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What Is the Internet of Things and How Will it Change Workplace Design?

Josh Srago

Between email, phone calls, video conferencing, and that quaint “in-person” method, people continually expand on how to keep in touch with one another. The most inefficient part of the communication chain is the human element. So what happens when the human element is removed from the communication practice? Welcome to the Internet of Things (IoT)!

It’s hard to escape any conversation about technology these days without hearing about how the IoT is affecting product design and systems future-proofing. It was one of the top three trends discussed at the 2016 audiovisual trade show InfoComm. While it’s a trend in technology, what exactly does it mean for building owners and architects and future technology deployments?

Most people think of IoT in relation to smart home appliances – refrigerators, toasters, coffee makers, etc. That is where it starts, but the development hardly stops there. It’s been estimated that by the year 2020 there will be more than 50 million devices connected to the internet. The majority of these devices are going to be sensors that come from the IoT space that are designed to provide actionable information.

A Walk on the IoT-side

Let’s take a look at how IoT will reach beyond the home and affect your workplace. You have your smart watch, which notifies you about appointments that are pulled from your email service. Suddenly, while you’re engrossed in another project, your watch buzzes to let you know that you have a meeting that had slipped your mind. This is a video conference with a client where you and the rest of the project team will be receiving feedback on your latest proposal. The notification includes where the meeting will take place, a link to get into the meeting, and all the other pertinent information. By picking up your phone and pulling up the right app, you can access a map that lays out the most efficient way for you to get from your location to the meeting room. Simultaneously, with a tap of the screen you’re able to log on to the meeting on your phone so you don’t miss a moment as you’re making your way to the space.

This is happening to all members of the project team as they navigate to the meeting room. In preparation, you’re able to identify the corresponding documents that you’ve stored on the company server so that as soon as you walk into the meeting space you’re ready to go through them line-by-line with the client.

You enter the meeting room with the rest of the team in tow and find that the space has dimmed the lights, turned on the TV, and is primed for you to display your documents both on the screen and with your client off-site. The entire system guided you through a seamless process without you having to tell it to do anything. In fact, the system has been telling you what needs to be done in order to be sure that you’re in the right place and prepared to execute.

This fundamental corporate use case illustrates how the Internet of Things promises to transform everyday work: a world where your technology systems communicate with one another to make your work more efficient and effective. Networked “things” are removing the majority of the human element from the process of execution.

The More Info, the Better

The IoT, though, has far-reaching effects beyond just conferencing efficiency. When it comes to deployment of audiovisual and unified communications solutions, IoT will provide responsive information about which systems are being used by the employees, how they are being used, and when they are being used.

Are employees picking a particular room at a particular time of day during the summer because it happens to be cooler? Is there an employee squatting in a meeting room, making it unavailable for its intended use, because they need more workspace to accomplish their tasks? Do employees tend to book the larger video conferencing spaces more often than the smaller huddle spaces for meetings? With software-based management systems all of this data can be pulled and processed. Once you have that information you can make informed recommendations about what kinds of meeting spaces should be deployed on the next roll-out, where they should be located to make the most use of them, and what kinds of equipment should be installed based on current use patterns.

The Internet of Things is about being able to pull information from the smart devices we currently use, and the ones that will be created in the next few years, in order to have actionable data. While still in its infancy in the audiovisual industry, there are already systems in the world that are helping clients to make the most effective use of their technology development budget. This will only become more efficient with the deployment of more smart devices.

Josh Srago
Josh Srago, AV Design Engineer

As an AV Design Engineer at TEECOM, Josh focuses on education and the global view of all technology integrating together. Josh’s diverse AV background allows him to understand the perspective of the end user, manufacturer, integrator, and each party involved in a project. This well-rounded knowledge enables Josh to be an effective consultant, serve as Editor-in-Chief for AVNation, and develop into a leader within the AV industry.