How IoT can help us safely reopen offices - Embedded.com

How IoT can help us safely reopen offices

In 2020, the business world shifted from in-person work environments to remote settings. As organizations continue to navigate operations, some are looking to return back to the office and managers need to take into account different factors as they reopen businesses.

While uncertainties over the future of the in-person office still exist, it is clear that is there are ways for organizations to leverage technology to help meet evolving COVID-19 guidelines and safety protocols. Solutions like sensor-based monitoring and contact tracing can be implemented across corporate campuses and office spaces to ensure the health and safety of their workers. The ideal solution can support robust long range wireless communications that improve facility hygiene, alerts employees of exposure and protects itself from a virus outbreak.

When deciding on how to leverage Internet of Things (IoT) technology, building and office managers should think about the safety needs of the tenants and what the best technology would be to support them. Solutions that support long range, low power technology are most equipped to support the needs for a number of reasons, including:

  • Low power consumption: Long battery life is essential in ensuring a return on investment (ROI) and it also means that there is no need for a wired power supply for frequent battery replacement.
  • Indoor coverage: Smart buildings present unique challenges, like the need to penetrate dense building materials. As most smart building operations are located in basements or tucked away in areas that are hard to get to, building managers need a solution that has the ability for signals to penetrate deep within a building for in-building connectivity.
  • Wide ecosystem: Having an established footprint and ecosystem allows building operators to leverage existing apps and devices.
  • Easy to install: A simple to install solution is desirable by non-specialized workers. A majority of the time, these solutions are being deployed in buildings that do not have a smart infrastructure in place.

By leveraging long range, low power technology, building managers can connect sensors to the Cloud and receive real-time data and analytics updates to make more informed decisions aimed at safety. In an office setting, this means managers can monitor and report on a range of issues including instances when the fire alarm may not be functioning properly, a chemical leak, or the structural integrity of a building.

As it relates to the COVID-19 pandemic, smart sensors can help with proximity sensing badges, people counters, contact tracing and predictive cleaning solutions that are all important factors in allowing people to return to physical workplaces.

Contact Tracing & Occupancy Monitoring

Contract tracing is key to helping fight COVID-19. IoT connected devices, such as proximity sensors, can easily be integrated into wearable devices, like badges or lanyards to protect staff, to facilitate early detection and enable the quarantining of colleagues who have come in contact with a coworker who has tested positive for COVID-19. Due to its easy distribution and cost-effectiveness, utilizing wearables with smart sensors allow employers to accurately pinpoint which workers have been closer than six feet to an infected individual and are at high risk of infection.

By deploying IoT sensors and occupancy monitoring solutions in the office, employers can also gain a better sense of desk occupancy information that provides valuable insight into how office space is being used and can be more efficiently configured.

Predicitive Cleaning

By implementing IoT connected devices for predictive cleaning, building managers can improve the overall efficiency and cleanliness of shared spaces. For example, IoT sensors can notify facility managers when soap dispensers and towels are running low so they no longer have to manually check on this and can replace them the moment it is needed. Predictive cleaning can lower infection rates and costs by enabling on-demand and as needed cleaning to ensure common areas like restrooms and conference rooms are safe for employees to use.

Indoor Air Quality

IoT solutions can monitor CO2, temperature and humidity levels indoors in real-time to ensure that these levels are hitting the appropriate numbers. As a result, potential airborne transmission can be closely monitored, so employers can rest assured that their indoor facilities are at the necessary levels required to maintain a safe environment.

While 2020 presented many challenges and changes, technology solutions are helping employers prepare for a return to the office. With precautionary measures such as predictive cleaning and contact tracing, employers do not have to worry about a COVID-19 outbreak on their property and help employees return to a safe workplace.


Marc Pégulu has been vice president of IoT in the wireless and sensing products group at Semtech since June 2015. He held the position of vice president of wireless and sensing products from June 2014. Prior to this appointment, he held the position of director of marketing and applications. Pégulu joined the Company in March 2006 and was involved in several key technology initiatives, including LoRa wireless and software-defined modem technologies. Prior to joining Semtech, he held positions in chips and systems development at Thomson CSF, Thales, ATMEL and DibCom in France and China. Pégulu holds a Master of Science degree in electronics and telecommunications from Institut National Polytechnique of Grenoble, France, and is a graduate of the Executive MBA program of ESCP Europe.

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