Automation in the workplace: The IoT meets practicality

May 2, 20164 Minute Read

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Remember the days when you had to manually check the dipstick in your car to see if your oil was low and vacuum cleaners had to be pushed by hand? While one of those brings back fond memories, it’s safe to assume that no one would trade their Roomba for a Dust Devil.

Modern automation has ushered in a new era of efficiency. Rather than wasting precious time and effort on simple office tasks—many of which don’t directly contribute to business success—what if we could automate them and focus our energy on more productive objectives? We haven’t figured out how to automate conference calls, but there are plenty of other areas that can be automated.

It’s time to eliminate time-wasters

Humans are generally very good at a select few things, decent at a few others, and passable at pretty much everything else. As such, it makes sense to apply the bulk of our attention toward those tasks at which we excel. From a productivity standpoint, this kind of “specialization” enables employees to do what they do best, and with fewer distractions to boot.

For example, consider how much time elapsed between the moment you walked into the office this morning and when you actually began working. Between making coffee, warming up the printers, turning on lights, and logging on to various accounts, it’s safe to say that automating some of these tasks would have saved an appreciable amount of time. The Internet of Things (IoT) is exploding for this very reason.

You’ve no doubt heard the thirty second sales pitch on how the IoT will revolutionize your morning waffles, but don’t tune out just yet. Imagine a world in which you simply stroll into your office, place your phone on the desk (or even wave your hand), and your environment immediately springs to life. The coffee maker begins to hum with the percolation of your favorite brew, the lights adjust to your morning preference, and your computer logs you on and brings up the day’s most buzzworthy events. With continued innovation in today’s wireless technology, this level of automation may not be such a pipe dream.

Automation gets practical

While it’s easy to get lost daydreaming about an automated lifestyle straight out of the Jetson’s, automation has real and practical benefits. To appreciate the possibilities, let’s start small with the simple distractions throughout the day that can be quickly alleviated.

First up is the dreaded print queue. There aren’t many situations more frustrating—and time wasting—in the workplace than sending single-page document to the printer, only to find a full-blown publishing operation holding up the queue. Instead of wasting time waiting for your office mate’s book to finish printing, a dash of automation could clear up the whole mess. Printers that hold jobs in a cloud-based queue until you physically authenticate at the printer not only provide a more intelligent operation, but also improve security of printing sensation information. For added efficiency, you could keep a pair of lightsabers on hand to settle any ties in the physical queue.

Depending on the level of caffeine addiction at your office, making coffee could be another source of unnecessary distraction. Instead of twiddling your thumbs while the coffee drips to perfection, why not use your smartphone to initiate the brew? All that’s needed then is to walk to the break room to retrieve it. Better yet, have a robot butler bring it to you.

Finally, let’s address those unusually warm winter days or uncommonly cold summer mornings. You may have dressed the part, but your thermostat is totally unaware of the heat wave and your office feels ten degrees warmer than the sun. It’s hard to get work done with sweat beading on your brows (or when you’re shivering in the depths of July). With the help of a smart thermostat, your office will know about sudden temperature charges before they even roll into town. In doing so, the ambient air can be adjusted automatically to suit the day’s weather and your wardrobe. This saves money from an energy perspective as well as from a productivity standpoint.

Automation in the office boils down to connecting everyday devices to the network for more streamlined management and intelligent use. The result? A more efficient environment with fewer distractions.

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