The four cornerstones of a smart workplace

Drone deliveries, mobile car parking assistance, keyless building access. They're all possible now but Mark Furness asks how much is necessity and how much is pure hype?

Mark Furness – CEO and founder, essensys
Mark Furness – CEO and founder, essensys

Drone deliveries, mobile car parking assistance, keyless building access. They're all possible now but how much is necessity and how much is pure hype?

The truth is that offices need to be able to flex towards the future workforce. And that means making them smarter. But instead of implementing a building full of expensive gimmicks, it's vital to take a step back and assess the essentials. What should you think about first to ensure the success and efficiency of your smart workplace implementation? 

Among the main considerations are. 

Solid foundations

First things first, the fundamentals have to be watertight. Many companies have Wi-Fi but how reliable, flexible and secure is it? Wi-Fi has now gone from being just providing web access and is now the core enabler of the smart workplace. It has to be procured, managed and policed as such. 

Another element that falls within this category is telephony and unified communications. Research conducted by essensys found that 52 percent of small businesses said they wanted or needed UC in their business. It's the most wanted IT service according to a study by essensys. And as it provides so many opportunities for smart applications, companies should consider it. For instance, IoT driven technologies can enhance video-conferencing in meeting rooms that can automatically sense individual users and their preferences.  

Intelligent workspace management 

One way to improve facilities management systems is to reduce the reliance on manual controls, and you can do this by making use of the technology you already have. 

For example, having insight into occupancy can enable companies to become more energy efficient and make better use of space. If they know that no one is using a zone or desk, they won't need to waste money on powering devices or lighting rooms. 

Although systems that use sensors fixed to the underside of desks are available, they don't make best use of the ICT infrastructure. Wi-Fi usage data can, however, enable the tracking of employee movement across the office. LAN ports can easily be pinged to determine if a user is actively using a computer device or telephony system. From there, heat maps can be produced to visualise desk usage and people movement in real time. This is the intelligence on which many extra services can be built – all with existing ICT infrastructure.  

Self-service

According to leaders of small and medium businesses surveyed, almost a quarter see IT as a bottleneck. And 21 percent would love to hand the reins of their technology to non-technical people. It's not time for IT departments to panic just yet. But there are ways to balance ease of use and security when rolling out intelligent workspaces. 

Having the ability to control and personalise services is important. That's especially true when it means freeing up your IT personnel. Self-service is what turns a good infrastructure into a great infrastructure. One that people will actually want to use. There are some simple apps that can do powerful things such as controlling access and energy usage. And once in place, any authorised personnel can use them - not just those with a computer science degree. But it's vital to get the buy-in of the employees for a system to be successful.

Orchestration platform

“Interoperability between IoT systems is critically important to capturing maximum value,” according to consultants McKinsey. Orchestration of the IoT platform is the most important aspect of introducing smart technology to an office. But it must allow for the management of all technologies, regardless of the supplier. Currently, lots of devices that live in offices around the world are able to communicate but many of them don't talk the same language. 

The solution is an agnostic orchestration platform that doesn't favour technology from specific providers. It's a secure, intelligent and scalable middleware system that pulls all devices and services together. 

The smart office of the future is much closer than you think. And you probably already have some of the essentials that could enable you set up an infrastructure without adding major security concerns. The thing to remember is that resilience, compatibility and ease of use are all important parts of the basic makeup of a smart workplace.  
 
Contributed by Mark Furness – CEO and founder, essensys

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