How The Internet Of Things Is Impacting Workspace And Building Design

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Take a look at the number of connected devices around you right now. If you’re working, there are likely quite a few — smart phone, computer, tablet, wearable device, sensors, and more. It’s all part of the Internet of Things (IoT), and it’s becoming a huge part of our lives. We can hardly go anywhere or do anything without it being tracked and connected to other devices somehow. This connectivity and new technology plays a huge role in workspace design, which is what our community discussed this week. What needs to be done to workspace and building design to keep up with tech trends and the IoT? No one knows for sure, but our members posed some great questions and weighed in with some fascinating insights.

The number of connected devices around the world is projected to grow at an astronomical rate, up to an estimated 50 billion devices in the next decade. According to National Workspace Strategy & Design Manager Bryan Parker, the workplace isn’t exempt from this rapid increase in IoT, and it will soon be expected that modern workplaces take advantage of the IoT. In fact, all community members agreed that IoT is a huge boost for workspaces, but it will take some work for organizations to truly be able to harness its power.

What does a connected workplace look like? A lot of it is up to the organization. Without being tied down to plugs and machines, companies have the freedom to create a space that best meets their needs and that can easily be transformed as needed. Some community members predicted that organizations will be able to give their employees freedom to design their own personal space to best meet their work goals and tasks. With devices that are connected no matter where they are, employees will have more flexibility as to where they work. We’ll likely see fewer offices with just desks, but instead more open areas, tailored machines, and moveable pieces to meet the needs of each team.

How does a connected workplace operate? Think of it as the most efficient office possible. Bryan believes that sensors are the key. They can be used to better understand employee movement, create smarter spaces, and improve the employee experience. Sensors can tell who is in the room, seamlessly display digital content for meetings, record notes from presentations, coordinate schedules, track which office supplies are used most frequently, monitor activity, and so much more. When used correctly, community members agreed that IoT devices can increase productivity and efficiency. Chief Architect & CTO Tomer Simon is currently designing a connected office space for his company and mapped out more than 120 ways connected workspaces can improve the interactions and engagement of employees between different locations and the corporate headquarters. When everyone is so easily connected, a global organization doesn’t seem so big.

Where is the line between our private lives and our work lives? When Business Manager Jonny Boström’s growing company moved to a cool new space a few years ago and incorporate IoT devices, it was faced with a problem — should employees use their personal Apple IDs to sign on to devices, or should they be connected to a separate work Apple ID? The line between work and personal life is blurring. Connecting devices to a work email address makes sense because the apps purchased would be used for the business, but the phones and other devices are also used in personal lives, and it could be a difficult transition to take that away from someone who leaves the company. Co-Founder of the Missing Chair Sonia Cuff said that her company solved the dilemma by standardizing the Apple IDs with a distinct ID for each device for updating work apps and data, and employees can use their personal IDs to connect to devices not involving corporate data. In the future, when IoT devices will likely be implanted in our bodies, some community members wondered if that will make it ok for an employer to connect to those devices to track where employees are moving and when they arrive and leave the office. Connected devices add to the blurring lines without a clear answer.

How do we keep data secure? As Managing Account Executive Lynn Brigham pointed out, the IoT brings huge unknown security issues to businesses. Instead of just data being stolen, hackers can now potentially gain access to sensors and other connected devices that put property and physical spaces at risk. She suggested that offices will need cyber security guards in addition to the physical security guards and measures already in place. Keeping connected spaces and data safe is definitely something that needs to be considered when designing office spaces. One of the keys is to make IoT devices that can be monitored for security breaches and easily updated, but the challenge in this fairly new market is creating consistency and standards for different devices and manufacturers.

It seems most everyone in our community is excited for the growth of connected devices in the workplace, even if there are still questions to be answered. With technology growing at such a rapid pace, it likely won’t be long until we know the answers to these questions.

Jacob Morgan is a best-selling author, speaker, and futurist. His new book, The Employee Experience Advantage (Wiley) analyzes over 250 global organizations to understand how to create a place where people genuinely want to show up to work. Subscribe to his newsletter, visit TheFutureOrganization, or become a member of the new Facebook Community The Future If…and join the discussion.