Don’t Make Me Think

Expect the early adopters of ‘enchanted’ buildings to be our employers, the world green building council estimate we spend 10% of our costs on facilities management, 90% is the expense of executing our business. You don’t have to be an accountant to realise a 1% improvement in productivity trumps a 1% saving facilities costs by 9 to 1! So how might smart buildings deliver productivity and improved user experience (UX)?

Great UX should be pain free,”Don’t make me think” (Steve Krug). Whilst smart phones offer a means of logging in to a workplace, it’s a bind to install the app, to login, to connect and privacy and indoor location services are a challenge. IoT tech such as OpenSensors, beacons, noise and air quality sensors, coupled with responsible anonymisation can deliver on productivity because improved building and personal wellness simply means we get more done. But how might this work?

Aarron Walter said “Designers shooting for usable is like a chef shooting for edible.”, as techies we can apply these ideas to civic interactions. Take a large office space, I arrive from out of town, I’m visiting for a meeting with my project team. I register, head off to the flexible space and grab a desk, perhaps wasting time trying to find my guys. Each of the team then arrive, some may co-locate, others disperse, there’s no convenient breakout space; the collaboration is diluted and we’re disturbing others. We ate but it wasn’t a great meal.

The lack of an inexpensive, robust, secure and open tech stack rendered us powerless, we have been consuming ‘edible’ tenant experiences rather than a delightful meal. But tech is moving fast; expect new digital services enabled by advances in IoT hardware and data software to shake down the industry. Organisations ready to invest and experiment will move ahead, they’ll develop an ‘edge’ that will define their services and branding for years to come.

Digital concierge – expect to sign in digitally on a device that will bind you, your calendar, your co-workers and your building. Through data expect intelligent routing to the best work space for your or your groups needs.

Location based services – sensors enable ‘just in time’ cleaning services that clear flexible working space when meetings conclude, or sweep loitering coffee cups and deliver fresh coffee during breaks in longer workshops.

Environmental factors – expect IoT to bubble up environmental data such as air quality, temperature, humidity, light and noise that can be used to adjust HVAC systems in real time, or to aide interior designers in improving the workplace.

Smart facilities management – location based services coupled with smart energy grid technology will allow fine tuning of energy supply reacting to changes in demand and national grid status (smart grid frequency response).

Data science – each of the above services a specific need whilst wrangling data sets into an ordered store. Technology like OpenSensors can then add further value through real time dashboarding for health and safety or real time productivity management. Furthermore, once data is captured we can apply machine learning to deeper understand the interactions of our human resources and physical assets through A/B testing or other data science.

Unlocking great UX in buildings boils down to data; capturing it, wrangling it, applying science and iterating to make things better. First we must gather the data from the systems in place (see First ‘Things’ First) whilst supplementing from new devices such as air quality, occupancy through sensors or beacons. Having provided a robust data fabric tenants need to become active rather than passive, agile rather than rigid in their approach to managing their assets. IoT devices and data services will deliver an edge for delivering the best of breed user experience that tenants value so highly.

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