All the Details on Smart Workplace Technology

What you need to know and why you should care.

Whether you're looking to scale your business or improve operations, smart workplace technology can help. In today's world, businesses face risks and challenges that can, at times, feel existential. From the Great Resignation to sustainability targets, doing business has become much more complicated than just pleasing customers. But by leveraging a smart-spaces approach at your workplace, you can address the needs of stakeholders and still put smiles on your customers' faces—all by plugging in a few handy devices.

What is a smart workplace?

You probably work hard to make sure you hire smart people who can deliver value and impact to your business. What if their work environment was equally smart—augmenting their activities to the greatest effect?

You've likely heard about a type of technology called the internet of things (IoT). It describes objects with sensors, software, and other technologies that are able to talk to each other over the internet by exchanging data with other devices and systems.

A smart space combines IoT with action within a physical environment. In the context of smart workplace technology, this means leveraging cameras and sensors to collect actionable data that can help drive meaningful decision-making within the workplace.

Why do I need to make my workplace smart?

When it comes to the types of meaningful decisions you can make, there are many ways smart workplace technology can make a big impact. These include:

  • Identifying inefficiencies to help reduce waste and costs
  • Triggering automation to optimize processes
  • Empowering employees with data-driven tools
  • Meeting and exceeding self-imposed or mandated sustainability goals
  • Attracting and keeping talent by improving workplace experiences
  • Improving safety and security

Which types of devices make up a smart workplace?

There are three main types of devices that make up the smart workplace. These include smart cameras, environmental sensors, and wireless access points.

Smart cameras
Connected cameras can help monitor and optimize occupancy, visualize the flow of foot traffic, and verify who is accessing restricted areas. Augmenting cameras with machine-learning capabilities can enable automation and enhanced analytics.

Environmental sensors
Connected sensors can detect when a door opens or closes and senses changes in temperature, humidity, and air quality. You can even connect a smart button to your network. When sensing a push, the button can trigger a range of actions or automations.

Wireless access points
To get the most out of those high-tech cameras and sensors, you'll want to make sure that your network can handle high-density transfers to support the data that will traverse the network from smart devices. Wireless access points are the backbone of smart office technologies.

What you can do with smart workplace technology

There are three main categories of environments where smart workplace technology can be applied—offices, commercial and public spaces, and restricted spaces.

In the office
Smart workplace technology can help deliver the hybrid work experiences employees increasingly expect. Many people now work fully remote, and those who do wish to come into the office aren't necessarily doing so daily. It no longer makes sense to assign everyone a desk.

Smart cameras can monitor usage in real time, enabling you to optimize desk space based on demand. You can even connect the cameras to hot-desk booking applications so workers can reserve their desk in advance.

Aside from desk space, smart devices can also be leveraged in data centers and IT closets. Environmental sensors keep track of temperature to optimize heating and cooling—potentially leading to significant energy savings while also helping to meet sustainability targets. Devices can also be set to shut off automatically depending on the time of day for additional savings.

Commercial and public spaces
From shopping malls to public libraries, smart devices can be leveraged for a wide range of uses. In physical retail stores, electronic shelf labels can be connected to wireless access points to display and update prices, quickly apply markdowns, and even display ads. Smart cameras can be used to gain insight into how shoppers move about a space to optimize visual merchandising.

In libraries, museums, and galleries, environmental sensors can be deployed to protect valuable archival materials or collections. For example, humidity and air quality sensors can ensure the optimal environment for preservation.

Restricted spaces
While some work environments should only be accessed by certain people, having a security guard manning the door of every restricted space is neither efficient nor practical. At the same time, badge access on its own can be difficult to verify.

Combining smart cameras with environmental sensors can increase the robustness of security. For example, a door sensor can trigger a camera to take a snapshot when a person is accessing a room, therefore verifying that the person using the badge is the same person entering the room. Such methods can also deter would-be piggy-backers.

What should I look for in a vendor?

While it's pretty straightforward to install a few devices around your workplace, that simplicity is underpinned by robust technology. Smart devices need to relay huge amounts of data in real time, and the software applications moving, organizing, and displaying that data need to be able to keep up as well. Compatibility is crucial. Here's a checklist of items you should look for with a potential vendor:

Business vs. consumer—look for solutions that are built for enterprise. Cameras and sensors sold in the consumer market may have lower price points, but they also have limited functionality for business use cases.

Cloud management—the ability to deploy and manage devices from the cloud will save a lot of walking back and forth. It also means you can troubleshoot devices without being on-site.

Integrated platform—when lots of devices are talking to each other, it helps when they all speak the same language. Be sure to choose a vendor that can set you up on one platform where all the devices are built for compatibility.

Scalability—look for a vendor that makes it easy to add on devices when needed.

Application ecosystem—you wouldn't buy a smartphone that can't use apps. Likewise, to get the most power from your smart workplace, make sure the vendor you choose has a robust ecosystem of available applications.

What's the financial benefit of a smart workplace?

Naturally, you want to know how much all of this is going to cost you. But it's important to consider the principle of opportunity cost when deciding whether or not to make your workspace smart. While there will be an up-front cost, there's an upside in the amount of savings you'll see from increased efficiencies.

Forrester estimates a 43% ROI after three years for Meraki MV smart cameras. After investing in Meraki sensors in their data center, a large digital marketing firm saw a 27% ($49.6k) reduction in energy costs. Additionally, advancements in technology means that setup and provisioning can be done in minutes, further reducing costs.

For more information on what you need to create a smart space, see Connected Buildings and the Reimagined Workplace.

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