Nearly everywhere we go—every conference, every client meeting, every networking event—people are talking about smart buildings and the Internet of Things (IoT). But for all the buzz, many CRE leaders still have a lot of questions about IoT technology: Is it really worth it? How can it help with space planning and optimization? What data will be useful, and what is just noise? What are the implications for privacy and security?
At Serraview, we talk a lot about IoT, and we’re excited about the possibilities it offers—after all, a huge strength of our platform is its ability to incorporate utilization data from a variety of IoT technologies so CRE leaders have accurate, real-time data about how space is used in their buildings. Read on to learn about the opportunities smart buildings and IoT provide and what to consider when bringing IoT technology into your workplace.
What Can Smart Buildings and IoT Do?
Improve Employee Experience
Smart buildings use technology to collect data and automate processes so they can better adapt to occupants’ needs. By providing data on how your employees use the workspace, smart buildings and IoT can make it possible for CRE teams to remove the roadblocks to productivity.
For example, a common issue for employees in any large office building or corporate campus is finding a suitable conference room when they need one. Companies are starting to solve this with sensors and beacons that detect room occupancy and activity. The next step is to make this data available to employees in a way that makes it easier to find conference rooms—for example, wayfinding apps or software can show, in real time, which rooms are free.
Serraview’s platform pulls in data from sensors or other IoT technologies, along with data from Microsoft Exchange or Google Calendar. This way, you can see rooms that are booked (someone reserved a room under their name for a certain time) as well as occupancy, which might show that booked rooms are actually not in use (or rooms that are in use without being reserved).
Armed with this data, you can implement new booking policies and systems to make it easier for employees to find a room, saving heaps of frustration and time wasted wandering hallways or rescheduling meetings. You can also use this data to better manage company resources—for example, if a large, in-demand room is typically only used by two or three people, it could be converted into two smaller rooms.
IoT technologies in the workplace also provide the data that help you make other decisions about your space and building amenities: get accurate data about fitness center usage, add or move soft seating according to employee preferences, or co-locate groups differently based on work patterns.
Energy and Operational Savings
IoT technologies integrate with building systems, like lighting and HVAC, to help both CRE teams and facilities managers run buildings more efficiently.
In particular, sensors that integrate with your lighting system can track room occupancy and activity. Based on the occupancy data, the sensors can automatically turn lights on and off. Having lights automatically turn on only when rooms or spaces are in use can translate to significant energy savings.
Sensors can also work with the building’s HVAC system to adjust the heating or cooling based on real-time occupancy data—another factor in the employee experience.
Factors to Consider
Of course, cost can be the biggest barrier to entry for many companies, especially those with large portfolios. Depending on the device or technology, there may be an initial purchase price, the installation cost, and a recurring fee to access the data.
However, depending on the technology, cost doesn’t have to be a huge factor. For example, if you’re already planning to replace your lighting system, installing lighting sensors is often a relatively small additional cost. Choosing technologies that integrate with systems you already have in place can also be more cost-effective.
Be sure to look at the lifetime cost of the device—not just the initial purchase and installation, but maintenance and ongoing costs like subscriptions to access the data. Consider the value of the data you’ll receive from the device. Will it be useful and make an impact when you’re making decisions about future leases and other initiatives?
Installation and Implementation
IoT technologies can be deployed in many different ways. Consider how much control you have over the nuts and bolts of your building when evaluating devices. Here are some questions to ask when evaluating your installation options:
- Are you using a network already in place?
- Do they need to be hardwired and installed?
- Can you place them on a desk?
- How are they powered: batteries, solar, Ethernet cables, etc.?
- If they use batteries, how often do they need to be replaced?
- If they are sensors or beacons, how many do you need to deliver the data?
- How precise do you want your data to be—do you need visibility for each individual desk or just each floor?
- How frequently does the software need to be updated?
If you’re planning a retrofit or new build, you may have a lot more options. But even if you don’t have that freedom, there are still plenty of IoT technologies that can be deployed without complicated installations.
Also, there’s little point in installing a utilization sensor or beacon if you don’t also have a platform or system, like Serraview, to collect, integrate, and analyze the data.
The business applications for smart buildings and IoT in the workplace are only going to grow. It may seem overwhelming, but now is the time to start looking at how IoT technology can provide greater efficiencies and experiences at your company. We predict that IoT will be an integral part of corporate real estate in the future.