The Smart Office Is Slow to Take Off. Why Is That?


It seemed like a great idea, the apotheosis of technology making life simpler and easier: smart homes.

Just a few years ago,Opens a new window  gadgets that made smart homes were all the rage for tech bloggers. The devices, from smart thermometers to smart lightbulbs, would anticipate needs and adjust all aspects of the home to make life more comfortable, literally. What could be better?

Yet now, many of the same bloggers hailing the next revolution of tech-assisted living are disappointedOpens a new window with the capabilities — or lack thereof — of the gadgets that were supposed to be our salvation. The enthusiasm that met the advent of the smart home seems to be on the wane.

At the same time, though, the smart office may be gaining momentum after lagging behind the smart home. The Smart Office Market 2019 reportOpens a new window , published recently, projects that growth in the smart office industry is likely to start catching fire. According to the report, the areas of most rapid growth are expected to be in the Americas.

In Asia, the growth of office spaces in general is expected to provide a boost to smart office technologies. The increasing tech fluency of workplace employees will also likely contribute to growth, according to the report.

Yet, why hasn’t the smart office already taken business by storm?

It’s worth answering the question in order to determine whether now is the right time to invest in making the upgrade.

The technology hasn’t been great

One of the nice things about being a late adopter is allowing nascent technology to get its sea legs, so to speak. Corporate office spaces have been slower on the uptake of new gadgets than have personal users, which makes a lot of sense: There’s a higher adoption cost for offices that have more space, and making a decision that will affect a large group of employees is fundamentally different than making a decision about a private space.

Also, there are privacy considerations to take into account, which means making sure there’s a good corporate communications strategy firmly in place first.

Adoption has been selective

While companies have held out again total upgrades, there certainly has been a degree of selective adoption of aspects of smart office technologies that have been proved to work or that have a low adoption cost. Perhaps the most successful smart technology adopted by some offices is smart thermometers that adjust the temperature of office spaces based on data culled from observing behavior like presence in the space. When there are a lot of people, the temperature might be lower than during those times of day when there are fewer people, which also can save overhead costs.

Recognition isn’t immediate

One of the takeawaysOpens a new window from the Smart Office Market report is that the adoption of smart office gadgets is likely to increase in part due to its anticipated ability “to motivate the gratification of member[s] of staff.” In answer to your “huh?”…in other words, employees will appreciate it.

That could very well be the case, but it’s not self-evident — in many instances, staff might not even notice any immediate changes. In others, the overall benefits of adopting a new technology might not have any direct improvement on employee experience, but rather on the company as a whole.

Cost vs. benefit

Adopting new technologies always has an associated cost, but many of the newer iterations of smart technologies for office spaces have aspects that make it worthwhile to look into whether they might be right for your office. For example, new smart gadgets aimed at increasing security can be set to recognize the faces of employees who have access to certain areas.

It’s been smart to hold out on the smart office, but it could be time to look into what they have to offer.