Internet of things News

How Connected Building Solutions Can Support Hybrid Workplaces

Dylan Martin

CRN speaks to tech executives who believe IoT and connected building solutions can play an important role in helping organizations manage ‘hybrid workplaces,’ an idea that has taken off in the face of a workforce that increasingly wants the option to work remotely permanent amid the pandemic.


Guillermo Diaz Jr. doesn’t believe the workplace of the future will be like the one before the pandemic, where most workers were expected to be in the office. But the former Cisco executive also doesn’t think the past 15 months of mostly non-existent office life will come to dominate.

Diaz isn’t alone, as the ideas of “hybrid work” and a “hybrid workplace” have taken off in the face of a workforce that increasingly wants the option to permanently work remotely. With many employers now weighing flexible work policies, Diaz and other tech executives believe IoT and connected building solutions can play an important role in helping organizations manage hybrid workplaces.

[Related: The 10 Hottest IoT Startups Of 2021 (So Far)]

“Folks have come to us and said, ‘hey, our building used to be 100 percent or at least 90 percent occupied. Now it’s like 50 percent occupied — what do we do with the rest of that?’” said Diaz.

Diaz’s company, a Sunnyvale, Calif.-based AI analytics platform provider called Kloudspot, got its start focusing on “situational awareness and intelligence,” giving facility and venue operators a better idea of how their spaces are used and who’s dwelling in them by analyzing data from IoT sensors, network devices and cameras.

But with the pandemic dramatically changing the nature of work and the requirements of the workplace, Kloudspot has expanded its product portfolio in the past year to include solutions for worker health and safety and, more recently, hybrid work experiences. Combined, the solutions can help employers satisfy public health requirements while addressing the dynamics of hybrid workplaces, said Diaz, who has been Kloudspot’s CEO since February of last year.

“I want flexibility, but I also want to make sure that wherever I’m going it’s safe and it’s a healthy environment,” he said.

With Kloudspot’s new KloudHybrid solution, employees can see a live view of available seats in an office and book one for a specified time. The solution can then give the employee a health questionnaire to check for any symptoms of communicable diseases and alert the cleaning crew to sanitize their area.

When the employee arrives at the office, Kloudspot’s worker safety solution can automatically check the employee’s temperature and detect if they’re wearing a mask — if there is a mask requirement. The KloudHybrid solution can then be used to display pertinent, targeted information for the employee on smart displays, including directions on how to reach the office and schedules for meetings.

As for the meetings themselves, KloudHybrid integrates with several collaboration and communication tools, giving remote workers and office workers a better way to connect and meet up, according to Diaz. The solution also monitors lighting, energy consumption and air quality in physical meeting rooms to ensure that rooms are comfortable and have proper ventilation.

But the KloudHyrbid solution goes beyond addressing the worker experience and analyzes employee activity and occupancy using several data sources, including cameras, IoT devices and RFID-enabled badges. They can also use KloudHybrid to monitor energy consumption.

Diaz said these capabilities can help employers reduce costs by allowing them to make better decisions about how their spaces are used and whether to adjust their footprint. It can also help create new models for sharing office space between multiple groups.

“Some of those [employers] are now turning the keys over to real estate managers or owners and then leasing them back and then requiring a different kind of model and footprint, so [KloudHybrid is] driving the flexibility, it’s driving that insights to better improve that,” Diaz said. “And it’s also changing the real estate footprint and plans that organizations may have had before.”

Helping property owners and managers optimize their real estate operations is one major area of focus for a new joint solution from Honeywell and SAP. Called Honeywell Forge Real Estate Operations, the platform takes in building system and sensor data, plus financial, employee and real estate data from SAP systems, to provide insight into several areas: operational readiness, occupant safety, sustainability, financial intelligence, occupant experience and occupant utilization.

Ginger Smith, director of strategic partnerships in Honeywell’s Connected Enterprise division, said there is a greater need for an offering like Forge Real Estate Operations because many employers have started to adopt flexible work policies as a result of the pandemic.

“Regardless of how many people are coming in, you’re going to have to operate your real estate portfolio, and so tools like this, they help you make it as efficient as possible,” she said.

Smith added that Forge Real Estate Operations can be used not just to drive cost savings for buildings but also to identify new revenue-driving opportunities because of how it can let users compare the occupancy, utilization and costs of different buildings in a portfolio.

“Tools like this give you the visibility so you can right-size, make the right decisions, put leases in the right spaces and put people in the right floors,” she said.

Tim Vogel, director of IoT at KMC Controls, a New Paris, Ind.-based building automation solutions vendor, said with the rise of hybrid workplaces, the lack of consistency when it comes to occupancy can make it hard for employers and building operators to cut down on fixed costs like heating, air conditioning and ventilation, since those systems need to remain on at all times.

This challenge can be addressed in part by using an IoT platform like KMC Controls’ KMC Commander, according to Vogel, which can schedule adjustments in HVAC systems to ensure that rooms are comfortable for employees when they’re present while also keeping costs down when no one is there.

“If you have someone that comes in on Mondays and Wednesdays, and you know what office they’re in, that’s where you’re then able to say, ‘well on Mondays and Wednesdays, cool it to 72 degrees,’” he said. “But on those other three days of the week, and over the weekend, it can be brought up to 78 or 80.”

Key to automating this process are APIs, which can allow IoT platforms like KMC Controls to pull together data from different applications and sensors.

“A lot of traditional systems don’t have a means of integrating with systems like flexible workspace management or desk reservation [systems], and that’s where I feel like from a competitive advantage standpoint, we have a huge upper hand,” Vogel said.

That level of integration can also be used to automatically purge air in conference rooms between meetings to help reduce the spread of airborne diseases, he added.

“After that meeting takes place at 4 o’clock, you can do an air exchange schedule to purge the air that was in there,” Vogel said.

Learn More: Cloud Platforms
Sponsored Post