How the Internet Of Things Is Changing the American Workplace

Nancy Anderson
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The Internet of Things involves connecting any electronic device to the Internet with wireless connections, such as phones, wearable devices, watches, kitchen appliances and televisions. Components of vital machines can connect wirelessly to the Internet as well, including drills on an oil rig, sensors in jet engines and GPS in cars. These devices form a huge network that sends information into storage facilities, and then software displays the information in a way people can interpret the information. These devices make life more convenient and efficient, but they also stand to revolutionize the American workplace.

Improving the Labor Force

Healthy employees are more productive and use fewer sick days. That saves companies labor costs over time and through the entire workforce. Wireless fitness trackers can help people with nutrition, workout routines, getting the right amount of activity and telling workers when it's time to stand up and stretch.

HR managers have begun to notice the benefits of health trackers, and some firms even offer these devices as part of a comprehensive health and wellness program. Health trackers may lead to better overall wellness in employees, which reduces health care costs. Some health insurance companies provide coverage at a lower cost to firms that use fitness trackers with their employees. The overall effect is that companies save money due to health trackers for various reasons.

Cost Reductions

Businesses reduce costs on several fronts. A wireless sensor can monitor if someone leaves the room, and then the sensor automatically turns off the room's light. Motion sensors can then turn on any lights once people walk into the room. The power savings alone adds up over time, so the wireless sensors pay for themselves. Similarly, heat sensors can track how to run the air conditioning more efficiently.

Installation of vital sensors becomes less expensive because of battery power within small wireless hardware. Before devices got smaller, sensors and equipment needed a constant stream of power from electrical wires. Then an Ethernet wire had to go from the device to a computer somewhere in the building. IoT devices reduce costs by eliminating the added infrastructure. Companies can simply place the sensor where it's needed, power it up with a battery and start the transmitter.

Office Automation

Devices connect to the Internet and then transmit the information to the correct software. Special computer programs then interpret the data and decide what to do next. For example, a sensor on laser printer toner knows when the toner gets low. A wireless connection sends this information to an automatic system that orders and buys more toner. Instead of a secretary spending several minutes ordering new supplies, the IoT devices do this automatically. Savings with labor costs come into play again, as this type of device makes ordering supplies easier.

When more processes automate within a particular firm, this leaves more time and energy for staffers to develop better business strategies, predictive marketing plans and new products. These all lead to new revenue streams, more profits and more efficient use of resources.

Better Use of Data

Storage and analysis of data remain huge issues within the Internet of Things. Data compiled by connected devices usually goes to a data storage facility, and then companies access this information through cloud computing software. As more IoT devices come online, companies need more app developers and programmers to create software that analyzes this data. As such, the intelligent workplace could shift towards more jobs for IT experts, programmers, developers and computer scientists to handle the logistics of IoT devices. More and more jobs may focus on people who know how to use technology versus those that don't.

Increased Collaboration

Sharing data among employees, partners, customers and innovators becomes easier because of information communicated through mobile devices. Someone in Seattle can share data with an engineer in Mumbai and Cairo simultaneously when information stored in cloud computing services transmits to each person's laptop or mobile device. That way, these people can solve a problem immediately without a face-to-face meeting

Meanwhile, a plant manager can see data from the latest product run to raise or lower how much raw materials to order from an overseas supplier, and a vital customer can give feedback about how much finished product it needs. All of these things can happen in real time, with actual data that all three parties see, so people can collaborate on what to do next. Collaborating in this way saves travel time, and decision-makers can see what to do based on available data.

Remote Working

IoT devices don't have to be fancy sensors. A simple laptop, tablet computer and an Internet connection could let more employees telecommute and work from home. This saves time spent in the car getting to an office and traveling to work. Although some work requires in-person collaboration, routine and everyday tasks could happen at home instead of in the office. Workers can connect to work software through cloud computing applications and software downloaded to a computer at home.

No matter how a company decides to use IoT devices, this concept represents the future of doing business across many fronts. The bottom line is that companies can save money in the long run by making investments in hardware and software that improves data collection and analysis.

