The Internet of Things (IoT) is transforming the everyday physical objects that surround us into an ecosystem of information that will enrich our lives. From refrigerators to parking spaces to houses, the IoT is bringing more and more things into the digital fold every day, which will likely make the IoT a multi-trillion dollar industry in the near future. —PricewaterhouseCoopers Report
For decades we have been talking about the possibility of smart offices. An office that you can lock when you are in another city. Lights that you can turn on when you are still on your way to work. A thermostat that you can adjust from your phone. These are all tasks that are now possible. The problem is that many of the smart devices and appliances are made by different manufacturers. They do not mesh well together. They have differing connectivity requirements, platforms, and technical standards. The various devices require too much space and use too many outlets. These inconveniences undo what smart devices and a smart office are intended to do: provide simplicity, more control, and an easier way to live and work. However, it does not have to be this way, and many manufacturers of smart devices are beginning to see this. These products can be converged to provide a more streamlined method for their setup and control. And this is precisely what 2017 will bring.
Smart Building History
Smart buildings or building automation, at the most basic level, are fairly commonplace now. Since the early 2000s most buildings were built with a Building Automation System or BAS. And many older buildings were retrospectively fit with one. These systems provide automated control over many of a building’s features, including air conditioning, ventilation, heating, lighting, and security. The overall benefit is not that it just makes occupants more comfortable and simplifies their interaction with the building, but it also tends to be more efficient, lowering costs and conserving energy.
The most recent advances, however, have furthered the capabilities of smart buildings. Every appliance within these buildings is connected to the Internet of Things, whether it is a vending machine or a digital display or the sound system. The problem, as previously mentioned, that often comes with having all of these smart appliances and devices is that it becomes a major headache for the individuals in charge of implementing and operating them—generally the Information Technology team.
As an example of how distributed smart products can be, an office building could have a security system that has ADT as its service provider, SmartThings as its gateway, iControl as its office IoT software platform, and then Alert Me as its customer engagement. Whereas the audio system in the office building could have Amazon as its service provider, Belkin as its home office hardware, Wink as its gateway, Ayla Networks as its office IoT software platform, and Ecova as its customer engagement. Simply put, it just takes up too much time and stress to be worth dealing with all of these providers. But again, as previously mentioned, 2017 will be the year that these issues are solved.
The Smart Solution
There is a simple solution to this problem. These devices need to be aggregated. Companies need to partner with one another. And this is already beginning to happen. The big players in the industry, like Amazon, Google, and Samsung are upping their activity in the arena of smart offices. They are investing big bucks. They have come to realise that when consumers become engaged with smart products, they do not want to be the industry giant that is left behind. Amazon, in particular, seems to be the company that is working towards fixing all of the bugs and kinks with the smart office, which will likely make them the leader in the sector.
It is the lack of integration, though, that has been keeping smart offices from proliferating. Over the past several years, there has been a very low consumer understanding about the product offerings, not to mention a general lack of awareness. The market penetration rates for these smart appliances and hubs have been consistently low. In order to better penetrate the market, companies are attempting to tackle both of these problems by increasing customer awareness and making smart hubs more universal for more products.
One of the keys to accomplishing both of these tasks, according to research from Frost & Sullivan, is ‘Trojan Horsing’ the smart hub. In short, this means implementing the smart hub into devices that users already have and use on a regular basis. This would make the embrace and adoption of smart appliances much simpler. Users already know how to use devices like their smartphone, it is the most common device among all consumers, and it would not require any additional office space.
LG is one company that is already doing this. Their technology, which can be downloaded onto any smartphone, is called SmartControl. Unfortunately, SmartControl only works on LG appliances and most of these appliances are more domestically useful. One company that is breaking into appliances and devices that are more beneficial in a working environment is Amazon. Amazon’s Echo device and virtual assistant, Alexa, have far-reaching capabilities. The most exciting aspect is that offices do not have to have Amazon-created appliances and devices for Alexa to work. Third-party hardware makers are already beginning to integrate Alexa into their appliances so that everything from a car to a sound system to an air conditioning can be controlled through her.
Smart Offices In Asia
The smart office market is rapidly growing across Asia as all of the smart technology is becoming easier to use. Even hotels are using the idea to attract business people. In Kuala Lumpur, the Element Marriott hotel has created smart meeting rooms. They have the latest IoT audio-visual technology, as well as a myriad of other IoT appliances and devices that combine an eco-friendly goal with business efficiency and functionality.
India’s Creativeland Asia launched an investment firm which is planning on investing U.S. $10 million in both the realty sector as well as smart solutions for that realty. And then there is the government in Singapore. They are looking for smart office investment opportunities for U.S. $100 million.
Smart offices may be an exciting technological breakthrough that currently exists, but over the next few years, they are only going to get better and better. This will, in turn, allow businesses to improve their productivity and client services.