The Internet of Things (IoT) connects various technologies, allowing facility managers and workplace leaders to gather valuable data about how employees interact with their environment.
Sensors offer the most accurate, timely data and allow leaders to act on it immediately.
While North America leads the world in smart buildings and IoT sensor implementation, according to a 2017 report by the European Commission, the European market is growing and expected to reach 24% of market share by 2025.
Here are just a few ways workplace leaders in Europe and Canada are already using IoT sensors to achieve positive business outcomes.
1. Tracking Space Utilization To Reduce Real Estate Costs
As more workplaces across Europe, Canada and the world adopt more flexible workplace arrangements, there are fewer assigned seats and more shared spaces. These strategies can significantly reduce costs, but only if they are implemented properly. For instance, by giving employees the option to work remotely, workplaces can shift from a 1:1 seat ratio to a 2:1 ratio. They can then use the additional space to accommodate new hires, rather than leasing a new building.
By placing tiny IoT sensors on desks, chairs or outside private offices, workplace leaders can see how often each workstation is actually being used. They can identify patterns and make adjustments accordingly.
For instance, if private offices are only being used 50 percent of the time in a typical work week, the company can designate them as shared spaces.
2. Improving Employee Collaboration and Productivity
As companies move away from assigned seats in favor of more flexible arrangements, there is a growing need for employees to be able to find and reserve spaces quickly. With traditional calendar applications, rooms often appear to be reserved when in fact, no one is using them. Employees may schedule recurring meetings and forget to cancel room reservations. When all rooms appear to be booked, employees tend to resort back to long strings of emails and chats on Slack or Google Hangouts, rather than gathering together to discuss important projects.
That's why IoT sensors are being used along with room reservation software to eliminate "ghost" bookings. More workplaces in Europe and Canada are placing sensors outside conference rooms, which can trigger reservation software to make a room available again if no activity is detected within a certain period of time.
Sensors can even be placed near huddle areas designed for more casual brainstorming sessions so employees in another part of the office can quickly see if they are available. Having quick, easy access to a variety of meeting areas improves collaboration and productivity.
Using a combination of activity-based working and smart building technology has made a huge difference in the way employees work in Sodexo's office in Stockholm, Sweden. Employees also use the iOFFICE Hummingbird workplace app to find colleagues and reserve space.
“We are much quicker and more agile," Sodexo service manager Magnus Löfsjögård said. "We can have five-minute conversations instead of hours-long meetings. When we start a new project, we are several weeks faster and profitable right away.”
3. Enhancing The Employee Experience
As workplaces become more flexible, employees want spaces that aren't just built for purpose, but built for their specific needs. While the days of decorating cubicles with family photos may be coming to an end, they're being replaced by a different type of personalization—one enabled by IoT sensors.
At Cisco's headquarters in downtown Toronto, an intelligent building system takes the place of assigned seats. Employees arrive and select a workspace based on their needs for the day. The workstation they choose synchronizes with their computer, adjusting to their personal settings for lighting and temperature.
Smart meeting rooms are equipped with sensors that monitor temperature, lighting and air quality, adjusting as needed based on the number of participants.
4. Reducing Maintenance Costs
Maintenance accounts for about 30% of a building's operational costs, according to the European Commission. Most organizations schedule a maintenance crew to clean restrooms and offices on a regular basis, rather than basing it on need.
IoT sensors can monitor foot traffic, product levels and equipment malfunctions, making restroom maintenance more efficient and cost-effective. Workplace leaders can receive automatic text notifications when a problem occurs so they can quickly dispatch a technician to fix the issue. This allows them to better allocate resources, employees and supplies.
5. Reducing Energy Usage
Energy consumption accounts for an even more significant portion of building costs—approximately 40%. Using intelligent energy management systems, including occupancy sensors, can result in significant energy savings. On average, energy-efficient commercial buildings cost 30% less to operate and have a 9% higher net operating income, according to the European Commission.
IoT sensors feed information to smart HVAC and lighting systems, allowing these systems to make adjustments based on actual occupancy. This keeps employees comfortable while reducing energy costs and a company's carbon footprint.
At The Edge in Amsterdam, an Ethernet-powered LED lighting system is integrated with 30,000 sensors that continuously monitor lighting, temperature and humidity and make adjustments as needed.
6. Managing Workplace Health & Safety
Many industries have inherent risks, especially for lone workers. Through the Factory of the Future program, the European Aeronautic Company introduced IoT wearable technology to improve on-site health and safety. Sensors are built into factory floors and tools, as well as in personal protective equipment like safety glasses. In addition to reducing errors, they also increase productivity. In one application, these wearable devices increased productivity by 500%.
IoT sensors are transforming European and Canadian workplaces in exciting ways, and there is tremendous potential to do more. Buildings like The Edge offer a glimpse at what is possible. While some of these applications seem futuristic now, they will one day become the new standard.
To discover how other leading organizations are using IoT sensors, check out our IoT sensors eBook.