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Can AI and IoT Help Us Get Back to the Office Safely?
Naeran Rubio /
/ Categories: AIoT, The Smart Workplace

Can AI and IoT Help Us Get Back to the Office Safely?

There has been a tech renaissance this past year as many businesses have found that their operations have needed to change. If you had asked business leaders if they planned to let their employees work from home full or part time a year ago, many would have disagreed that this could be the best route for an efficient working environment. Yet, here we are -- nearly a year into the pandemic and office complexes sit empty while home offices buzz with online collaboration. Employees sleep later, yet get to work earlier, and energy once wasted fighting traffic, now moves important projects forward.

More Change is Coming

There is no doubt that organizations have adapted well. But things are changing once more. As states open up, employees have been returning to the office, and amendments have had to be made to office infrastructures in order to keep those workers safe. Social distancing requirements may mean that many workplaces now need to have a hybrid business model – some employees working from home and some in the office. Additionally, the work from home experiment has quickly evolved. What once may have been a challenge both organizationally and technologically has now become industry standard – employees are working longer and collaborating better because their colleagues are available at the touch of a computer key.

Efficient Collaboration Both Inside and Outside the Office

Even after we head back to the office, people will expect to join a meeting in seconds, whether working from home, at their office desks or from a conference room.  Businesses need to make sure that no meeting room is harder to use than a laptop. Employees will expect to have both video and audio available for remote and in-person attendees. In the conference rooms, non-video equipped meetings will be obsolete and not tolerated by modern professionals. This can be done by leveraging the applications we’ve already learned during quarantine and by using a multi-platform approach, integrating applications like Zoom and Microsoft Teams to make it easier for employees to collaborate. They also need to continue the momentum of video collaboration, equipping conference rooms that implement simple connectivity and providing a quality camera/audio experience like we’ve been used to at home.

IoT and AI for Healthier Workspaces

Additionally, in order to create healthier workspaces, the workspaces will need to become smarter. Essentially, if you do not have data about what is happening in your conference room, you won’t know how to make good decisions about how to fix it. Facility managers will need to determine if they will need as many rooms, whether some rooms should be used more than others and the optimal temperature in the rooms to keep professionals engaged and productive. This is where Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) comes in. IoT involves data collection, while AI then takes those analytics and does smart things with it. For example, displays with sensors that pick up room activity, such as temperature and humidity levels and process that data in the cloud, can be used to make spaces healthier and more productive.

What is Needed

Collaboration displays, such as the Windows collaboration display (WCD) from Sharp, can help enable better collaboration in hybrid office situations where some employees may be in a meeting room while others are virtual.  As the WCD is supported by Microsoft Teams, enhanced collaboration is enabled anywhere. Additionally, the WCD's built-in sensors connecting to the Microsoft Azure Digital Twins IoT platform and other commercially available cloud services, can help provide a more comfortable, energy-efficient meeting through continual analysis of meeting room conditions and usage.

In this age of uncertainty, the only thing that is certain is that things will change. As business professionals face more and more challenges, the organizations that will succeed are the ones that are willing to think creatively in order to move forward. Including the WCD as part of your organization’s portfolio will not solve all of your back to the office challenges, but it can help ensure that your employees continue to collaborate in a safer environment.

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