How can beacons help you manage a smarter office?

 

Improved experiences and innovative navigation systems – the smarter office is underway thanks to tiny devices called beacons.

This post is the first of a three-part series on workplace innovations.

Beacons have already percolated into high-traffic spaces like airports, museums, stadiums and even retail stores. In recent years, this Bluetooth smart technology has also expanded to the workplace with many companies jumping on the bandwagon.

What are beacons?

Beacons are small, low-cost, low-powered devices that can be used to deliver location-aware, context-aware messages. They can be likened to small computers which broadcast radio signal. Those signal are, in turn, picked up and interpreted by your phone. Personalized content is then displayed as a notification on your screen. Nearby screens can also be used to display relevant information.

There are several major beacon hardware on the market: Estimote, Gimbal, Gelo, Glimworm, BlueSense, and Kontakt. Among these, Estimote is one of the most well-known manufacturers.

location beacons for a smart office

How can beacons help you manage a smarter office?

Navigation

Larger office spaces are trickier to navigate and beacons can remedy to that by guiding new guests or prospects to a particular room, thus cutting a lot of wasted time.

Footfall

Beacons can help identify high and low-traffic areas in your office. In large offices, in particular, gathering location data of all employees can help you determine which areas are more used than others. This information can be shared with, say, the lighting department to help you run a greener office.

proximity beacons estimote

Office layout

Based on the location data of employees, you could design a smarter office, tweak desk layouts based on where staff actually moves around at work.

Office management

Beacons can facilitate booking conference rooms in busy offices. For this application, beacons must be installed at the entrance of every conference room and employees need to install an app on their phones. Based on information from the beacons, employees can check if the room is free, and book accordingly, or, if already occupied, find out when the meeting will be over.

estimote beacon

Check out the next post on Workplace Innovations, featuring high-tech Ketra lighting.

Ketra can add some natural light to your dark office

Since the invention of Ketra, natural light in the darkest corners of your cavernous office is no longer a pipe dream. 

This post is the second of a three-part series on workplace innovations. 

With its high-tech, dynamic LED technology, Ketra brings natural light into the built environment – not only that, it lets you control it with a flexible, fully integrated lighting and controls solution.

What makes it so different from some of its biggest contenders? It uses LED bulbs not only to emit light but also to receive it. This means an ever-changing, fluid lighting scheme that varies according to the time, your mood or the task at hand.

Ketra light inside RGA headquarters
Digital agency R/GA's 200,000-square-foot office in New York uses over 8,000 smart Ketra bulbs. By Foster And Partners

Founded in 2009 and led by Nav Sooch, lighting startup Ketra is focused on large-scale business installations and high-end offices are getting more and more curious about the promise of natural light. The list includes advertising giant R/GA, MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas, Tiffany's in New York, The Art Institute of Chicago, Squarespace...

Squarespace New York office
Website builder Squarespace's New York office features Ketra lighting

The smart LED bulbs have begun to reshape modern offices and although they come at a price (each individual bulb costs as much as $100), they offer a solution to a problem that is all-to-common in the workplace: lack of natural lighting. Add the ability to control colour and intensity from a single application, and you've got yourself an office filled with potential.

Ketra lighting inside the Chicago art institute
The Art Institute of Chicago's first all-LED gallery uses Ketra bulbs

Green with envy: the world’s most sustainable offices

From wind turbines and CO2 monitors to foam flushing toilets and treadmill desks, sustainable office buildings around the world are raising the bar for innovation.

Three years ago, Angela Loder, then an adjunct professor at the University of Denver and a researcher in health, buildings and urban nature, highlighted three key elements in the field of sustainable buildings

  1. Materials and ventilation
  2. Daylight 
  3. Proximity to nature

It comes as no surprise, then, that the green contenders on this list have all mastered at least one, usually all three of the above. 

