Putting the Potential of Enterprise IoT to Work Today

October 26, 2015
Enlighted Inc.

Moviegoers who have watched the Tom Cruise science fiction thriller Minority Report got a front-row seat to the limitless potential of the Internet of Things (IoT): billboards and signs that customize advertising to individuals passing by, retail promotions created real-time in response to a shopper’s browsing, and newspaper photographs automatically turning into streaming video when viewed.

The movie offered up a not-too-distant future in which technology sensed, tracked, and reacted to the human beings around it—controlling and customizing the environment in which each person moved and how the devices within the space engaged with them.

But IoT isn’t just the stuff of science fiction. It is here, and it is gradually evolving into the vision that we expect it to be. It is revolutionizing the way some leading organizations engage with and service their customers, as well as maximizing the benefits and cost savings those organizations and their customers can experience.

Controlling environments, not buildings

To understand how powerful the IoT can be in our daily lives, think in terms of the building environments in which we work. Next to payroll, one of the largest expenses for many organizations is overhead—the cost of “keeping the lights on,” as they say in business.

But lights are just the beginning. Think in terms of all the physical features and support systems—including lighting, heating, air conditioning, safety, security, and incident response—that are required to help make the workplace a safe and productive environment. Then think in terms of all the space that those systems must control.

Now imagine an environment that not only provides for top employee or customer engagement, safety, and productivity,but one that also “thinks” about how to do it best, with better utilized space, and on an individualized basis.

Take it even one step further, and those same smart systems can help you design buildings for your future needs, or perhaps convince you that you don’t need to expand at all.

The biggest payoff is with the “experience”

Driving all of this is the marriage of so-called big data with IoT the ability to gather lots of data about how space is being used by employees or customers in real-time, and on a historical basis, and then have environmental systems respond with what is needed in a given space at a given moment. The results can be huge cost savings. But for many, the best payoff comes with better experience.

“I think this is where the activity will be heading,” Gartner analyst Alfonso Velosa confirms of the use of enterprise IoT. “Organizations are looking for the experience that the IoT drives.”

To understand that experience, Velosa offers the example of the IoT in lighting control systems.

“For example, when you put sensors on lights so that they dim when somebody is not in the room,” Velosa says “you’re connecting sensors and communications, and also some level of intelligence. It is analyzing the environment—[telling itself], ‘well, nobody is here, so we’ll lower the lights.’”

Or, take the example of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems.

“Advanced systems now extend beyond lighting alone and can further integrate the IoT by connecting to other building systems,” Joe Costello, CEO at Enlighted, Inc. wrote in Construction Executive. “It is important to understand how these systems work together when beginning a new construction project. Temperature controls integrated in networked lighting systems can provide information on hot and cold spots in buildings to optimize HVAC usage. Occupancy and vacancy sensors can also determine spaces that are used infrequently so they are not unnecessarily heated or cooled.”

Advanced motion sensors can measure how and when individual rooms or workspaces are used. This can help business planners determine if there is better use for that space, or if they should reduce the amount spent on controlling its environment.

Again using the example of lighting control systems, enterprise IoT enables building owners to have total control over how that light

  • Is received on an as-needed basis
  • Is customized to the activities of individuals within the space
  • Is provided at the exact intensity required within each separate area
  • Is adjusted as work activities or human traffic change anywhere in the environment

Responding to a growing need

To optimize the experience employees have in a commercial building takes a high level of coordination and behind-the-scenes facilitation using IoT technology, which is what Enlighted has been working on since 2009. The company developed an end-to-end solution, from sensors connected to a network compiling information exhibited in a dashboard, to analyze data to better control the environment in which employees work.

“Enterprise IoT is more specific than commercial companies deploying the Internet of Things technology in their business,” notes Zach Gentry, vice president of business development at Enlighted.

“We define enterprise IoT as using IoT in commercial real estate that we live our lives in every day, from workplaces to warehouses, for our products and more. We understand there’s a real opportunity to provide IoT solutions in these spaces, and we know so from working closely with our customers in both retrofit markets and new markets. As sustainability and efficiency continue to lie at the forefront of business decision making, enterprise IoT is a massive opportunity and Enlighted has the experience to make it a reality.”

Maximizing the savings and the payoff

There are a number of sensor-based systems on the market today—systems that combine lighting, smart controls, and data analysis. But the features and functionality vary, and customers have a number of factors to consider.

Topping the list is energy savings, and we’re talking about potentially up to 70 percent. That is obviously an attractive goal for any organization, but for large companies the savings can be huge. AT&T, for example, recently upgraded lighting systems in 1,000 of its largest energy-consuming sites and 500 retail stores. The result was a savings of $8 million in annual lighting energy costs.

The key here is integrated sensors that include occupancy and vacancy sensors. These ensure that the system only provides lighting, heating, or air conditioning when, how, and for whom it is really needed. After all, you don’t want your sensors being fooled by heat-producing fax machines and space heaters, or by motion created by machines and not humans.

Other key considerations include

  • Employee comfort: Does the system allow employees to adjust their own workspace? Does it adjust to their activities? Does it adjust for day or night needs?
  • Data quality and granularity: Does the system capture data that tracks movements over time to help with space design and utilization? Does it monitor the environment to increase comfort levels?
  • Scalability and flexibility: Will the system grow with the business. Does it have the capacity to integrate with other systems, such as HVAC, security, or access control?

“Those are things that couldn’t be done before, but now there is a possibility,” Velosa says.