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Flexibility and control

Smart technology based on sensors and the Internet of Things (IoT) is helping businesses to make more efficient use of office space, save energy, reduce costs and improve the working environment for employees. Tayla Ansell picks six systems that put you back in control

Light relief

Personalise lighting and temperature in your own workspace
Personalise lighting and temperature in your own workspace

Philips InterAct Office is a connected lighting system for offices that performs many other functions. Installed and operated by Philips Lighting as a managed service, LED luminaires with integrated sensors collect data on lighting, temperature, space occupancy and operational maintenance and display the results on a dashboard.

As well as offering the ability to cut energy consumed by office lighting by as much as 70%, the retroft solution allows businesses to create a more comfortable working environment for employees without having to undertake major office renovation.

It is supported by an app that staff can use to personalise lighting and temperature levels in their workspace, find their way around and book meeting rooms.

Keep your cool

Saving energy via smart control
Saving energy via smart control

Smart control of heating and air conditioning helps businesses save energy whilst also improving the comfort of employees.

Mitsubishi Electric has a range of indoor air conditioning units featuring an embedded 3D i-See Sensor, which scans a room to check occupancy levels. It analyses the temperature profile of the whole room and can detect exactly where people are, based on their body heat signatures. Heating and cooling is then directed to those who need it most. Airflow can be customised to direct air away from occupants, to avoid uncomfortable drafts, or towards them for quick heating/cooling.

If sensors detect that a room is empty, the air conditioning will switch off automatically to save energy.

End temperature battles

Adjust temperature in your own workspace
Adjust temperature in your own workspace

The office temperature is almost as great a source of dissatisfaction amongst office workers as noise and lighting levels. The Comfy app seeks to neutralise this area of conflict by linking to existing building systems and giving employees the ability to adjust the temperature in their workspace. Users simply click ‘Warm My Space’ or ‘Cool My Space’ and the app sends a message to the nearest Variable Air Volume (VAV) terminal to deliver warm or cool air for ten minutes.

The app uses machine learning to identify patterns and preferences from an employee’s requests so that it can automatically make the required adjustments before being instructed to do so. For example, if someone sits in a spot that the sun hits in the afternoon and regularly clicks ‘Cool My Space,’ the app will learn to keep that space cooler in the afternoon.

Customised coffee

Fresh bean coffee controlled by an app
Fresh bean coffee controlled by an app

TopBrewer from Scanomat is a smart coffee machine controllable via an app. It dispenses fresh-bean coffee, chilled drinking water, hot water and hot and cold milk from a stainless steel tap built into the table top, rinsing automatically every time it is used.

An associated app lets users specify their preferred drink size, coffee strength, type of milk, even the amount of foam on top and save it as their favourite. TopBrewer uses iBeacon technology to welcome passers-by with a notification on their smartphone. To order their favourite drink, they just have to swipe the screen.

Find your way

Sensors that monitor occupancy provide managers with a clear view of workplace utilisation, helping businesses to get the most out of their space. The data can also help mobile employees find a free desk to work at.

Nimway, a smart office solution from Sony, uses beacon technology, digital floorplans, wireless occupancy sensors and a mobile app to solve common problems in large offices, such as finding your next meeting, finding a free meeting room and locating colleagues.

When a user walks up to a digital floorplan, it provides them with personalised information about their upcoming meetings, including the location of any meeting rooms booked. If required, the mobile app can provide directions en route.

In addition, Nimway gives management insight into how office space is being used, sending alerts if there is a need for additional meeting rooms or if there are any under-utilised areas.

Colour control

Office spaces need to accommodate a variety of activities, from video conferencing and screen-based work to face-to-face meetings. Lutron smart lighting and shading solutions give occupants the ability to control blinds and curtains at the touch of a button and to adjust the colour and intensity of electric light, from warm to neutral to cool. Warmer light promotes relaxation, while cooler light can enhance concentration. Giving employees the ability to adjust colour temperature to suit their needs creates a more pleasant working environment and can improve comfort, wellbeing and productivity.