Marc Pégulu, vice president of IoT, Wireless and Sensing Products, Semtech looks at the user experience in buildings by using IoT.

Nations are focusing on increasing the sophistication of their towns and cities. They’re also collectively working to improve efficiencies, reduce costs and make life easier for residents and business owners. A key element in the development of any smart city? Infusing intelligence into its buildings.

While commercial property like office spaces have gone through immense challenges and changes throughout the pandemic, it’s critical that occupants and decision makers are utilizing their spaces in the most efficient ways while also ensuring an enhanced user experience to those living and working there.

This is where Internet of Things (IoT) technology can play a huge role. It provides real-time data to make better decisions. From knowing when a meeting room is in use, to tracking which desks are occupied or not and further – to measuring the quality of a building’s indoor environment, the right technology can improve efficiency, reduce costs and enhance everyday life for building occupants.

IoT Solutions for Building Efficiency

With any process of digital transformation, it’s very important to adopt solutions that are truly scalable across any environment. In the commercial real estate industry in particular, a business can have multiple office locations that need the same challenges addressed, but at vastly different scales. To keep track of any office environment and analyze data based on activity, implementing a user-friendly and powerful building management system is key.

Technology like long range, low power sensors running on a low-power wide area network is an ideal solution to enhancing smart building infrastructure. From communicating and sensing through dense building materials to accessing hard to reach areas without frequent maintenance like battery changes – IoT-connected sensors can work with existing infrastructure while making data and insights around a building’s operations much more accessible.

Evolving Throughout the “Hoteling” Era of Work

As many companies now foster a hybrid approach to working styles, we’re seeing many of those companies also rethink the way their offices are managed. As workers once had permanently assigned seating, hoteling – a method of office management in which workers dynamically schedule their use of workspaces such as desks, cubicles and meeting rooms – is gaining popularity.

So this begs the question: How can companies efficiently and effectively implement hoteling practices to ensure everyone has a seat at the table? Smart office solutions powered by IoT-connected presence and desk sensors are crucial.

Presence sensors used in meeting rooms to get real-time usage data can show office dwellers a real-time floor plan via a mobile app to truly see which meeting rooms are actually in use versus meeting rooms that were booked and remain vacant.

Similarly, desk sensors are key to measuring actual usage of desks and meeting room tables. The information shared from these sensors can be used to right-size, but also to show in real time where seats are available.

As many no longer have an assigned seat in their typical office space, knowing there’s still room for employees to get work done increases efficiency around scheduling time in the office and reduces any worry as it relates to employees not knowing where to go. This level of flexibility and ease might also encourage employees to spend more time in the office and increase overall building occupancy.

Ensuring Indoor Comfort

Building occupants are increasingly demanding better indoor environmental quality throughout their homes and office spaces alike.

With connected indoor air quality sensors that can be integrated into building automation systems, sensors can communicate through standard protocols like BACnet and ModBus to monitor for common indoor pollutants and then communicate with existing building HVAC infrastructure to properly ventilate particles like volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or excess moisture in the air. With an increased awareness through actionable insights brought on via the IoT, building managers can proactively enhance their building’s indoor air quality by increasing ventilation and air purification.

Beyond indoor air quality, there’s other key environmental queues to address such as noise and light levels – IoT sensors can bring this information to the users and managers of an office to right-size their approach to increasing overall occupant comfort.

As we look to the future and develop smarter buildings and entire city ecosystems, we’re going to see a growing focus and emphasis on people’s needs – not just how cool a new technology is. When engaging with the IoT in particular, it is so important to look at and understand the relationship between humans and the technology itself. Whether focusing on major environmental issues like indoor air quality or looking at other solutions to increase building occupancy and use of space, creating smarter buildings is all about fostering a better human experience for all building occupants.