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Carpet manufacturers are embedding sensors to track footsteps, the lighting sector is embedding sensors, furniture manufacturers are doing the same. The Internet of Things (IoT) will soon no longer be about adding sensors and connecting “things”, it will be about how we analyse data to create new workplace strategies. That is the view of Srihar Potineni, CTO of applications and data at Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) for Commercial Smart Buildings.

Potineni noted that while JLL is handling “billions of square feet” and “billions of dollars of transactions,” operating as it does in over 80 countries, a significant part of their work comes from concentrating on people on the individual level. When smart buildings have sensors in place to manage and analyse human traffic flow, understanding the motivations behind these navigations is key to improving the systems integration and their results.

“In one experiment, we put about 400 sensors into a small suburban office. Every sensor, every five seconds, is sending data on the temperature, occupancy and so on. That creates terabytes of data over the course of a day and that’s just one office. Think about all the offices in all the buildings in downtown LA or San Francisco”, Potineni said during an interview at the Informatica World 2016 conference in San Francisco, CA.

In a recent report we estimate that “the market for Big Data and Cloud Based Software and Services in Smart Buildings will grow at a rate of 33.2% CAGR to nearly $30 Billion by 2020”. While enablement hardware (sensors, actuators, switches etc) is set to grow at a much slower rate, “from a value of $8.38 Billion in 2015, to $14.25 Billion in 2020,which represents a CAGR of 12%” – http://memoori.com/portfolio/big-data-smart-buildings-2015-2020/.

There is so much we can do with all this information, but only if we can find ways to make that data accessible to each individual who could potentially use it. That accessibility is not simply providing access to raw data but by finding ways for individuals to more easily explore, visualise and understand the potential of the vast, almost incomprehensible, data sets the IoT produces.

Workplace strategies are a big part of the proposition for JLL, according to Potineni, and the IoT is creating huge opportunities for that. The firm provides a facility management software platform called IntelliCommand. Powered by Pacific Controls, it combines smart building technology with JLL’s building operations expertise to provide 24/7, real-time, remote facility monitoring and control.

“IntelliCommand gives a voice to buildings of all types, including office buildings, data centres, manufacturing plants, retail sites, and distribution hubs. And when buildings talk, we listen—either resolving issues remotely, or deploying on- or offsite building engineers or facility managers”, states the company.

Potineni gave two examples, the first regarded physical traffic in a building creating bottlenecks, affecting the speed of movement and therefore productivity. Perhaps more obvious is the financial loss coming from traffic affecting entry to a coffee shop, where customers may simply leave without purchase due to the delay that traffic causes. With smart data on the movement of people in and around a facility, strategies can be formulated to solve these problems, such as opening another coffee shop, in a strategic location, in order to intercept and reduce traffic to the first.

In an office example Potineni highlighted the fact that we no longer have meetings. In a modern office environment it is much more likely that we communicate digitally, frequently, then need to “huddle” for a specific reason. Using data collected on the declining use of meeting rooms, and more modern patterns of office use, JLL is developing a “huddle-room culture”. These open plan offices foster collaboration in the workplace and play into the evolving needs of an increasingly millennial workforce.

Potineni sees the best way to achieve this change as straightforward. “It’s very simple; just enable your employees. Don’t group them; empower them. Empower them through self-service, not just with data visualisation but by providing them with all the data they can potentially imagine to make their decisions”, said Potineni. “They may not use it all today but this thing will catch on, especially with the millennial generation who are used to exploring on their own”.