Smart Buildings: All Eyes, Ears And Sensors On You

Aleksander Szybilski • 15/08/2017

Smart Buildings. You may have heard this phrase repeatedly, but what does it actually mean?

Does the building think? Is it intelligent? Can it talk to us? In short, yes.

It communicates to us in the only language it knows, data. With advancements in technology, particularly with the Internet of Things (IoT) and sensors, we are seeing vast amounts of data produced at a rapid pace.

A building becomes ‘smart’ when you use that data to make strategic decisions around efficiency, quality and productivity – we need to define these corporate drivers into more meaningful, relatable examples – otherwise they risk being corporate catchphrases.

Gone are the days of measuring occupancy, the new buzzword is Utilization. Based on data gathered by Cushman & Wakefield, physical spaces are the second-largest corporate cost but shockingly are less than 45% utilized. With statistics like these, it is imperative we monitor our portfolio and increase the utilization to minimize costs, with enhanced user experience being the catalyst.

So, how can sensors help? We want speed, we want live feedback, insight, learning and we want instant adaptation. Here are four ways sensors will help us achieve that.

1.) Responsiveness

Workplace technologies, or sensors, allow space changes to happen quicker and more frequent. This allows the often static workplace to respond to people’s needs in a more flexible way. Imagine a scenario where you can physically see on an app or kiosk which part of the building is hot/cold, noisy/quiet and dynamic/static. Where is the right work setting for you? Which part of the building will tend to your wellbeing needs? Where is my colleague sitting? This allows employees to perform at the highest level of engagement by matching environment to their personal work-style.

2.) Proactive Management of Space

Coupled with predictive analytics, proactive management of space allows property teams to gain meaningful insight and make data driven decisions around their workplace – i.e. Department X will run out of space in two months, floor X is nearing peak capacity, neighborhood X is too loud. Data is collected in real time to allow for immediate adjustments.

3.) Curated Experiences

As machine learning collects these data streams and sensor data, it can begin to make predictions and recommendations, curating employee experiences. The future of implementing a digital workplace approach is that people will receive curated recommendations based on their profiles and preferences.

4.) User Experience

Live workplace data can be displayed on kiosks or mobile apps to show the availability of work settings throughout the workplace. Often the greatest detractor from people’s productivity can be the cost of search, or in other words, the time spent locating or confirming the availability of an appropriate work setting. Data can be used to challenge and question perceptions, understand why certain trends are appearing, while reducing the friction and adding value to the experience. Sensors and a workplace app can also be integrated with cafeteria payment system, access control and environmental settings (temperature, light, music) to create a truly unique user-experience.

The above is an excerpt from the Fourth Edition of the Occupier Edge. To learn more about smart buildings and their impact, download the full report here.


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