connecting appliances to the internet and enabling them to work in tandem with each other and with the user. The workplace of today is adopting these smart appliances in a massive way - offices today feature a number of IoT-based appliances that are aimed at driving connectivity, seamlessness of operation, efficiency and employee satisfaction.
Let’s start with the really simple stuff - IoT technology can enable automatic climate control in office spaces - at first glance, this might not seem quite impressive - fair enough - but even implementing such a simple IoT application in an office makes for some pretty evident benefits - with an IoT-based climate control system, the ambient temperature of the office is dynamically maintained within an optimal range. This helps the enterprise in two ways - firstly, massive savings on electricity. Secondly, it helps a little bit in adding to the comfort of employees, obviating the need for employees to fiddle with the thermostat or get distracted from their work tasks. Some modern offices have also taken to installing smart curtains and smart blinds that can self-adjust with respect to the sun’s position, making glares on computer screens a thing of the past.
Smart printers are another cool example of how employing smart appliances at work can bring about incremental optimisation, which adds up to make for a better workplace. Smart printers feature a host of IoT sensors. This means that they can detect when they are about to run out of ink and, in turn, notify a member of the team or, alternatively, even automatically place an order for more cartridges. In the absence of the connectivity that IoT brings to the table, this predictable and recurring situation would demand valuable man-hours - a gross misallocation of precious resources.
These are just a few notable examples of how smart IoT-based appliances can bring about a host of benefits to any workplace. The underlying brief is always the same with these smart appliances - cut down on avoidable time expenditure and recurring costs, and increase productivity and employee satisfaction.
Driving workplace safety
According to the ILO, over 2.3 million people die each year due to occupational disease and fatal workplace accidents. This brings us to the second biggest use case for IoT within the workplace - employee safety. This is especially relevant in sectors where employees routinely encounter hazardous conditions.
For instance, predictive maintenance enabled by IoT devices can dramatically reduce incidents of workplace injuries and deaths due to faulty hardware and equipment failures. An IoT-based predictive maintenance system can significantly reduce the impact of human error in maintaining workplace safety. A robust IoT system can oversee a large worksite and provide timely alerts in case of mishaps or malfunctions. Impending industrial disasters or poor weather conditions can be predicted well in advance, all of which make the workplace a much safer place for workers.
Bespoke work environment
IoT technology enables companies to offer their employees a curated and personalised work environment, which in turn could go a long way towards driving productivity and increasing employee satisfaction.
By incorporating varying degrees of automation and customisability, smart offices are able to provide their employees with a pleasant and engaging workplace experience - after all, you don’t quite need to be a brain surgeon to see how employees that enjoy their time at work would make better assets to any enterprise.
Imagine an office where you can customise your individual workspace as per your preferences and requirements - where you control lighting, ergonomics etc. Additionally, you will be able to set off a chain of pre-programmed commands just by entering the office - you can have all the tools you need launched and waiting, even before you’ve taken a seat.
Granted, this one’s a bit of a luxury use case. But, in a world where more and more employees are clamouring for increased autonomy, companies that want their employees back at the office can make their proposition a more tempting one by offering their workers the chance to tailor a bespoke work atmosphere for themselves.
Thanks to ever-increasing levels of automation and inter-connectedness among various devices, this degree of workplace personalisation is increasingly starting to become the norm across industries.
Connected devices are being employed to promote coordination among the various personnel teams that work in enterprises, making it easier for management to identify the most effective methods to accomplish tasks within the workplace.
When the various teams that are involved in a particular organisation are able to collaborate seamlessly with each other, everybody wins. IoT systems are able to offer a level of seamless integration among the various teams in an organisation that is practically unheard of.
Facility management is one key example of an IoT-powered technology that promotes resource optimisation and employee productivity - let’s say your enterprise makes use of a sophisticated system of IoT sensors that make up a facility management system - this system can make it possible to proliferate various kinds of sensor data and move this information around such that tasks get done well before they’re due. For instance, the housekeeping staff can be informed beforehand about situations that need care - reducing instances of protracted standbys and unnecessary delays.
Smart buildings and smart energy management
IoT sensors are getting cheaper and more robust by the day. What’s even more exciting is the emergence of technologies such as ambient energy harvesting, which are eliminating the need for IoT solutions to be straitjacketed by the constraints placed by batteries.
Thanks to this growing trend of affordable and self-powered sensors, we are able to deploy IoT sensors in some frankly audacious locations - inside buildings, railings, energy infrastructure, power boxes etc. What this means is that modern offices aren’t just benefiting from having their interiors hyperconnected - they’re hooked up from the outside as well.
Energy constitutes a significant chunk of any traditional workspace’s recurring expenditure. IoT-based buildings and smart energy management systems allow companies to economise on their energy consumption, making for hefty savings. In these troubled economic times, there’s no telling how much of an impact these savings make - they may just be the difference between a company deciding to lay off a particular team or not.
Optimising space utilisation
Office space is precious real estate - often exorbitantly priced and highly sought after. Businesses often have to fork out ungodly sums of money in order to maintain offices, especially if they’re situated in prestigious locations.
When this precious real estate is under-utilised, it’s a hugely painful thing for businesses to deal with. As more and more institutions around the world are having employees take up remote work, they are finding that workstations are increasingly being under-utilised.
Many companies, therefore, are turning to IoT systems to find ways to optimise and economise on space. Moreover, they are also using these systems to ensure that the workspace is optimally structured in order to achieve maximum efficiency and utilisation.
IoT sensors offer a rich trove of information that is highly granular and time-sensitive - a company recently made headlines in business circles when deploying sensors to study workspace use patterns on just one floor saved them $300,000 a year. IoT enables us to get a clearer picture of the things going on right under our noses. Today, the company has deployed over 2000 IoT sensors in various capacities - just to put that into perspective, one of these sensors can monitor an entire meeting room!
Even accounting for the upfront investment in these sensor systems, enterprises stand to save huge amounts of money by deploying IoT space-management solutions.
Not going anywhere
From smart desks to smart coffee machines, the workplace of today has embraced IoT technology left, right and centre. What’s more is that these are just the nascent stages of IoT technology - by implementing IoT sensors in their spaces, companies are reaping some pretty substantial rewards such as -
- Higher employee satisfaction
- Increased accountability
- Lower overhead costs
- Decreased energy expenditure
- Increased output
- Improved resource allocation
- Faster scaling
The use of IoT sensors is changing the modern workplace for the better. Companies are able to save money on energy costs, optimise their space utilisation, and increase employee satisfaction. What's more, is that this is just the beginning - as IoT technology advances, we can only expect these benefits to become even more pronounced.