Most offices today have smart elements. There are smart workplace examples all around us—from simple motion sensor lighting to the access control system you use to badge in at work. And while most people don’t think twice about them, these systems offer incredible benefits for everyone who interacts with them. For businesses, there’s untold ROI that comes from investing in a smart workplace.

What is a smart workplace? It’s one that’s supported by an infrastructure of sensors, beacons, and software that augment the physical workplace. Floor sensors that show a digital meeting room as “occupied,” A beacon that recognizes your laptop and provides employee-only Wi-Fi access. A digital twin that congregates the entire office infrastructure into a powerful, visual dashboard. All these and more are elements of a smart workplace.

But what makes a workplace smart is the wherewithal of facility managers to apply these technologies in meaningful ways. Here are five pieces of tech and how, applied correctly, they can yield big returns for companies.

1. Workplace sensors

Workplace sensors are the bedrock of smart technology. There’s an abundance of sensor types and functions—everything from motion sensors to forced air temperature sensors. What makes them all so important within the smart building ecosystem is their programmability.

Most sensors are I/O sensors, which means they send a simple on/off trigger to the systems they’re paired with. That trigger, alongside other data, makes it possible to automate and improve virtually any part of the workplace.

  • Motion sensor lights reduce energy cost by staying on only when they’re needed
  • Occupancy sensors prevent overbooking in rooms, to avoid disruption
  • Temperature sensors ensure HVAC functions efficiently, to keep people comfortable

These improvements all have ROI attached to them, be it energy costs, man hours saved, or improved workplace comfort and morale.

2. Room booking software

Room booking software is a cornerstone of smart workplace management. Facility managers need a way to oversee and coordinate space utilization, to keep the workplace fluid, dynamic, and frictionless. Booking software creates this framework and makes it easy for employees to operate within it.

The ROI from room booking is scalable. For large companies, it might take the form of saved man hours by not wandering aimlessly to find a space. For smaller companies, it could manifest as bottom-line savings by controlling occupancy rates and costs. This software creates efficiency, which naturally results in ROI for businesses of all sizes.

3. Live-mode software

It’s important to test and analyze changes before making them in the workplace. Sudden changes could jar employees or create inefficiencies instead of solving them. It’s why facility managers turn to live-mode analysis for orchestrating workplace improvements. Not only does this perpetuate a data-driven response to workplace improvements, it allows for modeling and testing in a controlled environment.

The ROI of live-mode testing manifests in both top- and bottom-line efficiency. At the top line, there’s opportunity to create new productivity through more efficient workplace configurations. For the bottom line, eliminating inefficiencies generates saved costs. Live-mode planning is a smart workplace approach to making changes.

4. AutoCAD and BIM

Building modeling is becoming more and more important as facilities become more complex. To capitalize on GIS data, companies need a spatial representation of the building to match it against. Modeling through AutoCAD and BIM contextualizes the workplace for everything from digital twins to room booking software.

These software investments are the definition of enabling a smart workplace. They’re instrumental in mirroring the physical workplace in a digital space, to promote everything from better oversight to smarter innovation. The ROI benefits are limitless—or at least as diverse as the applications you’re able to integrate into CAD- and BIM-rendered versions of the building.

5. Access control

Access control is a defensive investment in smart workplace tech—and one many companies have already made. Paired with a digital twin and a beacon system, there’s even more untapped potential for access control that companies can leverage into ROI.

The biggest cost saving opportunity is avoiding a worst-case scenario—keep someone with malintent out of sensitives areas. Stolen IP or an attack on employees will end with huge liability costs. Access control offers ROI simply by avoiding these situations. In a more active contribution to ROI, it’s also important to consider the data generated by badging and access stats. It becomes easy to see and remedy accessibility problems by looking at smart badging data in the context of a digital twin or smart floor plan.

A smart step toward building intelligence

Used correctly, smart technologies lead to building intelligence. By themselves, these technologies can offer automation and insights, but it takes a commitment to innovation to realize their biggest benefits. As buildings become smarter, companies that look for ways to push the envelope using smart tech will find themselves operating workplaces that are efficient, productive, and adaptable.

Keep reading: How Can Smart Space Planning Software Improve Workplaces?

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Jonathan writes about asset management, maintenance software, and SaaS solutions in his role as a digital content creator at Eptura. He covers trends across industries, including fleet, manufacturing, healthcare, and hospitality, with a focus on delivering thought leadership with actionable insights. Earlier in his career, he wrote textbooks, edited NPC dialogue for video games, and taught English as a foreign language. He hold a master's degree in journalism.