If I asked you to define workplace connectivity, how would you respond?
- Seventy years ago, an employee’s answer likely would reflect the necessity for physical proximity – the annual company-wide convention or a weekly meeting with a supervisor, for example.
- Thirty years ago, after breakthrough capabilities in electronic communications, connectivity would have been defined as the ability to communicate business news with whomever, whenever – all at the click of a button.
- Ten years ago, the growing trend of video-based communications may have been highlighted.
Today, however, it seems that technological advancements have provided us with the most revolutionary definition to date: workplace connectivity is the ability of things – not just people – to communicate with one another to benefit the end-user.
Internet of Things
This connectivity is best known as the “internet of things” (IoT), and is defined specifically as the ability of smart devices to connect to the home or workplace to provide efficiency solutions for the end-user.
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Since the term was first coined in 1999, the movement has been fueled by an exponential increase in technologies and workplace adoption. IoT has garnered growing support among both employees and leadership.
In 2018, 86 percent of employees believe that automation will let them work in new and innovative ways, and 55 percent of leaders see IoT implementation as strategic for their businesses. A recent report shows that by 2020, an estimated 200 billion IoT devices will be in circulation, and more than 65 percent of enterprises will adopt IoT products.
So, what are the latest trends in workplace connectivity, and how can businesses leverage IoT technology?
Increased Energy Efficiencies
Businesses use an enormous amount of energy each day to keep operations running smoothly. However, resources like electricity, heating, cooling and powered machinery, to name a few, often are used in excess because of an inability to monitor or control output.
In fact, it is reported that 30 percent of a business’s energy is wasted. The consequences of this challenge are significant and can adversely affect the environment, as well as a company’s bottom line.
By integrating IoT into the workplace, energy control becomes a more simplified, straightforward process. Imagine a lighting system that quickly responds to motion and activity, temporarily turning lighting off when a room empties. Or an HVAC system that provides responsive heating and cooling technologies based on employees’ daily trends or preferences.
Working seamlessly together to maximize efficiencies, these examples highlight how IoT helps businesses save money while keeping employees and guests comfortable throughout the day.
The value of securing highly trafficked, public areas cannot be understated – with IoT capabilities, this difficult task becomes manageable. By supplementing IoT connectivity with sensory and tracking devices in appropriate public settings, security measures can be partially automated, greatly enhancing the ability to monitor a facility for any potential threats.
Possibly more than any other explored benefit of IoT connectivity, this unique capability points to the potential that technology holds in serving the public good. Currently, our digital tools are often viewed in individualistic terms – with the exception of connected communications, it seems that technology’s benefits can, at times, be somewhat limited to serving a single end-user.
With school security capabilities, however, we may be on the edge of tapping into amazing technological capabilities that make our communities a safer place to live and work.
Improved Internal Efficiencies
IoT’s capabilities aren’t limited just to the backend of a business – they are also extremely beneficial in improving day-to-day operations by providing capabilities that benefit users, whether they are technology novices or experts. IoT capabilities include voice-activated technology, smart desks, enhanced meeting spaces, presentation tools and streamlined communication techniques.
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Through these workplace capabilities, a building’s owner, manager or occupant can make their company’s building – a large capital and operational expense – work harder for them. When harnessed effectively, each connected tool can increase efficiencies across the organization, positively impacting operational processes and, ultimately, the business’s bottom line.
Streamlined Supply Chain Logistics
Beyond the office, IoT can also be used to revolutionize supply chain logistics. A fantastic example of this advantage is provided by one of the nation’s largest telecommunications companies, whose success in harnessing IoT’s data- and information-gathering capabilities have shortened delivery routes and reduced vehicle downtimes and inefficiencies.
This example also provides a glimpse into IoT’s multifaceted benefits – “increased efficiencies” takes on an entirely new meaning when considering how these applications can increase productivity and cut costs across the entire spectrum of business operations.
Revolutionary Business Models
Perhaps the most unexplored benefit of IoT implementation is its impact on corporate business models.
The Harvard Business Review has reported that the days of the one-and-done business model, in which the consumer-to-business relationship is limited to a singular transaction, are over. The models of the future will employ appropriate data-gathering methods to continue to offer services to consumers long after the initial transaction.
For your business, this could mean requesting data from customers to learn about which products they favor, their preferred price point and their anticipated future needs. Savvy business leaders know that procuring this type of information is a catalyst to generating repeat business and fostering long-term, mutually beneficial relationships.
The benefits of integrating IoT into the workplace are numerous and speak for themselves – significant cost savings, improved productivity, increased energy efficiency and streamlined operations are all top of mind for business owners. The bottom line is that IoT provides advanced solutions for workplace and distribution challenges, reducing time spent troubleshooting issues and empowering leadership with more time to focus on serving their customers well.
Businesses that adopt IoT capabilities in the near future will enjoy the added benefits of working from the cutting edge of their industry and staying ahead of the curve as the world becomes increasingly dependent on digital technologies.
Justin Stradley serves as the digital energy solutions specialist at Mayer, one of the nation’s largest wholesale distributors of electrical products and equipment, connected solutions, lighting, digital tools, DataCom technologies, power distribution, and automation and control systems.
The company is a family- and certified women-owned business headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama that employs over 1,500 Associates in 79 locations across 14 states.
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