How Can Businesses Use Internet of Things (IoT) in the Workplace?

There has been a surge in the number of devices that fall under the IoT umbrella, and this trend looks set to continue. However, it's not just consumer devices that are becoming more connected. IoT technology is also finding its way into the workplace.

The adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT) has particularly skyrocketed in the past few years, and the global IoT market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 25.68 percent and reach 1.32 trillion US dollars by 2026. Furthermore, Statista predicts that the number of IoT-connected devices will surpass 30.9 billion units by 2025. 

This article will briefly define IoT and discuss how businesses can use it in the workplace.

What is IoT?

Internet of Things (IoT) is a network of devices connected to the internet. What happens is that IoT developers embed these devices with software, sensors, and other technologies that allow them to connect and share data with other systems and devices over the internet. 

By connecting physical objects to the internet, IoT enables the collection and analysis of big data, which can be used to improve efficiency, optimize performance, and make better decisions. For example, a smart energy grid can use IoT to collect data on energy usage patterns, allowing for better management of demand and reducing costs. As more and more devices are connected to the internet, the potential applications of IoT can only be limited by our imagination.

How can businesses use IoT in the workplace? 

For businesses, the potential applications of IoT are virtually limitless. These might be the early days of IoT adoption in the workplace, but the coming years will see rapid adoption of IoT to streamline operations in pursuit of the ever elusive competitive edge. The early adopters, as always, will certainly have an edge over the late comers. You therefore want to start looking at the potential areas you can start to experiment with IoT before it’s too late. 

Luckily the costs of implementing IoT systems are falling. So there is no reason not to expect this trend to grow even more rapidly. 

Here are some of the ways that businesses can use IoT.

1. Smart furniture

Traditionally, furniture has been designed with a very static use case in mind. But with IoT, we're starting to see more furniture that's designed for a specific function, like sitting or sleeping. This opens up a world of possibilities for smart office furniture and beyond.

Imagine if your office chairs could adjust to fit your body perfectly or tell you when it’s time for a break. Or if the desk could adjust to fit your height. What if the desk could move closer to the window to get a better light. Or if the shelves could rotate to show you different items depending on what you're working on. That's the kind of convenience that IoT is making possible in the workplace. So, for example, if an employee has a bad back, the desk can be adjusted to minimize strain. Or if someone is always cold, the office could be heated up a bit more.

These are all things that are now being made possible with smart furniture, which is furniture that's connected to the internet. With sensors and connectivity built into furniture, businesses can now track things like employee comfort levels. And this data can be used to make changes in the office layout, furniture, and even the lighting to create a more productive and comfortable environment.

This means that not only can your furniture be smart, but so can your lightbulbs, your coffee maker, and pretty much anything else you can think of. And as more and more devices get connected to the internet, the possibilities for what we can do with smart furniture are endless.

2. Boosting productivity

Businesses can use IoT to reduce operational costs by prioritization and lowering the impact of productivity congestion. Productivity congestion occurs when businesses are no longer able to produce at their previous levels due to new challenges and obstacles. This can often lead to business closures and layoffs, as well as decreased consumer confidence. 

You can use IoT to reduce the impact of productivity congestion by providing real-time data that can be used to make informed decisions. For example, if your company is facing a shortage of raw materials, you can use IoT sensors to track inventory levels and make adjustments accordingly. In addition, you can use IoT to monitor employee productivity and identify areas where congestion might be occurring. 

This can be particularly useful for companies with operations that cut across diverse supply chains. 

3. Data collection and analysis

Data is the new oil! And IoT technology now presents the best opportunity for businesses to use every data point to optimize processes and achieve growth goals. Data is essential for every business to grow and prosper. This comes at a time when surveys have shown that over 50 percent of respondents agreed that data is essential to their organizations

These are some of the ways you can use IoT systems to collect and analyze data:

  • Facilities’ utilization: IoT can be used to collect data about how employees are using the office space and equipment. This data can be used to improve the efficiency of the workplace. For example, if it is found that employees are not using certain areas of the office, those areas can be redesigned or eliminated.  
  • Employee health: IoT can be used to collect and monitor data to do with employee health and safety. This data can be used to identify potential health and safety hazards in the workplace and to make changes to improve employee safety. 

