Will Smarter, More Connected Workplaces Contribute to Better Business Outcomes?

By Special Guest
Cynthia Artin, Special Correspondent
July 13, 2016

This week at the 16th IoT Evolution Expo, HARMAN was recognized with a Business Impact award for their innovations in developing connected workplace solutions.  While much is being written about the distributed workforce, virtual working, and digital collaboration, the fact is the majority of employees still “come to work” each day, gathering in physical locations.

According to the latest statistics from Global Workplace Analytics (January 2016), in the US, 3.7 million employees now work from home at least half the time – but that is still less than 3% of the total US workforce.

Given the cost of real estate and the time individuals and teams spend working, more and more companies are investigating and investing in combining more traditional real estate management technologies with IoT applications, and not simply to control the office temperature or lock and unlock doors.

While the IoT is arguably taking off faster in more industrial domains (factories, farms, transportation), and has the most “sizzle” in consumer domains (smart homes, smart cars, fitness wearables), there is new energy forming around IoT enhanced offices.

“The work we’ve been doing with a large, global real estate and financial management firm has as much to do with how we can enable human beings to interact more productively at work,” said Punit Kulkarni, Head of Marketing, Software Enabled Businesses, HARMAN International. “The beauty of a strategically engineered ‘smart office’ is a multi-dimensional bottom line: reducing costs through greater control of building systems, reducing risk through securing premises and information more effectively, getting more work done through automation of more mundane tasks using digital assistants and robots, and supporting creativity and innovation for business breakthroughs that help make companies more competitive.”

There are also practical benefits, Kulkarni added. “For example, due to uneven AC flow, there are always some parts of the office that are too cold, where people working in the area have to wear sweaters.”

HARMAN’s client is a financial and professional services firm specializing in commercial real estate services and investment management. They came to HARMAN with a vision to transform the real estate industry beyond their traditional business.

According to a case study, HARMAN and their client focused on five areas under the umbrella of sustainability: energy and resources, green buildings, client service excellence, community and supply chain, and workplace well-being and diversity.

Together, the teams developed a “connected commercial real estate” solution, helping HARMAN’s client differentiate with a significant sustainability platform including:

•             Transforming the way space utilization is monitored and controlled

•             Improving occupant ambience, real-time situational awareness and analysis

•             Enhancing security and safety via location sensors

•             Enforcing stronger authentication methods

In delivering this solution, HARMAN also positioned their client to benefit from the transformational opportunities the IoT provides today and promises in the future.

“Connected buildings have 3 benefits: experience, productivity and cost optimization,” Kulkarni explained.

For this particular client, HARMAN delivered a high-performance building automation solution integrating with multiple systems, equipment, and field devices for monitoring and controlling these intelligent spaces. The HARMAN developed software and mobile applications are helping building managers view and control access, occupancy, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), energy consumption, lighting, hydraulics, electrical equipment, ERP systems and more.

Initially a Proof of Concept, this initiative is now scaling, with meeting room and workstation scheduling/management system, machine learning for automatic calibration and tuning of sensors via an enterprise scalable cloud architecture. HARMAN and their client worked with Microsoft’s Azure IoT services to complete the showcase office.

“The IoT may power things, but most importantly it can help empower people,” Kulkarni said. “We are continuing to develop workplace applications based on IoT, where machines and people interact to get things done faster and more precisely, with real time gathering and analysis of data that will contribute to continuous improvement. We are working in areas of Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality, bots and virtual assistants, wearables and more, all which can be integrated into the future work day. The potential of IoT in the modern workplace – limitless.” 

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