After years of speculation, 2017 appears to be the year when the Internet of Things becomes an ever-present part of our lives. The rise of smart speakers like the Amazon Echo or Google Home and wearables like the Fitbit means that smart objects are making our lives easier.
But while there has been plenty of discussion about the smart home, smart technology also has the potential to radically change the workplace. At a minimum, we should expect small changes in fields such as communication or security in the very near future. And while it is too soon to state with certainty what our future workplace could look like, the smart office revolution could even kill our traditional perceptions of working in an office.
Communication and big data
The idea behind the Internet of Things is that smart devices will be able to communicate with one another and complete tasks which they would not be able to do by themselves. By letting these devices talk to each other, a business can gather data which they can use to improve efficiency.
This sort of data collection may appear to be most useful for massive retailers like Walmart, as smart devices could help them track local fluctuations in supply and demand as well as delays in the supply chain. Walmart is a leader in the push for big data, which helps them manage their inventory and continue to stay a step ahead.
But small businesses can benefit from this push for data as well. For example, smart devices could track what conference rooms are used the most and let management know whether it may be more productive to use a less used room for another function. Some companies are providing wearables like Fitbit to their employees so that they can keep track of their health, saving money over the long term through reduced health insurance premiums.
Security risks and benefits
Of course, this technology comes with challenges. Employees are not going to appreciate it if they think that a company is constantly monitoring them through provided wearables. Furthermore, the rise in Big Data increases the risk of hackers wanting to steal that data.
But while smart devices may seem like nothing more than a security risk, they can also protect a company in turn. Consider a smart lock, which is a lock that is unlocked not with a key, but with a company app. A business can give every employee a “key” through the app, letting them enter the building while keeping the business secure. Furthermore, a manager can revoke access to particular phones at will. For example, this could keep a recently fired employee out of the workplace immediately, in contrast to physical keys where the employee could easily make a copy.
Companies will need to carefully consider the security implications of creating a smart workplace and develop a policy to ensure that every smart device is protected. But it is not all bad from a security perspective.
Moving away from the office
Telecommuting is hardly new, and employers can use Skype and social media to keep track with their employees. But telecommuting can remain clumsy, as we are trapped behind a computer screen and sometimes struggle to hear and see what others are doing.
New smart monitor technology could help fix these problems, replacing the traditional deskbound office with a mobile workspace which keeps an employee constantly connected with a business. With corporate apps, a worker does not have to be stuck behind the company firewall or corporate PC to get his work done. This makes telecommunication easier and ensures that if a worker has to travel somewhere on business, he can still access his corporate files and thus avoid losing productivity.
Furthermore, augmented reality could also improve telecommunication. While business leaders currently like augmented reality’s potential as a training or design tool, firms have been experimenting with meetings held in virtual reality. While there is still technological progress to be made, the day could come when we are truly talking with other through holograms instead of staring at someone’s face behind a screen.
The Workplace of the future
Most tech articles discussing the Internet of Things have talked about how it can improve our homes and day to day lives, but smart devices will also change businesses and workplaces. Smart devices can improve offices in many ways from security to regulating lights, but the big change will come in communication. Businesses can collect data, employees can more readily communicate with their employers, and the result is a wealth of knowledge which will improve efficiency.
The internet of things (IoT) is arriving but not fully here yet, and businesses will have to consider the potential security, financial, and privacy risks of smart devices. Overall, smart devices promise to boost worker productivity and morale, creating better businesses across the globe.
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