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Using the Internet of Things (IoT) for a smart office, businesses aim to make workplaces safer and reduce costs while companies rebuild lost revenue caused by the pandemic.
IoT allows us to measure and control temperature, CO2 and humidity, and creates the optimum working environment for each employee, cutting down the energy consumption.
Smart inventory is one of the most time-saving IoT integrations that companies can add to their offices. Smart office security solutions are based on voice and face recognition. These solutions are useful for office reopening in the post-COVID era.
An overview of an engineering approach to building a smart office ecosystem and IoT security concerns for smart office applications.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted businesses in ways we previously never imagined. Still, many employees worldwide are working remotely. But as we begin returning to work, office life will look somewhat different. Many businesses are turning to the Internet of Things (IoT) to make workplaces safer and reduce costs while companies rebuild lost revenue caused by the pandemic.
Using IoT for a smart office means that there are many connected devices and controlled via the Internet objects that can work and collect data without human interaction. This means offices can be more efficient than ever, allowing the automation of menial tasks so that staff has more time to complete projects. There are numerous ways to take advantage of smart office technology.
There are many ways for businesses to cut down on their energy consumption using smart technology for office buildings. Sensors can detect no one left in a room and turn off lights or other systems. Many smart offices are even choosing to incorporate LED lighting, utilizing lights located on the floor or along the walls to help people stay spaced a certain distance apart.
Energy consumption can also be tracked, allowing businesses to see whether they can make scheduling or other changes to cut down on monthly bills. Something as simple as scheduling people a half-hour later in the morning and evening to save on heating costs, for example, and might lessen overall consumption by a significant amount.
Smart thermostats were one of the first IoT technologies to become mainstream, but modern smart offices go beyond what is typically seen in homes today. IoT allows for measurement and control of temperature, CO2, humidity and automatically creates the optimum working environment for each employee. Users can even add a system for automatically controlling blinds, resulting in a decreased need for heating and cooling.
Using smart technology for climate control is one of the easiest and cost-effective ways to incorporate IoT smart office automation. Businesses can also take a step further and automatically turn climate control off/on based on whether there are people in the room and control the temperature remotely.
Consider this typical case:
Imagine an employee sitting near a window. When the sun starts to shine, smart blinds receive the signal and automatically drop.
Smart office furniture, such as desks, chairs, and even dividing walls, can increase productivity and benefit employees’ moods. Having control over their desks, for instance, can give them the option of including goals for how often they want to go from sitting to standing.
Smart mirrors can be used in restrooms or elsewhere in the office to display pertinent information or even play videos. It is more than just an information stand - it becomes interactive and adaptive. Smart mirrors tend to make a positive impression on clients and guests, allowing businesses to make a positive first impression along with them.
Smart office security solutions using IoT technology go beyond simply controlling cameras remotely. They can use voice and face recognition to tell who has entered a building, where they are, and how many people are in the office overall. Another use case - to control and prevent unauthorized access to restricted areas.
Security automation can often save money on security staff since users can use the smart technology to keep track of who is going in and out of the building, automatically formulate reports, and send alerts for specific events. Companies can even be notified when the last person leaves the office to ensure the security system is armed. It also allows the implementation of advanced AI-based analytics based on collected data.
Another smart security solution includes placing trackers on high-value items, which reduces the threat of physical theft. In certain businesses, this can be a huge plus, with the ability to get alerts when an object is moved or crosses a certain threshold.
Scheduling is critical in a post-COVID office, and IoT technology makes it much easier to keep staff at an optimum number of people throughout the day to ensure safety practices are followed. It also allows companies to create a check-in process and monitor any potential warning signs. It even allows companies to keep track of who was in the same room and analyze the usage of a parking lot using smart parking solutions.
Smart scheduling can also be used to cut down overtime, stagger start and leave times so that people can have a more flexible schedule while keeping the number of people in the same areas at a minimum.
Smart scheduling for these devices and networks is also useful in a post-COVID office, allowing companies to integrate with employee schedules for social distancing. Creating real-time changes to IoT schedules automatically is one of the best uses of smart office technology.
Smart inventory is one of the most time-saving IoT integrations companies can add to their offices. Instead of spending hours each week or month counting manually and updating an outdated excel or paper document, inventory can be tracked using RFID tags, which give a more precise look into assets.
IoT technology can track the overall amount of inventory. Moreover, the RFID tags can assess the time and exact location where each label was scanned. This gives companies a better idea of how their product is being counted, moved, and used. Real-time reports on how a product is utilized make it easier to identify bottlenecks and order issues.
Smart inventory can also automatically generate reports showing the optimal amount of product to order based on lead time so that companies are always on top of consumer demand. The longer a company uses RFID technology to track inventory, the more accurate it becomes, so that business becomes even more efficient over time.
