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Smart workplaces boost productivity and efficiency

Almost three-quarters of enterprise organizations have introduced IoT devices and sensors into the workplace, according to a recent survey.

Who wouldn't want to work in a smart workplace? The answer seems to be a no-brainer. But what exactly is a smart workplace? Smart workplaces have two dimensions: first, the physical plant, including lighting, security, and HVAC; and second, the human work space, which includes offices, equipment, meeting rooms, mobile devices, and workers themselves.

Enterprises are embracing both dimensions. According to a recent survey, 72 percent of enterprise organizations have introduced Internet of Things (IoT) devices and sensors into the workplace, ranging from air conditioning and lighting systems (56 percent) to personal mobile devices (51 percent). The survey, "The Internet of Things: Today and Tomorrow," from Aruba, canvassed 3,100 line-of-business and IT professionals across 20 countries.

For the physical plant, it's all about efficiency and security. Using sensors to fine-tune lighting and heating so that waste is minimized just makes sense. When a meeting room is not booked on a given afternoon, why not lower the temperature and make sure the lights are off? Every penny saved goes directly to your bottom line.

As far as security is concerned, many buildings are monitored closely by security cameras. These cameras generate vast amounts of digital video, only a tiny fraction of which might be of interest to security professionals. So why send it across a wide-area network to headquarters to be analyzed? It's an excellent case for edge analytics, which means studying the data close to where it originates. Keerti Melkote, Aruba's co-founder and chief technology officer, explains how that works in the Aruba Unplugged blog.

For office spaces, equipment, and employees, the motivation is to work more efficiently. Tracking down equipment as well as people wastes time. Placing electronic tags on equipment—and on personnel badges—is an excellent way to locate vital equipment and staff specialists efficiently.

Because medical equipment has a way of getting lost in a large facility, hospitals are a great venue for these technologies. A life can hang in the balance if the right equipment or specialist cannot be found in an emergency. "Asset tracking is of huge interest to hospitals," says Melkote. "Medical devices, stretchers, wheelchairs, anything you might need to serve a patient can be found using a simple app." The result is a vastly more efficient hospital—and one that is more likely to deliver high-quality care.

For companies with large office buildings and campuses with multiple buildings, a way-finding app can go a long way. Enabled by Wi-Fi networks and Bluetooth low-energy beacons, these apps can help a worker or visitor with a smartphone track down a specialist or an important meeting without having to ask directions. It's similar to the apps that large retailers like Nebraska Furniture Mart have deployed to enable shoppers to pinpoint any item in a store and follow turn-by-turn instructions to find it. The Aruba survey found this approach is catching on.

Respondents cited indoor location-based services as their leading use case for IoT technology, along with remote monitoring of utilities, such as energy usage.

Getting back to security, everyone is aware that the massive breach that Target suffered a few years ago was initiated through the login credentials of an HVAC contractor. Because the IoT expands the corporate perimeter exponentially, it calls for a more diligent approach to security. Even so, the retailer had the information it needed to spot the breach but was beset by too much data and could not digest it all. And the company's network was not sufficiently segmented. Once hackers had gained access through the HVAC channel, they made their way to the point-of sale (POS) system, where they stole data on about 40 million credit cards. That should never happen.

What is the bottom line? There's no question the IoT is fueling better ways of doing business. The survey found that more than three-quarters (78 percent) of enterprises believe the introduction of IoT into the workplace has improved the effectiveness of their IT team, while 75 percent said it has increased profitability. So it seems safe to conclude, the smart workplace really is smart. 

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