What if the sign in sheet at your receptionist's desk could text you when your next appointment has arrived?

Recent leaps in technology, data speed, and cloud storage make this--and much more--possible in your modern office design. You've probably heard the phrase "Internet of Things" or "IoT" by now, and its applications are staggering in the business world.

The Internet of Things, at its most basic, is the connectivity of any smart object to other smart objects when paired to a Wi-fi network. This includes smartphones, wearable devices such as the Apple watch, and computers, with potential to expand everywhere in your office: from coffee machines and lamps to photocopiers and major technological manufacturing equipment.

Designing the ultimate office that reflects your company culture, needs of your employees, and the pace at which you work requires regular upgrades. In this case, it's time to assess what can be connected, and what can remain manual.

How efficient would it be for your printer to order itself more ink when supplies are low? What if the company thermostat could adjust itself based on the ambient temperature, number of warm bodies in a room, and amount of sunlight coming through the windows so everybody's comfortable?

What The Future Office Looks Like

The possibilities are limited only by our imaginations. According to Gartner, an IT consulting company, by the year 2020, there will be over 26 billion connected devices. A big portion of the current implementation of IoT for offices revolves around security. If your employees work late hours and there's not always security or a receptionist on duty, you could install cameras capable of streaming video to your smartphone to monitor who's coming and going, like search engine start-up DuckDuckGo has done. A DoorBot doorbell allows a similar feature, including sound, enabling you to converse with delivery drivers and other visitors as needed. Smart locks on the doors mean you never have to worry about changing locks if someone loses their key--simply change the code to the door with your smartphone.

Not all the IoT office design possibilities concern security. Smart light bulbs, which change color through pictures taken with smartphones, can be utilized for specific special occasions. Imagine welcoming a big potential client by splashing the lobby walls with the colors of their logo through strategic dramatic lighting. Temperature controls, as mentioned above, as well as lights on motion sensors help keep you from cooling, heating, and lighting empty rooms during off-peak times. Conference room booking systems can coordinate between your computer and your phone to remind all your attendees about the meeting and queue up your PowerPoint presentation upon your arrival in the conference room.

Audio-visual systems are poised to get an overhaul in all rooms of your commercial office space. This is where IoT may excel: improving work output with better tech. IoT devices offer flexibility and collaboration for better hackathons, touchdown meetings, connected desks and working surfaces, company-wide Monday meetings, content creation and data analysis for better decisions.

Advantages to Connectivity In The Office

There are definite advantages to the Internet of Things. The more automated our work spaces become, the fewer mistakes will be made with bottom-line influencers such as data entry, inventory tracking, and customer order fulfillment and billing. Energy savings are a big plus, as well as safety in a manufacturing setting. If a forklift triangulates all the employee ID badges in its vicinity, when someone gets too close while the forklift is moving, the brakes can apply themselves, saving both employee health and company expenses on workplace hazards.

Your employees will feel more appreciated with personalized customization options for their work space. Smart rooms can optimize the conditions of work. Imagine employee productivity increasing due to the perfect lighting levels and temperate, music or white noise being remotely controlled from an easy console. Furthermore, as your office grows, office space analysis will become available in real-time to help your increase performance, productivity and comfort. Space analysis will be mechanised to increase performance and productivity.

Challenges To Consider For Your Office Design

There are definitely disadvantages as well. With a multitude of connected devices, the complexity of office systems increases, and more specialized IT staff could become a hiring requirement. If something breaks, repairs could be costlier. Also, a lot of this automation--planters that can sense and text you when to water and fertilize your office greenery or window coverings that adjust based on the position of the sun--doesn't bring a lot of value to the table at the moment. People can still water their own plants and close the blinds just fine without much trouble.

IoT and Employee Privacy

Then there's the biggest question surrounding the IoT's ability to data track the way people work--what about privacy? Do workers really want smartphones detecting the fact that they're late in the morning because they hit snooze three extra times, and that's why the office lights didn't turn on at the usual time? Sure, the copier doesn't care if a smartphone tracks ink purchases, but office workers could certainly care if their devices track their spending habits, like their morning coffee and bagel, for expense reports or the Amazon accounts they visit on their lunch break.

The Internet of Things has the potential to bring great change to society--both in the office and in our personal lives. Adaptability is picking up at high speed. Efficiency will skyrocket as resources are more specifically tailored to an office's needs and human error plays a smaller role in business. Company culture, employee comfort and job satisfaction can rise by adding personalized design, and removing time-consuming tasks that detract from our overall jobs.

Our light bulbs and coffee pots are just the beginning.