Across the commercial real estate landscape, a human-centric design ethos is emerging. For technology to play an important part, it will need to show how it can add value to an office space and do it at scale.
I look to the home as a test bed for innovation. As our kitchens, bedrooms and living rooms have come to life with voice- and phone-activated gadgetry, the home has become the leading space for in-built smart tech. Commercial property landlords can learn much from the successes and failures in this arena.
The CES exhibition in Las Vegas in January was a smorgasbord of cutting-edge tech applied to the home. AI and ‘intelligent’ were omnipresent prefixes for all manner of household appliances: AI vacuums, intelligent toilets, internet of things (IoT) handles.
Curiously, among the robots, drones and self-driving cars, the humble TV shone the brightest. LG’s launch of the world’s first rollable TV confirmed sceptics’ beliefs that the TV is still king in the court of the household appliance.
While the hardware was impressive, the battle of the virtual assistants also raged as Google and Amazon went head to head on third-party compatibility. Google Assistant announced smart toilet, shower and even IKEA blind integration. Amazon announced Alexa integration into smart ovens, pianos and light bulbs. Samsung even chipped in with a Bixby integration for its talking fridge.
Seeing the adoption battle play out is telling for where big tech companies see the future. Before mass adoption takes place, a lot of work needs to be done; consumers will expect seamless interactions between their favourite devices.
It is evident that interoperability – the ability of systems, applications, devices and services to work together in a reliable way – needs to become a key focus for intelligent systems to prevent fragmentation of smart tech.
Manufacturers are preparing their products by developing hardware that builds into the core ecosystems of Google, Amazon and Apple. It is possible that as smart tech becomes less fragmented we will end up with one large service provider that runs our smart home – maybe a home ‘powered by’ Amazon.
This is an exciting future but clear barriers exist preventing this level of connectedness reaching office space.
The first is that a large service provider that offers standardised IoT integration and delivers bespoke solutions for smart offices doesn’t yet exist. Commercial IoT products are usually standalone systems for heating, lighting etc. The commercial world should look out for the likes of Amazon moving from the home into the office.
The second is that network security in the workplace has different challenges to network security at home. Office IT teams work around the clock to ensure routers, firewalls, switches and core infrastructure are secured, updated and patched. Currently, the perception of IoT devices is that they bring increased security risks.
It is clear that smart tech has gained significant momentum in the home. As landlords try and meet modern tenants’ requirements for smart buildings, they will observe increasing demands made on their buildings’ digital infrastructure. Now is the perfect time for landlords to create work environments that attract the highest-quality tenants by better managing the smart provisions in an office.
William Newton is president and EMEA managing director of WiredScore