Generally, IoT devices collect data and share it through an IoT gateway to other devices where it is analyzed. Sometimes, these devices communicate with each other and act on the information. Alternatively, they can produce detailed reports for managers to make informed decisions. 

4. Enhancing security levels

You're probably already familiar with the basics of cyber security. But what about using the Internet of Things to enhance your workplace’s security levels?

You can actually use IoT in conjunction with traditional security measures to create a layered security approach. For example, you can use IoT to monitor your network for unusual traffic patterns or behavior that might indicate a hacker is trying to break in. You can also create a powerful surveillance network by connecting IoT devices to CCTV cameras. Cyber security experts enhance such networks with deep learning, computer vision, and automation to develop custom security solutions. And if you have any connected devices in your office — like smart TVs or printers — you can use IoT to protect them from malware and other cyber threats.

IoT devices also collect a lot of data, such as metrics and logs, that security experts can analyze. Such data allows the experts to monitor performance and proactively discover and troubleshoot security issues and other vulnerabilities.

5. Optimal asset use and tracking

IoT technology is making it possible for companies to connect every asset, unit, device, equipment, and machinery to a single network. Businesses can use smart intelligence to control equipment and track assets. By outfitting your assets with sensors, you can collect data on usage patterns, whereabouts, and other data points that can help you make better decisions about how to utilize your resources. For example, if you have a fleet of vehicles, you can use GPS data to route them more efficiently and optimize fuel usage.  

In fact, asset-heavy industries like logistics and supply chains are already using IoT technology to enhance transparency by using location tracking and regular updates. If you have high-value assets that need to be monitored closely, sensor data can give you visibility into their location and status so you can take action quickly if something goes wrong. 

The demand for real-time information on assets has fueled the growth of IoT-driven asset tracking and monitoring. A report by Markets and Markets projects that the IoT-based asset tracking market will grow from 3.9 billion US dollars in 2022 to 6.6 billion US dollars by 2027.

6. Enhancing automation

Businesses across many industries can now automate their processes to levels never seen before, thanks to IoT technology. Already, IoT-powered robots are taking over various industrial processes, which results in reduced costs and higher output. 

Some companies are already using autonomous units that they control remotely to work on assembly lines. Some manufacturers have started using IoT, specifically the Internet of Robotic Things (IoRT), to manufacture automobile parts, airplanes, electronics, and toys. 

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), also referred to as Industry 4.0 or smart manufacturing, refers to the extension of IoT to industrial applications and sectors. IIoT focuses on big data, machine-to-machine communication, and machine learning, enabling industries to achieve higher efficiency and reliability.

The whole concept of smart technology is most likely the most revolutionary aspect of IoT especially when applied at scale. This can be best demonstrated by the emergence of IoT applications in critical infrastructure like airports where we are now beginning to see the rapid rise of smart airports, where operations are streamlined by massive device connectivity.

7. Predictive maintenance scheduling

Predictive maintenance scheduling is a technique that uses historical data and machine learning algorithms to predict when a system is likely to fail. By doing this, it is possible to schedule maintenance before the failure, which can prevent downtime and improve safety. In some cases, it may also be possible to predict when a machine is likely to need more intensive maintenance, such as parts replacement. The benefits of predictive maintenance scheduling include reduced downtime costs, improved safety, and lower maintenance costs. In order to be effective, predictive maintenance scheduling requires accurate data and reliable machine learning algorithms. And this is where IoT comes in.

So now companies can use IoT in the workplace to predict when systems will need to be serviced or replaced. All you need to do is use IoT devices to collect data on how systems including hardware are being used. This data can then be analyzed for patterns that would signal the need for maintenance. 

