How the Internet of Things is Changing Workplace Design

Editorial Team
February 20, 2017
Min Read
How the Internet of Things is Changing Workplace Design

The Internet of Things is defined as a group of physical devices that is networked and able to send and receive data. This ability to communicate exponentially expands the availability of information about previously "dumb" spaces, and promises to transform work tasks and the design process.

As our fixtures get smarter and our furniture is freed from the tyranny of the cord, architects, interior designers, and facilities planners will find themselves both informed by and reacting to the need to accommodate technology.

© Emily Hagopian

Here are five ways we predict the IoT will impact how workplaces are designed:

1: Smarter Space Utilization Analysis.

Sensors in mobile devices or light fixtures already allow facilities managers and designers to track human activity across the office, giving them a deeper understanding of which areas get a lot of use and which don’t. The IoT's ability to parse this treasure trove of data more deeply and more quickly will lead many organizations to seriously rethink their real estate strategy.

Design Impact: Rapid, detailed space utilization analysis may inspire an increase in office interior renovations as facilities owners and managers seek efficiency.

2: The Need for More Bandwidth.

With nearly every object able to generate data, organizations will need high-performing wireless networks to handle it. The IoT employs four basic types of connectivity: Device-to-Device, Device-to-Cloud, Device-to-Gateway, and Back-End Data-Sharing. These connections can be made via various protocols, including but not limited to Wi-Fi, cellular, Bluetooth, low-power wide-area networks, and ethernet.

Design Impact: Clients with inadequate connectivity will want additional Access Points that support the latest wireless standards. Network surveys can identify gaps in coverage.

3: A Boom in Cordless Displays.

With a telecom infrastructure able to support wireless data transmission, even devices such as flatscreens won’t have to be hardwired in, leading to reduced installation cost. Configuration will be simpler too, with easy set-up through apps and greater interoperability between devices.

Design Impact: Increasingly freed from the plug, the workplace will be able to support even more movement and flexibility.

4: Less Passive Presentations.

With fewer wires and greater interoperability between devices, meetings and presentations will become more interactive. Presenters will take advantage of the ability to send information directly to participants’ personal devices, or to broadcast data on collaborative displays such as smart whiteboards. In addition, remote meeting participants will benefit from immersive telepresence including virtual environments.

Design Impact: This will call for a design rethinking of the conference room built environment. Eventually it will become less focused on the big screen and may evolve toward an “in the round” theater-like set-up.

5: Printers that Think.

Basic office management tasks will become automated. Printers will order their own ink, HVAC systems will adjust to individual temperature zones, and security cameras will recognize faces.

Design Impact: As the automation of these tasks reduces the need for receptionists and office managers, lobby design will focus on client experience through branded digital displays that aid in wayfinding and are entertaining and interactive.