By Sheridan Ware, Chief Information Officer Asia Pacific and Greater China, Global Technology Solutions, and Salumeh Companieh, Chief Information Officer, C&W Services.

The future of The Internet of Things and commercial real estate.

The Internet of Things refers to a vast array of computing devices that, when embedded in everyday objects and connected to the internet, allow those objects to communicate autonomously with each other and with us. Examples include smartphones, fitness trackers, smart appliances, and equipment sensors.

There should be no doubt that the IoT is an increasingly pervasive part of both life and work. Such explosive growth has IoT firmly on the corporate agenda with IDC, indicating that 55% of companies see IoT as a strategic imperative. Of those companies surveyed, 34% are already working with the technology and 43% plan to have an IoT program in place this year.

The possible applications of IoT are broad and varied, and real estate is leading the charge.

“Envision a scenario in which data from work calendars, security systems, and room sensors is made available for analysis, and that machine learning has determined I work from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.,” said Neil Ross, business architect and strategist business strategist, Microsoft Digital. “Once the system has determined patterns associated with how I use the space, operators can start thinking about adapting the space accordingly, with lighting activated and temperature set to my preference when I enter the space. During other periods, both systems lie dormant.”

B2B research company MarketsandMarkets concurs. They estimate a 34% CAGR growth for smart buildings, with the market growing from $5.73 billion to $24.73 billion from 2016 to 2021.

Looking to further highlight the intersection of IoT and corporate real estate, Cushman & Wakefield took the pulse of attendees at CoreNet’s annual signature event in Hong Kong late last year. We presented IoT to a “shark tank” of experts and audience
members alongside other emerging technologies to gauge the desire to invest. Participants voted via a mobile poll, considering other technologies including virtual reality, drones, and building information modeling (BIM). IoT won the popular vote with more than 90% of participants voting to invest.

Some of the potential uses of IoT shared during the session included:

Predictive maintenance ?Performance tracking of facility assets like HVAC, lighting units, and elevators allows maintenance work orders to be triggered automatically. With 30% of planned maintenance activities being carried out too frequently and 40% of assets having a limited impact on facility uptime, there are real opportunities to drive cost savings through a more targeted approach.

Smarter capital asset planning ?Combining the same performance data with asset condition/criticality ratings and degradation models can also help ensure capital investment is directed to the equipment with the greatest impact on facility uptime and/or the greatest risk of failure. This approach maximizes capital budgets and reduces the risk of unexpected budget variance.

Sensing environment ? Sensors are already widely used to switch off devices that don’t need to be in use, such as lights and air conditioning in vacant rooms. Increasingly, they are also allowing people to set light and temperature settings according to their personal preferences via their smartphones, with clear positive impacts on cost, sustainability, and user experience.

Real-time utilization ?Sensors allow us to monitor how space is being used so we can provide more of the spaces people want and less of those that they don—t, thereby reducing costs and enhancing user experience.

Digital doors ?We see IoT being used to control access to buildings or offices. Individuals can use smartphones, biometric devices, or retina scans rather than security badges. Such devices can not only enhance security, but also provide a more seamless user experience.

Smart wayfinding — Sensors can help people find what they need within a space, a meeting room, amenity, or another type of facility. This is increasingly important as companies adopt more free-desking options in the design of their workspaces.

Real-time well-being — As companies look to the power of technology to provide a more productive workplace experience, IoT can be leveraged to track people’s activity and heart rates as a means to reduce stress and provide increased health and well-being.

Set the strategy for your business.

While these new technologies could be a boon for workplace efficiency and experience, how do you decide what is right for your business and when to invest?

To implement an effective IoT strategy, it’s important to first understand the outcomes you are trying to drive and how you will measure success. Different outcomes will require different technologies, data, analytics, and end-user behaviors. Without a clear starting point, you—ll waste time and money.

For example, a recent pilot program in predictive maintenance for a global pharmaceutical firm sought to first prove the reliability and efficiency of sensors, and their ability to collect and manage data without overwhelming the engineering staff. Conversely, when we
implemented a new technology project for 14,000 hourly employees in dispersed locations, the data outputs and their uses were already well-documented. The biggest challenge was considering the human factors of engaging employees with diverse technical skills, languages, and work habits to consistently use the new system.

Once the outcome and measures of success are clear, you should assess existing infrastructure, systems, processes, and data to determine what is needed in terms of technology, architecture, analytics, and capabilities. IoT is a rapidly evolving but still highly fragmented landscape, and it’s likely that you—ll need to combine different technologies or platforms to get to your end goal. While an IoT strategy has a high element of technology deployment, the business and cultural shifts needed to manage an increasing flow of data, drive meaningful insight, and ultimately change behaviors are key ingredients for successful implementation. Involve subject matter experts early and regularly throughout implementation

Finally, as is the same with any innovation, consider approaching IoT as an iterative process. Leveraging pilots will allow you to pivot quickly, try different solutions, leverage the latest technologies, minimize risk, and build the case for full-scale execution.