Value-add buildings: so much more than just a workplace

In the first of a three-part series from Cordless Consultants on digital evolution – not revolution – Beverley Eggleton looks at adding value to workplace buildings through technology

On the cusp of the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ our need for technology is greater than ever. As we seek new shortcuts to market, the economics of servicing a business is shifting to a mix of in-house ‘owned’ services coupled with cloud-based services accessed on demand. Business entities are rapidly forming and reforming to deliver against our ever- increasing demands and requirements.

Whilst we can try and predict the future when it comes to technology, we do not have the knowledge to describe future things in today’s terms. For example, go back a few decades: Uber, Twitter and Chip and Pin would have meant nothing. Checking yourself in for a flight? Virtual lectures? Inconceivable.

‘We can’t describe future things in today’s terms…’

Having something as small as a smartphone that can take the place of your money, camera, calendar, calculator, stop watch, music player, TV, filing system, address book, key, map and pen…? Apparently by 2025, a leading futurologist is claiming that the smartphone will be obsolete.

With so much hype surrounding new technologies for the future workplace, we always appear on the verge of something revolutionary, but it’s evolution that will get us there. Workplace technology change should be a natural process, making best use what is available to drive value and efficiency gains. We need solid technical foundations with flexibility to adapt and accommodate future requirements easily.

In this first blog of a three-part series on digital evolution, I want to look at adding value to buildings.

Attract and inspire

The workplace is no longer simply a container for business and the workforce; it is now expected to be a desirable, experiential, destination, community space that attracts, inspires, accommodates flexibility and offers the best amenities and services on tap.

We want our workplace to be sustainable and clever enough to sense how we are using it. Our workplace is also required to automate tasks and the user experience – all whilst adding income to the bottom line.

We talk about the digital user experience, where people are connected to space. You turn up at the workplace and your device automatically connects. You don’t need keys and you don’t need money to access services. You are greeted by a softer security system, using facial recognition.

You are given customised messaging and branding; finding people and navigating space is seamless. The coffee machine knows how you like your coffee and the meeting room knows how you like the heating and lighting. Everything can be easily accessed and controlled through an app, smart tech or your voice.

The smart workplace uses thousands of sensors to react intelligently and control workplace systems and technology like a living organism. Using advanced analytics, the buildings can be monitored through interactive dashboards, giving granular control over virtually every function. But what’s in it for us?

User experience optimised

Look at how Amazon Go has optimised the user experience. It’s a new kind of store with no checkout required. Amazon claims to have created the world’s most advanced shopping technology so we never have to wait in line. With the Just Walk Out shopping experience, you use the Amazon Go app to enter the store, take the products you want, and go! No lines, no checkout. All you need is an Amazon account, a supported smartphone, and the free Amazon Go app.

Clever? More so than you might think. Not only is the user experience optimised but Amazon benefits tenfold through brand loyalty whilst reaping the benefits of big data about us, the consumer.

So the building owners benefit by learning how to deliver an optimal and efficient user experience, and the occupier benefits by receiving that experience.

Pushing the boundaries

But how do we apply this to push the boundaries of the possible for our workplaces here and now?

Let’s consider who is responsible for creating the next-generation smart workplace environment? Is it the occupier or the landlord? The answer is both.

The landlord can attract occupiers by investing in communal services such as the reception, lifts and security to create a better building experience.

It can also make sure it creates a ‘provisioned and agile building’ with access to the cloud, coupled with a great core IT physical infrastructure in place as part of the base build that occupiers can tap into on demand. We are moving towards a world where every building will be WiredScore accredited to ensure an enhanced level of IT connectivity.

The level of IT connectivity is essential in relation to agile working, which can improve desk occupancy rates from 45 per cent to 75 per cent according to research from UnWork.

Tenants in driving seat

It is easy, however, to overestimate what landlords are responsible for. Tenants are driving the demand. Not everyone may want big impact digital screens, projection, signage and wayfinding. The culture of the business may lend itself to a human face-to-face experience, instead of a highly digital one.

Just like at home, do we really want or need to ask Alexa, Siri, Google or Cortana where our keys are, or do we want to find them ourselves?

Do we need or want a smart screen that can connect to 50 other smart screens anywhere in the world? Do we need a 360-degree intelligent video conferencing camera? Do we want haptics, wearables, 3D, AI, VR, solar or robotics?

The possibilities to customise the workplace experience are huge, but what works for us?

Do we want centralised control, or local control? What data do we need? Why are we collecting data anyway and who is responsible for it? We tackle these questions in our next blog post on big data. The important thing is to get what you want and what you need.

‘Tech can turn the traditional design cycle on its head…’

A final thought on smart buildings. In this digital age, pretty much anything is possible, but you need to make sure the right questions are asked about what you really want versus what you need. You can then work out how tech can meet those wants and needs.

Ask the right questions of your people and your data analytics. You may be surprised how tech can turn the traditional design cycle on its head – creating a resilient and flexible base build that occupiers can shape to meet their needs. Not through radical overhaul, but through evolution, as we seek and find new ways to use tech to solve problems.

Beverley Eggleton is marketing manager of workplace technology specialist Cordless Consultants   

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Cordless Consultants Cordless Consultants is an independent IT, AV and Smart Building consultancy. All opinions expressed in the Academy's Technology section are not necessarily the view of Cordless.