According to a study, 41 percent of industries worldwide use predictive maintenance

8. Safe working environment

Some work environments might often be dangerous, and managers need to apply appropriate solutions to manage risks, reduce hazards, and prevent accidents. 

Managers can implement a forward-thinking strategy to monitor whether the working conditions are safe for humans. In this context, IoT devices can collect information on a facility's temperature, humidity, and other conditions. Once the levels are unsafe, the IoT-backed systems can automatically initiate corrective action or raise an alarm. 

Managers can also use IoT-enabled wearables to monitor the health of their workers. These wearables can measure heartbeat, blood oxygen levels and temperature, and identify signs of fatigue. 

9. Enhanced inventory visibility 

Supply chain and logistics is capital-intensive with many bottlenecks. Customers demand reliability, while investors expect transparency. Keeping track of all the inventory can be hectic.

Supply chain managers can leverage IoT devices to track their inventory by integrating material handling equipment with IoT to make the work of material handling staff easier. They can quickly tell the amount of inventory they have and its location.

Here are more ways that your business can use IoT to enhance inventory visibility:

  • Automated inventory tracking: By attaching sensors to products and equipment, you can automatically track inventory levels and receive alerts when items need to be replenished. This eliminates the need for manual counting and reduces the chances of errors.
  • Location tracking: You can use IoT-enabled devices to track the location of products throughout the supply chain. This information can be used to optimize routing and ensure that products are delivered to their destination in a timely manner.
  • Condition monitoring: You can use sensors to monitor the condition of products, such as temperature or humidity. This information can be used to prevent damage during storage or transport.

10. Remote health monitoring

If you run a healthcare facility, you can use IoT solutions to monitor critical health data, such as blood pressure, heart rate, and blood sugar. It means that your doctors can receive detailed information about patients through these devices. 

In fact, healthcare devices are among the fastest-growing segments of the IoT market. The Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) is expected to reach 176 billion US dollars by 2026.    

Given the prominence of healthcare atop all other industries, it’s easy to see why  IoT in the healthcare workplace provides a great opportunity to proactively predict health problems, diagnose, treat, and monitor patients in real time, both in and out of healthcare facilities. 

11. IoT and climate change

The climate is a big concern these days and now IoT offers many opportunities to conserve the environment through avenues such as efficient energy consumption among others. 

There is a lot that businesses can do considering that the workplace is one of the places where we spend the majority of our time, including the following. 

  • Motion sensing: Motion sensing technology can be used to detect when an area of the workplace is empty and adjust the temperature accordingly. This can lead to significant energy savings, as well as improved comfort for employees.
  • Occupancy sensors: Similar to motion sensors, occupancy sensors can be used to detect when an area of the workplace is unoccupied and turn off lights or adjust the temperature accordingly. This can help businesses save energy and money, while also reducing their carbon footprint.
  • Automated lighting controls: With IoT-enabled lighting controls, businesses can automatically adjust the level of light based on how much natural light is available, as well as the time of day. This can help to reduce energy consumption without sacrificing employee productivity. 
  • Smart thermostats: Smart thermostats give businesses the ability to remotely control the temperature in their office space, as well as schedule temperature changes based on occupancy levels. This can lead to more efficient energy use and lower utility bills.
  • Automatic shading: With IoT-enabled shading controls, businesses can automatically adjust blinds or curtains based on the position of the sun. This helps to regulate temperatures in the office and prevent heat gain in summer months, leading to reduced energy consumption.

Concluding remarks

Of course, there are also some challenges associated with introducing IoT technology into the workplace. For example, there are privacy and security concerns that need to be addressed. Additionally, there is a risk that employees will become too reliant on such technology and lose some of their independent thinking and problem-solving skills. 

Nevertheless, the potential benefits of IoT in the workplace are significant and dwarf the challenges by far, and we will see more businesses embracing this new technology. Just make sure you are not left behind, especially by your closest competitors.

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