Lowering cost, minimising risk, sustainability and health and safety concerns are the primary factors behind a surge of investment in IoT smart building technology, according to the results of global market insight and research firm Quocirca’s Smart Buildings and IoT Study. The research also found that 53% of organisations expect to see a change in office occupancy levels, compared with pre-pandemic levels.

As employers encourage staff to return to the workplace, they need to inspire confidence and trust that measures are in place to support worker wellbeing, comfort and safety. Smart buildings and IoT technology will play a critical role in delivering and monitoring the office environment, so employees feel safe to return and employers can demonstrate compliance with health and safety regulations.

This research examines the adoption of IoT technology to support the future smart and safe workplace. It was conducted among 260 IT and IoT purchasing decision makers in the UK, France, Germany and the US, from companies with 500 or more employees.

Key findings include:

  • Cost remains key: 57% said lowering long-term costs was a very influential factor driving their smart building strategy.
  • 51% said minimising business risk was very influential in shaping smart building strategy, while 48% highlighted improving health and safety as an important influence. 43% say improving sustainability is also a key driver for smart building strategy.
  • 73% have already implemented IoT technology and 76% of respondents have increased their IoT investment relative to last year.
  • COVID-19 has had a major influence on IoT strategy and implementation, with the main factors driving these changes being ‘changing health and safety guidelines’ (57%) and a ‘change in office occupancy levels’ (53%).
  • The most common smart building IoT technologies currently implemented are smart heating and cooling (44%) and smart lighting (42%). These figures are higher in the public sector (60% and 55% respectively).
  • Security is recognised as a risk of IoT smart building technology; 53% are concerned about the security risk of an expanded cyberattack surface due to the proliferation of connected IoT devices.

Quocirca director Louella Fernandes comments: “The return to the office has been piecemeal, but increasingly businesses are recognising that in-person social collaboration and interaction is a valuable part of fostering company culture and sparking creativity. This is prompting them to encourage employees to return to corporate offices.

“However, as businesses explore how to bring employees safely back to the office, lower occupancy and less predictable work patterns pose commercial challenges for businesses in terms of energy efficiency and safe environment management, which smart building IoT technology can solve. Intelligently controlling heat and humidity and deploying touchless technology can cut virus transmission risk to reassure workers that they are being protected and comply with public health regulations. This will be a long-term responsibility for employers and investment now will reap rewards in future.”

Value of IoT analytic data is recognised

Data generation and collection is the payoff of IoT smart building implementation. Organisations can use it to understand exactly how buildings are used by employees, analysing occupancy levels and use patterns which can be applied to automate changes to environmental control technology so the most comfortable, energy and cost-efficient environment is created. In Quocirca’s research 54% said air quality, temperature and humidity data was very valuable. The same percentage rated security analytics highly, showing awareness of both the security potential and the concerns related to IoT deployment.

An opportunity for managed services providers

Quocirca found that 81% see smart printers and MFPs as part of the broader IoT landscape, recognising their sophisticated capabilities for predictive maintenance, automated supplies replenishment and usage tracking. The three most useful IoT features of smart printers and MFPs were rated as cloud integration, secure printing and remote job submission.

Louella Fernandes continues: “Smart printers and MFPs are some of the most mature and complex IoT devices and can deliver valuable operational and strategic data around use and maintenance requirements. For managed services providers already comfortable with delivering print and office workflow environments, expanding their offering to capitalise on growing demand for wider IoT is a smart move with the potential to deliver strong returns as investment in the sector grows.”

Quocirca’s Smart Buildings and IoT Study contains detailed analysis of the survey findings, segmented by country, together with strategic recommendations on how to respond to the market opportunity.