Photo Courtesy of TechnoGiants Blog at Flickr.com

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  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    Thanks for your comments. As with anything @Amelia, automation is only as good as the programming of the software. It's unfortunate that it was put in their for safety and security reasons only to allow a trick to get in. So much for safety and security. @Abbey it is true that more companies are opting for automation in many aspects. I agree that this will only increase the need for more folks to move into technology and will open up more jobs. For many years our President has been touting the STEM programs so that we have people with the knowledge and experience to handle things like automation. Colleges have increased and expanded offerings in science, technology, engineering and mathematics since these are the fields that we are going to need to sustain us moving forward. Companies are continually crying that they can't find qualified applicants to fill these ever important positions so they are either outsourcing to countries like India and China or bringing in foreign nationals to do the work. We need to step up the efforts in our own country to get individuals through these STEM programs and out into the real world. Technology is here to stay.

  • Amelia Freeman
    Amelia Freeman

    I think it's important to use common sense on some of these. I once saw office automation go very badly.

    Doors with electronic locks were set to lock automatically, and opened with a keycard. However, for fire safety reasons there was a small 'airlock' type area attached to a motion detector. When the motion detector in the airlock area was triggered, the electronic lock unlocked.

    I was with someone who had accidentally locked their keyring, including keycard, apartment key, car key, everything, in that office. To get it back, they showed me a 'trick.' All they had to do was slide a long piece of paper under the locked door into the motion sensor with the airlock and it would sense a person who needed to exit and unlock.

    They had been telling their boss for weeks to get this fixed. Nothing bad came of it, but this internet of things office automation had some serious security flaws that could have cost a lot more than it saved.

  • Abbey Boyd
    Abbey Boyd

    More and more companies are realizing the benefits of technology in our constantly evolving world. While it's true that machines can never completely replace the workforce, there is a lot of concern on that matter. Many people fear that they will lose their jobs to robots someday. This isn't an entirely ridiculous idea, either. One thing for people to keep in mind, though, is that there will always be certain jobs that simply cannot be replaced by a machine. In addition, with the increase in technology comes more tech related jobs, from manufacturing to installation to support. We should embrace these advances, and evolve with them.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    Thanks everyone for the great comments. IoT will change the way we do everything. Ten years ago, you wouldn't see your doctor carrying an ipad or a cell phone and inputting data into it as he/she was discussing your issues. They would jot it down and then have it typed up later - or would record it and turn it over to a transcriptionist. Not today. Today we can get health checks over the Internet. I hope that companies jump on the health wagon and even provide fitbits for them employees. They can even offer non-monetary gifts for a person who improves their health. It will be interesting to watch and see how IoT grows and encompasses more and more.

  • Hema Zahid
    Hema Zahid

    I can see the benefits of IoT extending from businesses to homes as well. It would be great if every home had motion sensors to turn off their lights, electronics and air conditioning. This would allow homeowners to save on their power bill and would be good for the environment as people would only use the exact amount of power they need.

  • Lorri Cotton
    Lorri Cotton

    Businesses understand exactly how IoT technology is revolutionizing the workplace. They can do everything from monitoring your vital signs and health, to knowing where you are at all times. The bit about the fitness monitor is a bit unnerving. I hope that it is incentive-based and that employees have the opportunity to opt-out of it. Another way that IoT technology is changing the way that we work is the meteoric rise of remote working. Many businesses are beginning to follow this business model. I began to research legitimate ways to earn money on the internet and have found innumerable ways to support myself, using the new IoT technology, such as microtasking, job search platforms, remote work positions and service-selling sites like Fiverr.

  • Tara Avery
    Tara Avery

    Given that the first smartphone didn't enter the picture until 2007, I am constantly amazed and thrilled to see how much the IoT technology has grown in less than a decade. There are just so many applications! It's great to see business jump on board, too, not just individual users. It's pretty great thinking that, in the future, we won't have to depend on signage or a person's memory to have the lights turned out when everyone's gone for the day. It could make such a difference in energy consumption.