In addition to RFID technology, companies can attach trackers to items to increase logistics efficiency and prevent loss. IoT is widely used for warehouse inventory.
Modern tracking systems offer numerous advantages that add security and convenience.
One advantage of modern tracking systems is that they help determine the number of people in the office using facial recognition technology. This can be configured with a simple greeting that sounds when the camera detects someone in the vicinity.
Among other interesting solutions for a smart office are Artificial Intelligence (AI) chatbots, which make the use of an office more comfortable and safe. AI Chatbots help to reduce energy consumption and time. It simplifies booking meeting rooms and time logging and increases the level of security of the workplace.
Thanks to AI chatbots integrated with Slack or Telegram, company employees can access systems without any additional software.
IoT security concerns are a real threat, especially as it is a rapidly advancing technology. One of the main security concerns for offices is a botnet attack. It happens if an IoT network is compromised by hackers who infiltrate to harvest information. It is extremely important to utilize the most up-to-date security guidelines and make sure that networks are secure.
There have been a number of high-profile security breaches that involve vulnerabilities related to the use of IoT technology, not only in the smart office. Security analytics is one way to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to a company’s IoT network, compiling relevant data so that they are aware of weak areas and possible threats.
Network segmentation is another so that if a single part of an IoT system is compromised, a hacker should not be able to gain access to the entire network. Consulting a experts to ensure the security of a network is a wise choice, especially when there is sensitive data.
Here are important points related to the improvement and automation of the security in the smart office:
Certificates are mandatory. Transferring data with the help of REST should be implemented through HTTPS. In the case of MQTT, an SSL certificate is required. Local servers and local networks without access to the Internet are secure. To ensure remote access without any serious security risks, companies can opt for a local server with a remote VPN connection.
Two-factor authentication and a one-time password can be easily implemented to increase security. Cloud solutions include needed tools that protect data. Additional services like Cloudflare can be used for protection and security when transmitting sensitive data.
There is no unified architecture for IoT-based smart office solutions. Each project requires a unique approach, beginning with clarifying the project’s goals and requirements.
Let’s take a look at what possibilities IoT technologies provide and what approaches could be used for such solutions:
To create an architecture of smart office automation, one must work backward to understand what kind of sensors will be used, what data needs to be provided, and what units need to be managed by the system. Floor plans are also important in terms of distances and power supply for sensors.
Sensors have to transmit the data via communication protocols. The most popular type of protocol for transferring data from edge devices to the server (cloud) is MQTT, a network protocol designed to operate with data packages (but not real-time data streams). The main advantages of MQTT are low energy consumption and reliability. Therefore, this lightweight protocol is frequently used for IoT device's communication in conditions of unstable networks.
Notably, transferring data to edge devices in IoT can be based on OPC, Modbus, TCP. These protocols differ from each other. For example, OPC UA is known as the standard for data exchange. It refers to independent open interface standards. Please pay attention to the fact that OPC is more related to Industrial IoT, and it serves as an example here.
Modbus is a serial communication protocol, serving signal transmission from a control device to the controller. The protocol can be used for data gathering and transmiting. The third one is TCP – the most common type of protocol. This is the transport-layer protocol for IoT.
THE NETWORK (SENSOR-IOT HUB) LAYER
For network layers, there are two main approaches to implementation:
The first one is to use wires to connect sensors and end devices with a controller. This approach is the most reliable for IoT-enabled smart office solutions.
The second is a wireless connection. This solution is the best option if the office renovation has already been completed and there is no need to lay wires. There are different options available with a wireless connection: Zigbee network, Z-Wave network, Wi-Fi, and BLE.
Each option has its own pros and cons. What’s best for an individual project depends upon the number of devices in the network, the coverage area, and the budget.
Recently, Zigbee has experienced a rise in popularity since the introduction of Zigbee 3.0, with its high range, speed, level of security. The high demand for Zigbee is related to a combination of the normal price and appropriate characteristics. For normal work, any of the mentioned solutions, the hub is needed. It must be connected to the local network. The hub is able to convert data received from sensors with subsequent publication on the local server or cloud, depending on the project’s specifications.
The most common cloud service IoT providers are AWS IoT and Google Cloud IoT. Below is an example of how these solutions are implemented.
AWS IOT ARCHITECTURE EXAMPLE
GOOGLE CLOUD IOT ARCHITECTURE EXAMPLE
MobiDev specializes in state-of-the-art software solutions, including IoT services. Whether you need IoT consulting or large-scale IoT development services, our innovative team is able to help. We are experienced in a wide variety of IoT applications, including retail, engineering, construction, security, and home use. Contact MobiDev to find out more about how we can help you with your IoT project.
The author - Oleg Starostin, IoT solution architect at MobiDev
Previously published at https://mobidev.biz/blog/using-iot-for-smart-office-automation
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