Technology

How the Internet of Things is changing our work

June 8, 2016
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Brian McKeiver. Courtesy BizStream

At my company, we use many different internet-connected devices. “Things” like NEST (thermostats), Dropcams (automated cameras), Amazon Echo (voice search), etc. These devices help manage our facility.

We've automated the building’s climate control, lighting, and security settings with these IoT tools. But with the addition of Amazon Echo, Cortana in Windows 10, and Slack with its bots, we are starting to use IoT not just for physical automation, but to now answer questions and do simple tasks in our everyday work.

For instance, we ask Amazon Echo to change the music, or pause the song when a support phone call comes in. You probably could have guessed that one. More interestingly, however, when we ask Slack a specific command, “Who knows about X client's project?” the Slack chat channel will reach out across the internet, look through our project management system and return which employee has the most time logged to that project. The automated response answers the question with, “You should ask Brian (50 percent) or Michelle (42 percent) or Dave (8 percent).”

This saves us time from bothering our project managers and project leads for something that can be easily automated. It also helps new employees figure out who to go to for help for on a project of which they might be a new member.

We had none of this technology or integration with our daily work even two years ago. It all has quickly come from the rise of IoT. That fact really surprises me. Not many technologies have changed the way we work that quickly, maybe not even since the advent of smartphones.

We want to do this more and more with asking a device questions like, “What is the percentage complete on X project?” when we review projects in our staff meeting, or “Where is X employee today?” when we want to find out if they are working at home, or in the office, or taking the day off.

The idea of having a virtual office assistant excites the “geek” in us. Our vision for this technology includes branching into more of our project management, custom support systems, development ops, and overall office fun. Just imagine when we have the foosball table actually talking back to us. It’s honestly not that far away.

You don’t have to take my word for it, either. A recent survey by Gartner says 6.4 billion devices will be connected to the internet in 2016; by 2020 that number is predicted to be over 20 billion. Much of this growth is attributed to consumer devices, but a healthy percentage can still be attributed by business use. By that point, I expect just about everything in the office will be a connected “Thing,” even my office chair will probably send a push alert notifying me that I have not done enough walking or standing today.

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