Smart Office Solutions

Smart Office Solutions for Small-Medium Businesses

By NICK ROBIN

From automated lighting appliances to hands-free Wi-Fi powered workspaces, this article provides inspiration for the small business smart office.

In Seattle, Washington, the Bullitt Center produces as much energy as it users, harvests and treats rainwater on site, and monitors indoor air quality. It has been touted as one of the greenest commercial building in the world. The Watson IoT Headquarters in Munich Germany, knows who is seated where and adjusts temperatures and ambient lighting to individual preferences. The Intel SRR3 center in Bangalore, India, uses smart interfaces to control air conditioning and improve employee comfort. Deloitte’s recent headquarters office building has earned its place among the smartest office spaces ever constructed. It allocates convenient parking spaces, and allocates working space based on each employees itinerary and preferences.

Smart office building are cropping up all over. Although this revolution is being championed by the world’s largest firms, small to medium-sized enterprises can also join in.

Smart Office Furniture

Although still in the early adoption phase, smart office furniture has been around for a little while now. Technology analysis firm Research Nestor says that demand for smart office furniture will continue to increase sharply up to the next decade, with nearly 26 million IOT devices connected to furniture products by 2024.

Smart Office

Some examples of smart office furniture include desks that bring health or wellness benefits to the workspace, as well as furniture that measures office activity, and boosts employee flexibility.

a)    Axia Smart Chair

Take for example the Axia Smart Chair built by Dutch firm BMA Ergonomics. It easier for employees to maintain proper posture while at the office. It monitors user posture and issues a vibration alert when the employee has been sitting too long in an aggravating position. A smart label allows employees to see their current posture, as well as how they have been sitting in the last one hour. By increasing awareness and providing these kinds of alerts, Axia Smart helps employees go home fitter after hours of work. An associated app (Axia Smart Active) available on both Android and iOS platforms encourages users to cultivate a healthy, active working style. Axia Smart Chairs are currently available in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, and France.

b)    Stir Kinetic Smart Desk

Closer home in the U.S., ergonomics firm Stirworks has designed the Stir Kinetic Smart Desk, which monitors your routine daily and lets you know what is the best time to sit or stand. It also quietly lowers or raises to provide better comfort for users. The desk comes with a 1 GHz CPU, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and a 5” screen that runs a Linux operating system. This interactive smart desks help employers cultivate a healthier and more productive work force. Prices start at $3,000 and they have dealers all over the country.

c)    Herman Miller LiveOS

Herman Miller, the Michigan (USA) based furniture company that’s behind iconic designs such as the Aeron chair last year collaborated with renowned designer Yves Béhar to create a smart office furniture suite. The system – known as LiveOS – uses sensors that come with Herman Miller desks but can be fitted on any existing workspace to help companies optimize utilization of space. Although the suite is still in its infancy stages since it was launched in June 2017, the company says that it’s encouraging people to pursue more active work styles. The desks can adjust the height to meet employee preferences, and a mobile app and dashboard provides valuable insights.

These are just a few examples of how smart office furniture is becoming mainstream. Over the next few years, we can expect to see a huge variety of furniture and devices designed to promote health, wellness, and ergonomics in the workplace.

Telepresence Robots

Ever been in a situation where you wanted to be in two places all at once? Telepresence robots are smart office assistants that are designed to make that happen. The mobile telebot is usually fitted with screens, cameras, microphones, and speakers to allow remote workers interact and collaborate with colleagues on-site.

Telepresence bots are still in their early stages, and innovators are working to develop models that are office friendlier (less clumsy and socially acceptable). Nonetheless, telepresence bots are already being used in Corporate America and in educational settings. Employers who have many remote workers can use telebots as body doubles during meetings to minimize travel costs.

A few examples of telepresence robots already in use include Padbot, Double Robotics, and VGo.

a)    Padbot

Padbot started out with an Indiegogo campaign in 2014, and has went on to develop multiple telepresence robots that connect with iPads, tables or smartphones that are mounted on top of the robot via Bluetooth. A PadBot can be remote controlled to move in any direction, so that an employee can videochat with colleagues elsewhere. The Padbot is also significantly more affordable compared to other telepresence bots.

a)    Double Robotics

Double Robotic’s telepresence solutions robots work in a similar way to the Padbot. A tablet or iPad is mounted at the base to allow users to remotely communicate and interact with others. By simply having one of these robots in their office, business managers can schedule meetings, provide instructions and guidance and delegate tasks from just about anywhere. There double 2 model is available on Amazon.com at a price of $2,500.

a)    VGo

The VGo telebot is already being used for remote patient monitoring in healthcare, remote schooling for students with illnesses or disabilities, and remote specializing training. Pricing starts at $4000.

Interactive and Collaboration Tools

Projectors are still useful, but it’s just a matter of time before they are replaced by smart boards and interactive walls.

a)    Video Walls

Video walls are a particular interesting smart office concept. Video walls are essentially large visual displays that occupy a large part (or all) of a designated wall space. Depending on the intended purpose, the video wall could also be touch-sensitive and interactive. Video walls have a powerful visual impact. They allow stakeholders in  the business setting to depict concepts in high-quality imagery. Companies are already using these interactive built-in displays to run promotional videos, showcase portfolios, and roll out specific presentations.

The Multi-User interactive LCD video wall from Planar is perhaps the best example of how video walls can be used as a smart office solution. This ultra-slim, interactive video wall does not require another large layer of glass to be constructed in front of the LCD for added protection. It offers a perfect touch surface

a)    Smart Boards

Smart boards like the one above have been used in the educational setting for years and now they have added functionality that makes them very useful in the corporate setting. The Jamboard from Google and the Spark Board from Cisco are two good examples. They enable multiple users to view the display, give presentations, make notes and host video conferences. Due to them being an immediate utility, smart boards will be very popular in the next few years.

Biometric Scanning

Biometric scanning is becoming an increasingly core part of the smart office set up. According to Markets and Markets, the biometric scanning industry is growing at an annual growth rate of over 15%. In the small to medium sized enterprise, biometric scanners help eliminate the need for swiping cards, entering passwords, and carrying key cards around. This technology tends to save time and is safer than conventional approaches. There are multiple players and companies that make biometric scanning solutions, which means that employers have an extensive range of product options to choose from.