How a smart approach creates better business
IoT is growing at a significant pace and impacting virtually everything we know. The number of connected devices currently stands at some 7 billion and is expected to grow to 22 billion by 2025.
The emergence of smart environments based on the right use of IoT technology and cloud-based software solutions provide far reaching opportunities for organisations.
But how do you bring all of that technology together to create a demonstrably positive impact on asset and organisational performance and user experience?
What is a smart environment?
A smart environment is not just about the technology, it is about the value it delivers to its users and the organisation. Many projects are called smart, but in reality, they are just digitising existing functionalities – for example controlling lighting or temperature with an app. The difference between a digital building and a smart building is the value add to the experience of the user and the facility manager beyond a digital function.
Think of offices that use smart applications to automatically allocate the most suitable space for your work activity to make your day more comfortable and productive by looking at your calendar activities, weather and occupation data. Or the use of predictive analytics to forecast food consumption in order to reduce food waste in the office restaurant
Take a hospital environment as another example, where wearable devices can improve patient comfort and freedom with proven impact on the overall speed of recovery and where predictive analytics are used to optimise clinical processes, improving the quality of treatment and overall patient experience.
Hence, an environment should only be called smart when it is using the data and insight from technology to have an impactful intervention on the work process. Whether it’s an office building where workers become more productive, a university where students and staff can learn and teach more efficiently or a hospital where patients and staff can heal more quickly, the principle is the same for all.
The smart element is how you use the tools to bring added value to the organisation - from cost savings, an optimised supply chain, predictive maintenance to providing a better user experience that boosts productivity and collaboration.
This is why the ‘W’ questions are critical at the outset of any ‘smart’ project. What value do you want to get? Why do you want a solution? Why do you need a smart building or a certain technology? What is the best way to integrate it? What different processes do you want to optimise? Without asking these questions, the project is about technology for technology’s sake.
There are many digital companies that offer smart building solutions, but it’s important to bear in mind that they are all likely to deliver only the digital piece in the overall smart building puzzle. Yes, they can create buildings with digital functions, but they are not linking the technology with the user’s journey and therefore not adding extra value to the user or the organisation.
One of the other challenges with the smart concept is that there are so many different technologies and digital applications available, so how do organisations know what will have a tangible impact? What is smart for one organisation, won’t be for another.
At Royal HaskoningDHV, through our Smart and Healthy Environments programme, we add value to the process, whether for new buildings or renovations, by validating and integrating the digital functions in line with the user journey, and through use-cases that deliver value to the mission and needs of the organisation. Without specifying in this way, you will end up with a very expensive building which is not smart because it adds no additional value to asset, organisational performance or user experience.
Our three key take-aways on how to create a truly smart environment are:
- Digitisation is not the goal but a means to achieving the goal.
- Smart is about applying technology in an environment as part of a planned process to improve the experience and productivity of its users in a quantifiable and provable way.
- Without a human-centric approach, there is no added value, just added technology.