Never mind the Smart Home, here’s the Smart Office

Is it just me, or does the printer run out of paper, or ink, every time you need a document in a rush - usually a couple of seconds before a meeting or important conference call? Good, I didn’t think it was just me.

In the UK we refer to this phenomenon as Sod’s Law or, more commonly, Murphy’s Law or, as I like to call it, the Infuriating Office Peripheral’s Law.

I wonder how many hours a year are lost in this way in offices up and down the country: how much time it takes to discover the document you sent to print isn’t coming through, let alone the time it takes to search for the paper to refill the printer. I’m guessing hundreds, if not thousands, of hours wasted.

But it needn’t be that way. Thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT), our offices are set to become a whole lot smarter.

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Internet of Things in the office

The number of Internet-connected devices is growing at an exponential rate. Gartner predicts that there will be 4.9 billion connected things in use in 2015, up 30 percent from 2014, with this figure rising to 25 billion by 2020.

We’re already pretty used to people talking about the Smart Home: smart fridges, TVs and thermostats, and many of us will already have these devices in our home. Internet-connected vehicles and wearables like smart watches are also finding their way into our lives. Less-often discussed, however, is the power of the IoT to transform the office environment, yet the potential is huge.

Facilities management service provider Coor is just one of the companies leading this charge.

Streamlining facilities management

When you arrive at the office you expect everything you need during your working day to be functioning properly, whether it’s the projector in the meeting room or the towel dispenser in the washroom. If it’s not, it can create inconvenience and delays, which means disruption and lost productivity.

This is where facilities management comes in. However, for companies like Coor to keep on top of every printer, copier, paper towel dispenser and vending machine, they would need to dedicate someone to checking every device, numerous times a day – an unsustainable solution.

The IoT offers a more convenient alternative.

Accelerating the smarter office

Together with Swedish IoT specialist Yanzi, Coor developed an easy-to-use IoT solution powered by Intel® technology. Read the case study here.

Customers are able to attach Yanzi sensors to whatever device it is they want to monitor, out of the box with no complicated set-up. Yanzi gateways, powered by the Intel® Atom™ processor, are equipped with TeliaSonera SIM cards to connect the device to the Yanzi cloud which runs on the Intel® Xeon® processor E5 family. Facilities managers are able to see the data collected by the sensors through an app, either iOS or Android-based, enabling them to keep an eye on all office devices in real time on a single dashboard.

Improving efficiency

Making even a small change can result in huge efficiency gains. For example, say in a meeting, the projector bulb is faulty, resulting in about half an hour spent getting it fixed before the presentation can continue. If there are ten people in that meeting, that’s actually five working hours wasted. By ensuring facilities managers are aware of the fault in the equipment first, the Coor IoT solution helps avoid situations like this and ensure those five hours get put to better use.

Coor has also demonstrated how the solution can help improve overall business efficiency. Sensors placed on desks can track how often they are used and identify any areas that are underutilised. With the cost of office real estate rising across Europe, the advantages of this are obvious.

Already the Smart Office is about way more than placating printer rage. And, in the future, it will be about even more. Coor, Yanzi and Intel are now in discussions with hand dryer manufacturers, vending machine producers and office machinery companies to explore opportunities to further extend the use of the IoT solution.