IoT helps power an award-winning model for the workplace of the future

  • Posted on October 11, 2021
  • Estimated reading time 4 minutes
IoT Powered Workplace Of The Future

The pandemic prompted organizations to rethink everything about their businesses. Even as business leaders look to transition workers back to in-office, most will continue to embrace the hybrid work model, blending both in-person and remote workers. But the hybrid era presents a new set of challenges: how to keep teams engaged and connected, and how to optimize workspace to balance resources and cost.

Over the past year and a half, Avanade has worked closely with a diverse range of organizations representing nearly every industry – helping each navigate complex and unique challenges spurred by the new ways of doing business. We listened to clients, evaluated dozens of technologies, heavily researched unmet needs in the marketplace. And so, Avanade launched the Smart Building Accelerator, a human-centric solution designed to help organizations build the workplace of the future in the hybrid era.

And we’re thrilled to announce that Avanade just received two awards for the Smart Building Accelerator:

National Technology Awards Logo

National Technology Awards 2021, Internet of Things Project of the Year. Organized by the UK’s National Technology News, the 5th annual awards aim to celebrate technology innovation and pioneers.

International Business Awards, a global Golden Stevie® in the IoT Analytics Solution category. Launched in 2002, this awards program honors achievements across the globe, and is judged by an international panel of executives, entrepreneurs, innovators, and business educators.

International Business Awards Logo

Architecting the workplace of the future
Our stakeholders’ input prompted us to develop a solution that addressed three key challenges in the hybrid model:

  1. Create a better workplace experience for employees, both on-site and off
  2. Find ways to boost team collaboration, creativity, and productivity
  3. Reduce workplace costs by optimizing use of workspace

We knew the solution needed to be easy and intuitive to use, for everyone – from facilities managers to employees. Through design-thinking workshops and stakeholder interviews, we researched our users’ needs and wants. We prototyped and tested our concept as our design and development pod worked together to iterate our final product, ultimately creating a usable, useful, and enjoyable WX experience for all stakeholders.

The Smart Building Accelerator aims to address all three major challenges of office life in the hybrid model: empowering employees to do their best work, optimizing the workplace experience, and improving buildings facility management to address cost. The solution is comprised of several technologies, including Internet of Things (IoT), Azure Digital Twins, and virtual reality (VR). Combined with our human-centered design approach, we fused everything together to create a compelling experience.

We install IoT sensors around the office to better understand how people are utilizing the space – in aggregate over time, as well as at any given moment. With privacy and data security built into every step, we placed infrared sensors to indicate when desk space was occupied. Other smart sensors could count the number of people in meeting rooms and around the building.

Organizations building (or rebuilding) the workplace of the future need a comprehensive and holistic view of their workspace. We use Azure Digital Twins to create an exact digital and 3-D replica of an office. It creates a multi-use model that can be populated with data from IoT sensors. Building managers can see exactly what space is being used, by how many employees, in near-real-time. Workspace designers can track over time where staff congregate, what workspaces might be overbooked, and others that might be underutilized.

Creating a digital replica has another advantage – a virtual model for employees who can navigate and inhabit the virtual space remotely. VR headsets connect employees in ways a “Hollywood Squares” videoconference cannot; people can interact and collaborate with colleagues, share updates in a round-robin around a meeting space, and use integrated tools together, like shared virtual whiteboards. Beyond remote workers, VR also can help remote building managers tour buildings to understand how to optimize space and spend.

Virtualized workspace, tangible results
Our work with clients implementing the Smart Building Accelerator point to clear advantages in rethinking hybrid work and building the workplace of the future. In projects since the Accelerator launched in Oct. 2020, clients have seen an average 40% reduction in resource costs for desk space, and similar cost reduction for meeting rooms. Overall, we’ve seen clients using the solution achieve a 37% project ROI. They’ve also built the digital twin foundation for future data-driven insights and further workplace optimization efforts.

More importantly, in our opinion, were gains realized to the employee experience. Workers told us the solution helped them make decisions about when to head into the office, when IoT data showed office occupancy was low, or high, depending on personal preference. They told us that VR interactions were a welcome improvement over flattened, video meetings, reducing always-on-camera stress and even fostering a sense of togetherness. Employees feel empowered to do their best work, no matter where they do it.

Interested in exploring how you can reinvent your organization’s workspace for the hybrid era? Get in touch for a no-cost consultation on putting the award-winning Smart Building Accelerator to work for your team.

If you would like to learn more about our human-centred design approach, check out our Digital Innovation Studios.

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