by Simon Troup, Head of Data Services, OpenSensors.io
Expect the early adopters of ‘enchanted’ buildings to be our employers. The World Green Building Council estimates that we spend 10% of our costs on facilities management and 90% on executing our business. You don’t have to be an accountant to realise a 1% improvement in productivity trumps a 1% saving in facilities costs by 9 to 1! So how might smart buildings deliver productivity and improved user experience (UX)?
Great UX should be pain free. ”Don’t make me think,” says Steve Krug. Whilst smart phones offer a means of logging in to a workplace, it’s a bind to install the app, to login, to connect. Then privacy and indoor location services are a challenge. IoT tech such as smart-city open-data sensors, beacons, noise and air quality sensors, coupled with responsible anonymisation, can deliver on productivity because improved building and personal wellness simply means we get more done. But how might this work?
Aarron Walter said “UX Designers shooting for usable is like a chef shooting for edible.” As techies we can apply these ideas to workplace interactions. Take a large office space: I arrive from out of town for a meeting with my project team. I register, head off to the flexible space and grab a desk. Perhaps wasting some time trying to find my guys. Each of the team then arrive. Some may co-locate, others disperse. There’s no convenient breakout space; the collaboration is diluted, and we’re disturbing others.This is the typical ‘edible’ tenant experience, not a delightful meal.
The missing ingredient that is rendering even such ‘techie’ tenants powerless to demand gourmet is the lack of an inexpensive, robust, secure and open tech stack. But tech is moving fast. Expect new digital services enabled by advances in IoT hardware and data software to shake down the workplace industry. Property management organisations that are ready to invest and experiment will move ahead. They’ll develop an ‘edge’ that will define their branding for years to come with a menu of services that include:
- Digital concierge – Expect to sign in digitally on a device that will bind you, your calendar, your co-workers and your building. Through data, expect intelligent routing to the best work space for your own and your group’s needs.
- Location based services – Sensors enable ‘just in time’ cleaning services that clear flexible working space when meetings conclude, or sweep loitering coffee cups and deliver fresh coffee during breaks in longer workshops.
- Environmental factors – Expect IoT to bubble up environmental data such as air quality, temperature, humidity, light and noise that can be used to adjust HVAC systems in real time, or to aide interior designers in improving the workplace.
- Smart facilities management – location based services coupled with smart energy grid technology will allow fine-tuning of energy supply, reacting to changes in demand and national grid status (smart grid frequency response).
Data science is behind each of the above services. Each addresses a specific need by wrangling data sets into an ordered store. Opensensors.io is one company launched to provide an inexpensive, robust, secure and open tech stack to do such wrangling. We add further value through real time dashboarding for health and safety or real time productivity management. Furthermore, once data is captured we can apply machine-learning to gain a deeper understanding of the interactions of our human resources and physical assets through A/B testing and other data science.
Unlocking great UX in buildings boils down to data; capturing it, wrangling it, applying science and iterating to make things better. First we must gather the data from the systems in place (see First ‘Things’ First) whilst supplementing from new devices such as air quality, occupancy through sensors or beacons. Having provided a robust data fabric tenants need to become active rather than passive, agile rather than rigid in their approach to managing their assets. IoT devices and data services will deliver the edge needed to serve up best-of-breed user experiences that tenants will highly value.
Simon Troup is Head of Data Services for OpenSensors.io, London, United Kingdom. He and the whole team at OpenSensors are focused on lowering the cost and barriers-to-entry for the Internet of Things. They are building an IoT ingestion engine capable of processing millions of messages per second for users seeking to create smart and responsive environments.
We are incubated in the Open Data Institute and are passionate about building cities and environments of the future.