The Smart Office

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The office is becoming a smarter environment for a number of reasons. Making your office building efficient from an operational point of view not only makeslife simpler for those that work there but will also save costs in a number of areas. Utilities are starting to make an appearance in partner portfolios which can be a gateway for selling smart products. How is the Channel reacting to this opportunity? Is there good money to be made in selling the smart office? David Dungay went to find out.

There are people out there selling the smart building but what became abundantly clear when I started out on this feature was it isn’t something the Channel has currently grasped with both hands.

On the one side, we have those partners that are selling utilities and are able to offer smart metering devices which can optimise a customer’s billing and save them a considerable amount of money. On the other, there are companies offering a more rounded proposition based around not just office building/ energy efficiencies but also the wellbeing of employees.

A recent study by economists at the University of Warwick found that happiness led to a 12% spike in productivity, while unhappy workers proved 10% less productive. As the research team put it, “We find that human happiness has large and positive causal effects on productivity. Positive emotions appear to invigorate human beings.”
Often referred to as ‘Wellness’ the happiness of employees stretches beyond things like salary, staff incentives and lunch time yoga classes. Simple things like temperature, smell and even CO2 levels also impact the productivity of staff.

Dan Cunliffe, MD of Pangea commented, “Smart building management and wellness is something we are currently looking as a market to get into. When it comes to Wellness, there are many studies out there which indicate happy employees are more productive and creative.”
“There are a number of sensor related products out there which can measure a number of things to achieve this right now. These sensors can measure temperature, Co2, ambient light and noise, even VoC (which is essentially body odour). It may sound silly, but people do work better when all of these things are optimised.”

Paul Burn, Head of Category Sales at Nimans, says “Today’s technology is an extension of previous trends which are creating additional revenue opportunities for resellers.”

“In addition, IoT is an interesting area which is driving smart office trends. It’s all about owning the pipe, whether data connectivity or utilities. The more a reseller can control the better- and technology developments are opening up opportunities. Smart water meters are a good example as once they are in the ground, recurring revenue can be gleaned for years as they won’t readily be dug back up. But at this stage I’d say traction in the SMB sector particularly where utilities are concerned is fairly slow, however in the future that may change.”

Birth of the smart building?

The vast majority of businesses occupy a building of some description and will be incurring costs on bills and maintenance. Facilities management companies need to make profit but they must balance that with maintaining safety levels. Safety and security management is undergoing a process of transformation, as smart buildings equipped with IP-enabled safety and security devices provide facilities managers with a raft of new capabilities. These include data collection and analysis, linkage with other in-house systems and consolidated administration. Smart buildings may have the answer.

Channel play?

According to Cunliffe, the smart office has a place in the Channel, he said “Every customer has an office. It’s a huge opportunity.”
“If you imagine the big office space companies out there like Regus, a smart office solution would give them a real USP. Imagine being able to sell office space which is the most comfortable or the most productive for employees.”
Burns added, “The smart office and working from home has been around for years. It’s a way of working you can’t not be involved in as the vast majority of phone systems offer this facility. Switching on lights or heating remotely via the internet and third party apps is relatively easy to do whilst CCTV is another growth area for us and our customers.
“The bigger question is integration in respect of software. Different solutions are designed to make remote access easier, expanding the smart office concept. But they tend to be sourced from different manufacturers and the key question for a reseller is how many tentacles do they want to have. How many fingers in different pies?”

 

Cunliffe added “We are looking at sensors which record a number of things, footfall, energy and of course comfort levels which I have mentioned. There is an opportunity to offer businesses the ability to customise their office layout based on not just where people sit and what their job function is but also on individual’s behaviour. If someone speaks loudly on the phone or generally make lots of noise then you may not put them near someone who needs quiet to do their job, or you would change the layout so the noise may not travel as far.”
“If the HR people had a dash board which told them who is sitting where, they can optimise the work place for maximum efficiency. Suddenly they can have this data easily which also doesn’t have to cost a lot.”

When you start looking into the data this is where things start to get interesting. Once you have built up a picture of how a company operates this data becomes extremely valuable to not only you as a partner but also other companies looking for insights. This is then an after sales opportunity.

Burns commented “I think convergence will continue to develop as the cloud takes an even deeper hold on our personal and working lives. IOT will play a frontline role and more and more resellers are getting involved. The snowball will continue to grow.”