IoT Usage Expanding in the Enterprise

IoT is entering the business world and ready to help employees stay healthy, track data center assets, and make workplaces smarter and more environmentally friendly.

 

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Image credit: Aruba Networks

 

Retailers, manufacturers, and fleet owners were among the first to understand all that IoT has to offer. While there is no enterprise-grade IoT app that is a must-have for large organizations, IoT is making inroads at the office, showing up on employees’ wrists, in office furniture and meeting rooms, and on data center hardware.

Improving Office Health with IoT

Wrists of all sizes and shapes in the typical office are sporting wearable IoT technology such as smartwatches and fitness trackers. According to a report in eMarketer, about one-quarter of US adults, or 56.7 million people, used a wearable device in 2019, and over half of those used a smartwatch.  

Corporations are contributing to the smart device count, as organizations hoping to improve employee health and productivity are adding discounted or free fitness trackers as part of their corporate benefits packages. These health-focused wellness programs offer incentives to employees for exercising and competing in team activities, and they are becoming increasingly popular. A Rand Corporation survey reported that 70% of U.S. employers with more than 50 employees currently offer a wellness program. By 2021, 90% of those programs are expected to use IoT-based fitness trackers, up from 60% in 2017. 

Another area where IoT is helping to improve workplace health is with automated air quality monitoring. Shared spaces such as corporate gyms, cafeterias, and busy meeting rooms can have high values of carbon dioxide and other volatile organic compounds that can make people feel sluggish or dizzy. 

Integrators such as Advantech are stepping in to help. Advantech created WebAccess+IAQ, which visualizes real-time air information collected by IoT sensors, making indoor air quality management easier. It offers database management capabilities that facilitate analysis and reporting and help organizations maintain a healthy environment for employees and/or customers. 

IoT devices measure air quality.

Image credit: Advantech

Fun, Smart, and Stylish Workplaces

Another area where IoT shines is in the smart digital workplaces popping up in every region across the globe. Data from beacons and sensors combined with information from the wireless network is making the work environment much more pleasant for employees, especially in trendy open floor plans where unassigned seating is the norm.

Smart furniture is being outfitted with IoT sensors to gather real-time data usage about the overall space and resource utilization. These digital environments really are smarter, as an intelligent app and sensors can help locate a co-worker or find collaboration tools, such as a digital whiteboard for a last-minute meeting. 

They also solve meeting room scheduling problems. Using an app, employees can book meeting rooms and common areas on-the-fly. Sensors know if the room is occupied, and the app tracks meeting times and who reserved the room. To keep a meeting from running over, the lights can be used as a reminder. They will flash five minutes before the room needs to be vacated for the next group.

IoT sensors and a mobile app can also adjust lighting, furniture, and HVAC for each occupant’s personal needs, and when spaces are unoccupied, HVAC and lighting can be reduced to save energy. In fact, smart buildings that track and optimize temperature, lighting, energy consumption, and occupancy can save tremendous costs.

For example, Intel outfitted a 630,000 square foot office building in Bangalore, India, with approximately 9,000 sensors. The project’s goal was to reduce resource usage, improve operational efficiency, and increase occupant comfort. In terms of costs, the building is expected to reduce energy and water usage to save $645,000 per year with an ROI payback period of less than four years.   

Fixing Errors and Saving Time in the Data Center

The third IoT application getting lots of work in business is asset management. While unique use cases exist for healthcare, manufacturing, and other vertical industries, asset management in data centers is something all large companies need. Filled with racks of routers, servers, gateways and other devices, these operation centers are often chaotic bins of hardware. To manage the chaos, IoT sensors are starting to replace barcodes and are making inventory projects much easier, especially when infrastructure is moved from one location to another.

NASA’s Langley Research Center turned to RFID sensors from Omni-ID as a better method for managing inventory for thousands of data center assets and for managing the movement of lab and testing equipment between NASA field locations. With three types of RFID tags on the equipment, the operations team could use handheld scanners that relay data to a software platform to report and track inventory.

Having the RFID tags and platform improved the speed for conducting the inventory by 80%. The IoT combo also improved the accuracy to 100%. NASA’s project manager marked the ROI for the project at a very short 18 months.

Sensors and RFID tags help remote IT teams understand where assets are located and speed response time when things on the network go awry. As the technology gets more robust, the sensors can also measure temperature, humidity, and vibrations for better maintenance and management of the data centers.

These gateway apps are doing the hard work of helping businesses figure out when, where, and how IoT will work for them. As enterprises move forward in their digital journey, they are sure to find even more business uses for IoT.