Given its ubiquity in our home and social lives, it comes as little surprise that the Internet of Things (IoT) is going to have a huge impact on our work. We’ve become used to our connected televisions, our smart home assistants, wearables and mobiles, so what’s next?
The IoT will become as commonplace as email, especially given the 5G rollout happening in late 2019 and 2020. A milestone that provides the last structural components needed to make the IoT at work seamless.
The IoT in practice
But what will the IoT look like in our workplaces? There is the obvious smart office assistant – an evolution of Alexa in our homes. Beyond this, you can expect to see connected office environments that provide optimum working conditions and energy usage. Physical security will also benefit, and meetings will become more engaging.
This explains why 88 per cent of business leaders predict that the IoT will be critical to their future business success. 85 per cent of them are already experimenting with the IoT in some form and they expect to see a 30 per cent return on investment within the next two years.
Augmenting the workplace
Workers will benefit from more comfortable (and, therefore, productive) workplaces. Sensors will continuously monitor the workplace environment for temperature and humidity fluctuations. When a room isn’t in use, lighting, heating and ventilation can be reduced. However, when it fills with people, more ventilation will be required, this will additionally reduce energy waste and improve sustainability.
Conventional keys, access cards, and locks can be lost or stolen. Soon, wearables or smartphone apps can be used to unlock restricted areas – with access set to different levels. You could also go beyond this, with embedded sensors. There have been several early experiments in this – a firm in Sweden gave its employees the option to replace their office passes with a hand implant. Similarly, researchers have used the technology to control access to different areas at a festival, to unlock front doors and to pay for goods on-site.
Combined with environmental controls, the IoT could provide a completely seamless work experience. Someone could unlock their office using a microchip, which then communicates to the heating and lighting system that they have entered the building and prepares their office for their imminent arrival.
Smart office assistants
Smart office assistants will function much like our Amazon Alexa and Google Home devices. Voice control will enable workers to request meeting rooms, update calendars, search online, load presentations automatically onto screens, and speak to each other. Several devices can create a network across the workplace and even remote home-office devices, giving the same experience to workers regardless of where they’re located.
Video conferences are now a mainstay and the IoT will take this a step further by creating more lifelike meetings. Virtual and mixed reality will make it seem like colleagues are in the same room. Connected whiteboards and dashboards can help collaboration and robots can roam around and provide a more interactive call compared to a wall-mounted screen. Current estimates suggest the market for telepresence robots will be worth $8 billion within five years.
The IoT holds many benefits for the workplace, assisting employees and making their work lives more productive and satisfying. Our work is getting smart and to succeed in the future, all businesses must embrace the IoT.
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