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IoT-Enabled Smart buildings are Supporting a Safe Return to Office


As more businesses firm up plans for employees to go back to the office, they are considering how to ensure their operations run efficiently, securely and sustainably, while supporting staff wellbeing. Smart buildings powered by cloud connected IoT devices and sensors could provide the answer. This is opening up interesting new opportunities for managed service providers (MSP) providers, according to a recent report.

Quocirca’s Smart Buildings and IoT Study that interviewed IT decision makers globally, analyzes how IoT-enabled smart buildings are presenting new opportunities for MSPs in the post-pandemic workplace.

The study makes some interesting observations. For example, IT decision makers Lowering cost, minimizing risk, and health and safety concerns are top reasons for smart building investments, the study found. CXOs interviewed mentioned these as ‘very influential factors’ in IoT investment decisions in smart building technology in the post-Covid workplace.

With changing health and safety guidelines, 36% of companies said their IoT strategy focus and their plans for implementation have shifted significantly. Another 40% say pandemic compelled them to make smaller changes in their IoT strategy. Enhancing sustainability is also a very influential investment decision factor for 43% of respondents, with 40% also saying improving environmental performance had become a key driver due to COVID-19.

Smart heating and lighting are the top smart building IoT technologies. Touchless access control is another area of importance, with 36% of respondents indicating that this technology has been implemented, along with 36% for voice assistant technology.

According to Research Director, Quocirca, Louella Fernandes and the report author, “Indeed IoT investment has increased in the last one year.” The study shows 76% of organisations have increased IoT investment from 2020. Investment growth levels are higher among companies with 500-999 employees, the study said. Two-thirds of IT decision makers reported that they would be open to retrofitting IoT devices, the study says.

Azure is the IoT platform of choice for CXOs as over half of the respondents say that they are using Azure to power their IoT initiatives, with a further 27% planning to do so in future.

A Microsoft blog recently mentioned that they have been accelerating its smart building solutions, most recently with Microsoft Azure Digital Twins, an Azure IoT service, that enables developers to create digital replicas of physical environments in real time. In comparison, 41% indicated that they are using the AWS IoT platform.

Fernandes sees security as a double-edged sword. Enhanced security and lower general costs are the most cited benefits of implementing IoT solutions, chosen by 30% of respondents in each case. At the same time, she notes that security is also seen as a key risk of IoT, with a proliferation of internet-connected devices considerably expanding an organization’s cyberattack surface and its exposure to malicious breaches and unintentional data loss.

Data security was the biggest concern about IoT for 53% of respondents and could prove to be a brake on adoption, shows the study.

On the value of IoT analytics, Fernandes mentions, “Data generation and collection is the payoff of IoT smart building implementation. By using it to understand how buildings are used by occupants and automating changes to technology and facilities to create the most comfortable, energy and cost-efficient environment, organisations can reap considerable benefits.”

Over half of the respondents rated the value of security analytics highly, which indicates awareness of security concerns as noted in the previous finding.

The majority consider print as part of their IoT environment (81%). Respondents want more data and analytics from their printer fleet. In particular, companies want data and analytics around sustainability such as energy (59%), paper usage (55%), and consumables status (50%). Besides, smart IoT printing is seen to bring about benefits when it comes to cloud integration (35%), secure printing (32%), remote job submission (31%), and security monitoring and remote monitoring (both 30%).

According to Fernandes, “As businesses plan for a future shaped by factors including hybrid working; the need for infection control; and a drive to ensure the productivity and wellbeing of the smart, agile workforce, this is an important time to determine where investment in IoT can support both the business and its employees.”

As organizations embrace the power of real-time data to boost their operations in a huge range of areas, the managed IoT services market is likely to boom. MSPs are well placed to make the move into smart building technology, being accustomed to supplying hardware and carrying out remote monitoring to provide services such as predictive maintenance and environmental performance analysis.

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