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IT Trends 2018: The evolution of smart buildings into smart workplaces


By Alex Bennett Group SVP Go-to-market: Customer Experience and Workplace Productivity and David Williams Business Architect, Applied Innovation Team, Microsoft Digital

Going beyond energy savings and security, into ambient intelligence requires big-picture thinking. However complex it may seem, digitisation is imperative  – and it’s happening now.

What are smart buildings?

Currently, buildings are considered ‘smart’ if they manage energy consumption and security well. But spaces like Microsoft’s Redmond Campus set the stage for a quantum leap in smart spaces.

The issue of smart buildings was identified as one of the key IT Trends for 2018 in Dimension Data’s 2018 Digital Workplace IT Trends.

With approximately 140 buildings and 65,000 people on campus, Redmond has become a flagship of innovation when it comes to getting the most out of technology, and empowering people to achieve more through that technology.

The Internet of Things (IoT), in the form of a comprehensive network of sensors on everything from heaters, lights, access points and water consumption, has enabled Microsoft to harvest unprecedented amounts of data. This data offers greater understanding of the physical state of their buildings, as well as how those buildings are being used. Not only has this led to greater efficiency, but it’s also resulted in cost-savings that run into millions of dollars.

Why do we need smart workplaces?

Our 2017 Digital Workplace Report shows that only 40% of companies have a digitisation plan. Without one, many businesses run the risk of being left behind.

The report indicates that business leaders want their employees to work together, improve customer experience, and drive down costs through the smart use of technology. These aims can be achieved through the use of smart building technology, just as much as through the creation of digital workplaces.

As we enter a new era in conscientious water and power usage, reducing the costs involved is important – and can be significant, as found on the Redmond campus, where Microsoft saved millions of dollars – but innovation in this space is just as much about what’s best for people and the planet.

It’s not enough to have a smart building, rather companies need to focus on the difference technology can make to everyone using their buildings. This includes not only employees, but building owners, tenants, and visitors.

Knowing what’s possible, it’s easy to imagine the workplace of the near future: You arrive at the office – there are no key-pads or access cards to swipe. Instead, sensors pick up on your biometric data and grant you access accordingly. With this integrated security system in place across all your company’s buildings, you can enter any office, anywhere in the world, and be recognised by the technology systems in place.

Around you, digital signage lights up in response to your approach, and guides you to the right meeting room. The temperature and light respond to your voice instructions, adjusting to you, and remembering your preferences for the future. The meeting room dials you into your web-based meeting automatically, fine-tuning audio as others join, orienting pick-up as others enter the room.

The underlying technology in both collaborative and individual spaces, and booths must adapt to the needs of those using them. Architectural design should include the various layers of technology and ambient intelligence (AmI), which uses artificial intelligence (AI) to create an environment which is sensitive and responsive to those within it.

    Moving from systems integration towards digital business involves bringing siloed, disparate groups together.  Facilites, HR, IT and lines of business all need to collaborate and identify a core business vision. This is as much a cultural shift as a technological one.

The starting point

Given the incredible advances ambient intelligence add to digital workplaces, many companies want to evolve their businesses, but aren’t sure where to start.

The first steps are really quite simple:

  1. Decide if this is a defined strategy for your business.
    While siloed solutions are possible, they’re limited. Companies might enjoy an effective access system, and save on energy usage, but they miss out on the cumulative benefits of a holistic approach.
  2. Involve everyone. Executives from every department should be included from the beginning. This ensures that everyone has equal voice, but also understands and agrees on priorities, resulting in common goals.
  3. Start with the end in mind. If your goal is to be within a 100% smart space by 2022, that allows you to work backwards, breaking larger tasks into small, short-term tasks. Knowing you need to have energy and maintenance in place in specific buildings within 12 months means you know what needs to be discussed with the owners and with the building owners. It also means you can create and share a project plan, and take a proactive role in the process.

The future: Workplace-as-a-Solution (WaaS)

Pulling it all together into a smart, comprehensive solution may seem daunting, but with the right framework, the right people and the right strategy – all tailored around your business needs – digitisation becomes not only doable, but essential.

The future moves beyond smart buildings into smart spaces, and true integration with mobile technology. Regardless of architecture and geographical location, smart technology can connect you, empower you, and advance you towards your goals.

Watch the webinar to discover why digitisation and the Internet of Things are critical to creating a smarter workplace that can help drive down costs, improve customer experience, and allow employees to work better together.

To see all of the 2018 IT Trends click here

Previous Article: IT Trends 2018: Transforming customer experiences and business outcomes with the Internet of Things Next Article: Put the user at the centre of the network

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