Skip to main content
Exploring what’s next in tech – Insights, information, and ideas for today’s IT and business leaders

How IoT is creating intelligent spaces

Intelligent spaces allow you to improve customer experience, boost productivity, and optimize efficiency, among other compelling benefits.

I recently visited London's Victoria and Albert Museum to see the excellent "You Say You Want a Revolution?" exhibit, which explores the significance and cultural impact of the late 1960s expressed through music, fashion, film, design, and political activism.

As you enter, you're handed an audio device and a set of headphones. Depending on where you are in the exhibition, the audio you hear changes. So if you're standing in front of the display of the original song lyrics and the clothes the Beatles wore on the cover of the "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" album, you hear the song "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds."

While this probably isn't the most technologically advanced experience around, it's still a compelling example of an "intelligent space," which is something we at Hewlett Packard Enterprise expect to see a lot more of in the years ahead.

Intelligent spaces can be activated in almost any location, including hospitals, universities, and museums, as my example above illustrates. These spaces are predominantly enabled by technologies such as smartphones, beacons—small devices that talk to our phones using Bluetooth—and ubiquitous high-speed Wi-Fi. The Internet of Things (IoT) also plays an important role because it allows us to dynamically interconnect devices over a network.

Making spaces "intelligent" allows us to improve customer experience, boost productivity, and optimize efficiency. Among the most compelling customer benefits of intelligent spaces are the following:

Automatic logins

Imagine you've ordered some goods online and decide to pick up your purchase at a physical store. As you approach the store, if it's set up as an intelligent space, your presence is noted and employees begin to assemble your order. A U.K. retailer recently found that this auto-login feature allowed it to reduce the average wait for a collection from 18 minutes to under 5 minutes.

Similarly, as you approach a hospital, beacons can detect your smartphone and automatically log you into the hospital's network, which immediately registers you as a patient and notes your attendance at the hospital.

A third example: As you enter a hotel, you are automatically checked in and your key is issued, cutting out your wait time at the check-in desk.

Smart directions

With beacons located throughout our spaces, we can offer smart directions to our customers.

In a large sports stadium, for example, you could offer fans directions to their seats, to food outlets with the shortest lines, or to the nearest exit.

Or in a hospital, where many visits are multi-step—that is, they might involve a medical procedure, followed by an appointment with a consultant, and then a visit to the pharmacy to pick up medication—a position-aware app can guide patients through the various hospital departments they need to visit.

Similarly, a museum could create different tours through its collections. In a science museum, for example, a visitor might elect to follow the "medical science" tour or an "evolution of robotics" tour. You could have customer-contributed tours too. As a keen walker, I use the U.K.'s Ordnance Survey walking app, which includes suggested routes added by walkers like me.

Bots meet positional information

Elsewhere, grocery stores are looking at providing their customers with smart shopping list functionality through an app that gives suggestions about extra purchases along the way. I believe we will soon take this technology a step further by pairing artificial intelligence-based bots with positional information.

So a shopper can ask questions about their purchases in a store, or a hospital patient who arrives in, say, the radiology department may receive a notification that they have arrived in that location and be able to ask questions and receive answers (e.g., "I'm here for an X-ray. Are X-rays harmful?").

This technology can be used to optimize space design too. Once we know where people go in our "spaces"—patterns known as digital footprints—we can start to optimize those spaces to make life easier for our customers. MIT has used digital footprints to redesign workplaces and local communities, for example.

Experimental steps

As with many other digitally transforming applications, intelligent spaces are developed differently than more traditional applications.

The technology involved is evolving all the time, and because we can't know how our customers will react to the way we present functionality, we have to take a series of experimental steps. For example, we might implement self check-in at a hotel in a certain way only to discover that it frustrates customers or makes our hotels seem too impersonal. We would then adjust our approach until we find one that works.

The functionality of intelligent spaces is most likely to be developed by people from the business side or the office of the chief digital officer (CDO), rather than 20-year app dev veterans from enterprise IT. HPE's recent survey of more than 800 customers found that 74 percent of digital transformation projects were developed either by the business or the CDO's office, with only 26 percent of projects led by enterprise IT.

Because of the democratization of development, you might want to consider using one of the new breed of IoT-aware orchestration tools. They allow you to graphically define the logic flow of the application. Not only does this make application creation easier for non-programming experts, but it also makes subsequent modifications easier.

From hospitality to healthcare, the creation of intelligent spaces is relatively straightforward for companies, given the technologies that already exist. It can help enterprises quickly and effectively improve their customers' experiences by using presence analytics, location-based services, and ubiquitous Wi-Fi service.

Intelligent spaces: Lessons for leaders

  • Creating intelligent spaces is a fast—and relatively simple—way to improve customer experience.
  • Because we can't know how our customers will react, when developing the technology we have to take a series of experimental steps.
  • Intelligent spaces are something you can start working on now; there's no need to wait for the emergence of unified standards or for component technologies to mature.

This article/content was written by the individual writer identified and does not necessarily reflect the view of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company.