Some business owners worry about the office while they’re away. Thanks to a wide array of modern connected devices, you can transform your place of work into a smart office that manages itself while you’re gone and lets you know what’s happening.
This new world of connected intelligent devices is taking the business world by storm. Market research company Gartner documented 2.4 billion connected devices in businesses in 2016. That number rose to 3.1 billion this year. By 2020, it will reach 7.5 billion. Businesses are waking up to the possibilities of this new class of devices, which many are calling the Internet of Things (IoT).
Many of the devices that make up a smart home also have a place in the office. Here are some options that let you leave your work behind but keep an eye on things, just in case.
There's no shortage of security options available for the smart home and office. Connected cameras can beam video from your workplace to the cloud, where you can access it via your smartphone. As a business owner with employees, you can ensure that people are timely and tidy at your store, bakery or workshop. You can also use a camera to monitor security after hours or can keep an eye on a home office while on vacation.
Your needs will influence the features that you look for. Consider night vision or a camera with a security light option if you’re looking for nocturnal security, for example, and motion sensors if you only want to be alerted when something moves in an empty office or house. If you want to check on day-to-day operations, a live streaming option might be useful.
What about a business that needs to let in delivery people? If your home office has a small foyer area or annex, consider a combined doorbell camera and lock that allows you to see and speak with callers by connecting to a mobile app on your phone and relaying video from a door-mounted camera. When you see the delivery person and are satisfied that they're legitimate, you can press a button on your app and allow them to securely drop a package. Doorbell camera/locks like these are also ideal solutions for letting cleaners and other authorized personnel into your main office area while you’re away.
If you don’t want to be on call, consider a remotely controlled combination door lock that lets you set and revoke access codes offsite. These can also be useful for those running apartment rental businesses.
Style and security can often mix. Smart lighting lets you remotely control lights when you’re away so that people think your office is inhabited. It’s also a good way to add some extra bling by programming different configurations and colors, enabling you to set a red and green theme for the holiday season, for example. For added aesthetics, consider smart blind systems that raise and lower on a schedule you can control directly from your smartphone.
Smart lighting systems are usually dimmable and LED-based, which can lead to energy savings. Another energy saver is a smart thermostat, which can be controlled remotely with custom temperature settings.
Combined with motion sensors, some of them can monitor when and where people are in the building and adjust the heating accordingly, meaning that you won’t have to set manual timers for irregular hours over the holiday season or at that time of the year when the temperature drops outside. Other models use artificial intelligence to learn from daily habits, getting to know your business and can automatically create custom heating and cooling schedules that work for your employees.
Smart heating is great, but you don’t want the office getting too hot, or too wet. Consider investing in safety sensors that can alert you to problem conditions. Connected smoke and carbon monoxide sensors can alert you via your smartphone if there’s a problem, and can also let you know when batteries are running low. Safety-conscious business owners can invest in a connected water sensor that can alert you when it senses moisture where it shouldn’t. This is ideal for basement areas, or anywhere commercial liquids are stored.
When buying these devices, consider two key things: first, ensure that you secure them properly by changing default login usernames and passwords, making them less vulnerable to electronic intruders. This is especially important for connected video cameras.
Second, consider controlling them all via the same connected ecosystem. Amazon Echo and Google Home are voice-activated speakers that allow you to activate preconfigured settings across multiple devices with a key phrase. Amazon's Alexa uses 'routines' to control multiple devices at once.
Being able to say “shut down the office for a vacation,” “set overnight security” or “activate Christmas lighting” without manually switching everything can be a stress remover. It’s also unbelievably cool. And as the IoT becomes more common in smart offices, connected devices improve efficiency in new ways, such as telling us when supplies run low, for example. How smart would you like your office to be?
About the Author
Danny Bradbury has been writing about technology and business since 1989. His clients have included the Financial Times, the Guardian, and Canada's National Post.
All content provided herein is for educational purposes only. It is provided “as is” and neither the author nor Office Depot, Inc. warrant the accuracy of the information provided, nor do they assume any responsibility for errors, omissions or contrary interpretation of the subject matter herein.
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