The Edge, Amsterdam

the-edge-amsterdam-sustainable-office

Until recently, The Edge was billed as the most sustainable office building in the world (Bloomberg's new European HQ in London recently stole the show in October 2017!) Designed by PLP Architecture. The sophisticated design, coupled with the use of innovative technologies resulted in an astonishing 98.36% BREEAM score. Home to Deloitte's headquarters, the building harvests rainwater to flush toilets and water its gardens. It also gives staff full control over temperature and light, both regulable via a smartphone app. The building produces its own energy through the use of 800 solar panels and its roof boasts a floor-to-floor scanner that detects when rooms are not being used, thus helping reduce electricity consumption.

Manitoba Hydro Place, Winnipeg, Canada

 HTFC Planning and design +  planning, urban design and landscape architecture firm PFS Studio

Located in Winnipeg, Manitoba Hydro Place uses passive design and natural ventilation to cement its place as one of North America's most energy-efficient office buildings. 

The building uses a geothermal system to heat and cool the interiors, triple-glazed windows to maximise daylight and reduce the need for artificial lighting, and exposed radiant ceiling slabs that help maintain the temperature at a comfortable 20 degrees Celcius all year round. By applying these techniques, the building achieved 65% greater energy efficiency.

The Sun-Moon Mansion, Dezhou, China

Photograph: Alex Hofford/EPA

Shaped like a sundial, the Sun-Moon Mansion houses the headquarters of the world’s largest manufacturer of solar thermal water heaters - Himin Group. With over 15,000 square meters of solar panels, the 750,000m2 building is one of the world's largest solar-powered offices.

Bank Of America, New York City

Photograph: David Sundberg / Esto

The first high rise building to get LEED Platinum certification, the Bank of America Tower at One Bryant Park in Manhattan, is one of the most sustainable skyscrapers in the world. Complete with CO2 monitors, dry urinals and LED lighting, the building also produces 4.6 megawatts of sustainable energy in its own power station.

The Shanghai Tower

Photograph: Connie Zhou/Gensler

With its 200 wind turbines, rainwater collection and reuse system, plant-filled sky lobbies and double-skinned glass facade that allows for natural ventilation, the 121-storey Shanghai Tower achieved LEED Platinum certification in 2015.

Autodesk's Spear Tower, San Francisco

Photograph: Michael Townsend/Gensler

The 3D design software company's 21,000 square metre office in San Francisco holds a LEED platinum rating, with particular emphasis on sustainable sites, water efficiency and innovation.

With its reclaimed wood ceiling, living wall and treadmill desks in an effort to keep staff active, Autodesk's minimalist office space puts an emphasis on functionality.

BrightHR, Manchester

Photograph: Jonathan Pow

All work and no play shines through as the motto of Manchester-based BrightHR, where staff can benefit from office space hoppers, scooters, game consoles and ping-pong tables. The office also prides itself on a double bed for power naps and an 18-metre lawn with football nets located at the heart of the office.

 Pearl River Tower, Guangzhou, China

Completed in 2012 and designed by Skidmore Owings & Merrill, the Pearl River Tower utilises cutting-edge technology including a radiant ceiling cooling system, solar panels, double-glazing curtain wall, demand-based ventilation air, 

SOURCE: Xinhuanet Guangdong Channel

and daylight responsive controls to claim a spot among some of the world's greenest buildings. The tower's design also helps draw wind to giant turbines that, in turn, generate clean energy.

Co-operative Group HQs, Manchester

Photograph: Christopher Thomond, via the Guardian

Just like the Shanghai Tower, the 15-storey building at One Angel Square boasts a double-layered glass facade and an open atrium designed to facilitate natural ventilation and lighting. Rated 'outstanding' by UK certification body BREEAM, it is powered by a plant oil fed system that uses rapeseed oil grown in The Co-operative's own farm.

Medibank Place, Melbourne

Photograph: Earl Carter/Hassell Architects

The design of Medibank Place was highly influenced by a thorough research on workplace design, the results of which led to a dynamic office building which promotes wellbeing working with sit-to-stand workstations. With almost 5,000 plants outside and in, 520 modular planter boxes adorning the facade, a landscaped roof garden and a 25-meter living wall, nature plays a key role in Medibank's sustainable image.