  • CATHERINE S.
    CATHERINE S.

    Internet of Things devices are definitely the future of tracking and storing all kinds of information. In my workplace, in our healthcare and wellness program, we are able to upload information from health trackers like Fitbits and get wellness points when fitness goals are met (which can translate into extra money on my paycheck). I think it's great incentive for improving health. It certainly has helped inspire me to move around more.

  • Jill Coleman
    Jill Coleman

    It seems like these health trackers are really in their infancy. Every day I hear of a different, interesting, new idea with them. Reading in this article that "telling workers when it's time to stand up and stretch" was a new idea for me. As a freelance writer that sits way too long at a time, I wish my Fitbit would shake my arm about once every 2 hours to get up and walk around.

  • Jay Bowyer
    Jay Bowyer

    The health tracker thing is interesting to me. I actually have a health tracker, and when I wear it I invariably feel compelled to get more active, which I know is good for me. It's also been really interesting to see the data gathered by my little purple wristband. Are there any studies (yet) about how fitness trackers impact employee heath on a broader basis, I wonder?

  • William Browning
    William Browning

    Perhaps you can look at it the other way. Millennials may be the best people to adapt to working with all of these tech devices since this generation grew up with smartphones, fitness trackers and apps. One problem IoT companies have moving forward is a lack of a standard programming protocol. What if a company buys devices from three different firms? Can those devices communicate with each other? This industry seems ready to explode onto the scene with tons of competing companies and devices, but they have no real standards to measure how these devices work with each other. Like any industry, the best companies survive while the others falter.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Shannon so very true. We don't realize how much we spend on social media - whether professional or personal. I have heard MANY complaints about how the millennials spend inordinate amounts of time on social media while they are at work. Not sure what the answer is for companies to control the use of technology. Companies could institute policy regarding our tech devices stating clearly when and when not to use these devices. Most places have cube farms so your cube mate will know when you are distracted by your tech and could be a whistleblower. Work is work and personal time is personal time. It should be clearly outlined so that there is no confusion. Sure it will be hard for companies to monitor the use of cell phones and even wearable tech devices but it has to start somewhere. When an employee goes against company policy, give them a warning and let them know that the warning is being put in their record. If they get caught again, it could mean termination. I do understand that some employees need to use cell phones, computers, etc. to do their jobs but they would be the exception, not the rule and they should use company provided devices only - nothing personal. This way the company can monitor the use. The IoT is here to stay. We are just going to need to find ways to separate personal from business.

  • Shannon Philpott
    Shannon Philpott

    There are so many benefits with technology and I will admit that I use so many devices on a daily basis. What companies need to address, though, is the potential distractions of technology. How do we, as employees, stay on track when we have smart phones, smart watches, etc. beeping with notifications on a regular basis? These developments really call attention to the fact that time management skills need to be addressed as well.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    Thanks for your comments. @Jacob it is so true. If only companies would realize this and do things right the first time. They always try to get by in the cheapest way possible only to find out that they wasted time, money and resources in vain. @Katharine do you know what is making a great comeback? Higher desks so that you can stand while you do your work! They were all the rage several years ago and then died out. But now, with the Fitbit and other wearable technology, they are coming back. I do believe that devices have already been made to remind you to move around every hour. I know I need one because I get busy and don't realize that three hours have passed - at least not until I go to get up! It is going to be interesting to watch and see how IoT changes the face, not only of our workplace, but of everything that we do in our lives.

  • Katharine M.
    Katharine M.

    This is all really exciting, particularly the ways that IoT devices can help employees maintain better health. I've been reading so much lately about how bad sitting is for you- and most of us sit all day at work. Devices that can prompt/remind/hassle us to get up and move every hour would be so helpful and beneficial: both for the individual and, in the long run, for the company.

  • Jacob T.
    Jacob T.

    The number of ways in which wireless technology can expedite and simplify business is phenomenal. As with most things in the business community, cost is the driving factor; my experience is that when companies seek to use inferior technology that costs less to implement, it ends up increasing costs with redundancy and time lost.

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