Bringing disruption to workplace by creating a Smart Office

Rafi Mohammed
Technical Architect
18 January '17

When I came across all the hearsay about disruption caused by digital transformation, as an engineer I promised to myself that I had to bring it to reality by building stuff, putting things together and causing disruption to realize the concept. My colleagues and I were brainstorming on doing proof of concepts for IOT when office automation stroke our minds. We thought of putting into use some of the IOT technologies for management of office facilities and towards this, we involved the entire office to bring home the digital disruption!

Usually the office facilities require lot of monitoring and are typically, labor intensive and repetitive in nature. Some of these chores such as the garbage disposal, when left unattended can result in employee dissatisfaction, and serious health hazards. This ignited the thought of monitoring some of the routine office maintenance chores to ensure timely necessary actions.

Finding the Use cases

Office buildings require a lot of monitoring and controlling which involve a variety of manually intensive operations.

  • Power wastage due to mismanagement of electrical appliances like ACs, light, fans, and generator sets.
  • Improper garbage management results in pollution and unhealthy atmosphere, not congenial for operations. Garbage bins need to be attended throughout the day and cleared at regular intervals.
  • Temperature monitoring for office floors is a tedious task and if not monitored, could lead to extreme temperatures resulting in power wastage.

We decided to address the above though there are several use cases which can be potentially automated.

Building solutions to resolve the problems faced by support staff in managing the office premises would help us build knowledge on IoT, Mobility, Analytics and machine learning, and help us transform the office into a “Smart Office”.

By building solutions to solve the problems faced by support staff in managing the office premises would help us Engineers to build knowledge on IoT, Mobility, Analytics and machine learning and would help us turn the office into a Smart Office.

Designing the solution

We gathered a group of interested engineers, met internal stakeholders and put together a technology roadmap for smart office product ideas, and defined a scope that could be used by internal support service staff.

We identified the following use cases for Phase-1 of Smart Office.

  1. Garbage bin monitoring
  2. Light switch controls
  3. Office AC control
  4. Office temperature monitoring

The solution involved connecting the following components using office WLAN.

  1. Hardware module & IoT Kit
  2. Server API
  3. Mobile app
  4. Desktop admin console

The Hardware modules consist of sensor or control switches that are responsible for collecting data to be used for monitoring office premises. The IoT kit is responsible for exchanging data with server.

Server API are secure restful services with the ability to support data collection, and control data exchange. In case of switch control hardware, the server sends a response to the concerned prompting to act on the switch - to be turned on or off.

Android Mobile app is a support service staff dashboard which helps in monitoring and remotely controlling floors and conference room parameters.

Desktop admin console can be used to add more hardware modules to monitor new region in office. It also can be used to create the configuration for each hardware module.

Building the solution

  • Hardware component is a combination of ESP internet chip with required sensor module that is programmed using the Arduino IDE in order to perform the desired data exchange.
  • The Server side API is developed using NodeJS and Express technology. The intention here was to leverage MEAN stack to build the knowledge base.
  • The website is being designed using AngularJS that will allow the support staff to login to configure hardware modules.
  • Android mobile app is developed for the support staff to monitor various electric switches and garbage bin from the remote location.

Creating the Smart Office

The indigenously built low cost office automation brought excitement all around. The office support staff were amazed with the technology. The engineers had a great time building the solution. We created a pool of IOT engineers and we proudly call ourselves a “practice”.

We realized 3 key benefits of having implemented the concept.

  • Operational efficiency:

The product has resulted in increasing bandwidth of admin staff and ensured their better focus on the value-added activities. The power consumption is reduced as the power wastage was eliminated.

  • Cross training of existing workforce:

The enthusiastic engineers who were new to IOT, pitched in to conduct research and work on the cutting-edge technologies. This also enabled the team members to explore the new arena of programming for hardware.

  • Scalable technology:

We built a robust product, which was well-architected leveraging the latest technologies like the MEAN stack. The product is designed to be extendible and integrate with other hardware components.