Smart technologies pave the way for the workplace of the future

28 August 2018
Smart technologies and Internet of Things (IoT) devices are rapidly accelerating the development of modern offices. With smartphones common in the workplace, office users and owners are expecting high-level, app-based interoperability as a matter of course. This cultural shift is changing office environments dramatically, according to Tony Buckingham, AECOM’s Regional Director for Smart Buildings.
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Employees expect the workplace to improve their everyday work experience and well-being. People want flexible workspaces that feature agile activity-based working, provide a range of environments to support collaboration, and where neighbourhoods can be easily configured. “Mobility and connectivity are key,” Buckingham points out.

Conversely, developers and clients want to get the most out of space. Property managers want to know if workspaces are being used efficiently, a difficult assessment to make with a mobile workforce spread across multiple floors and buildings. However, a number of smart building technologies and systems are emerging to assist.

Commercial offices today are using people counting and location-sensing systems, deployed historically by the retail sector to register footfall and shoppers’ travel paths. This technology is being used in the office to sense the presence of people in meeting rooms, to analyse the flow of people through a building, and even to determine the length of the queue in the canteen.

Whichever smart-building technology is deployed, the technology must deliver tangible benefits over-and-above those delivered by a traditional solution for employees, visitors, building owners, facility managers, and maintenance teams.

Examples of benefits for employees include an improvement in their well-being, ensuring that ambient temperature, light levels, ambient noise, carbon dioxide and volatile organic compounds are set to the optimum level, with real-time monitoring linked to integrated controls to allow plant adjustments.

While all of this improves the staff user experience and workplace comfort, it also benefits the employer. There are many independent reports indicating that improvements to well-being result in far fewer working days lost due to work-related stress, depression, or anxiety.

Once in the building, location sensing and smart systems can call lift cars automatically that are pre-programmed with a visitor’s floor destination. Upon arrival at the designated floor, in-building wayfinding directs the visitor to the meeting location or collection point.

In addition to providing visitors with information and alerts, a smart building also needs to be communications enabled, allowing visitors to be connected via Wi-Fi or 4G, irrespective of whichever mobile network operator they are contracted to.

In terms of benefits for the building owner, facility manager, and maintenance teams, operational efficiency is a key driver. For example, desk monitoring and occupancy systems can provide facility managers with real-time floor and desk utilisation data. Trend data can be analysed and built into predictive analysis models to answer key questions about whether or not the floorplate can be reduced while maintaining the same level of operation.

All of this can be linked to an integrated Intelligent Building Management System (iBMS), allowing connectivity, monitoring, and controls for multiple systems, all of which can be monitored and controlled from an operational front end.

Integration can cover a range of disciplines, from audio-visual to lighting, HVAC, energy monitoring, metering, environmental monitoring, security (CCTV and access control), vertical transportation, intelligent parking systems, fire-system interface, leak detection, people counting and location detection, electric-car charging, and visitor-management systems.

From a maintenance perspective, why wait for a device to fail when it can be monitored using IoT or similar technologies to alert maintenance teams in advance. Repairs or replacement can then be scheduled in advance, saving costs and reducing system downtime. “These are just a small selection of the benefits provided by a smart-enabled building,” Buckingham concludes.


Notes to the editor

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