IoT is transforming businesses around the globe but how can it be used in a small business environment? Discover how we have transformed our own operational efficiencies in our IoT for SMBs blog post.
When we think about IoT, we often think about large enterprises who are using the internet of things to optimise their buildings and premises and automate their processes. While this rings true, IoT is not exclusive. In fact, it is very accessible and can offer a whole host of benefits to small businesses.
Here at Alliot, we are a small business with just 16 employees (& a dog!). Our ‘home’ is located in a beautiful renovated 150-year-old mill, in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire.
We share this space with our sister company, ProVu Communications. Back in December 2022, we decided it was time to create our very own ‘smart office’, here’s an insight into what we have found so far…
The beauty of many LoRaWAN® IoT solutions is that they operate on Low Power Wide Area Networks. Just one Kerlink gateway is all that is needed to cover our offices which equates to a floorspace of approximately 783 m2.
With solid stone walls throughout, some technologies such as WiFi, BLE or ZigBee could prove difficult to avoid blackspots. LoRaWAN® however, is capable of penetrating glass, metal and concrete which is a key differentiator in creating IoT for SMBs. Another benefit to mention is that all of the sensors used are wireless which doesn’t only make installation a lot faster, it’s also much simpler!
Thanks to the simple installation requirements, our smart office was up and running in just 2 days.
The Solution Itself
When creating our Smart Office, our first port of call was to consider what data could offer the best returns in a small office environment. There are a huge number of benefits IoT can offer SMBs.
The key areas we decided to start with are:
- Energy monitoring – this is a big topic for businesses of all shapes and sizes.
- Monitoring our conditions and CO2 levels.
The key sensors used within our office include:
- Elsys ERS Eye – Multi-Sensor which monitors: motion, light, temperature and occupancy
- Netvox R711 Temperature and humidity sensor
- Elsys ERS CO2 – Multi-sensor which monitors temperature, humidity, CO2, motion and light
- IMBuildings People Counter
All of this data is brought together using Novacene‘s intuitive dashboard.
These sensors were placed throughout the building with a temperature sensor in every office/meeting room. We selected the Elsys sensors as they are unobtrusive and offer multiple sensors in one device. The motion sensor was utilised to show us if there was presence within a room.
The correlation between C02 and productivity has long been associated. As per the WELL guidelines, buildings should be properly ventilated, with Carbon Dioxide levels at an average of 800 ppm or less. Luckily for us, our offices are compliant with these levels.
This sensor is located at the entrance to our offices. By counting people in and out of the office, you can see when our busiest days are. As you can see from the screenshot below, Mondays and Fridays are our quietest days.
When looking to reduce operational costs, this kind of information is useful in supporting decisions like what areas of the building we may want to heat or, if we should introduce mandatory work-from-home days. The more information we can gather, the more informed decisions we are able to make.
Lighting – Warehouse
Our warehouse is located in the lower ground floor of our offices. It’s often darker and cooler than other areas of the business. Now we don’t need a sensor to tell us that, but through IoT, we have been able to identify two key things.
- The lighting in our warehouse should be improved. According to guidance from the HSE, the recommended LUX for areas where work requiring a perception of detail is being undertaken is 100 LUX minimum/200 LUX average illuminance. The average LUX in our warehouse is approximately 70 LUX over a 24-hour period. This is likely due to the fact that our lighting is on a sensor so will turn off if no motion is detected. Changing the whole lighting set up in our warehouse isn’t necessary and would be costly, but we have installed local lighting to improve conditions above work stations.
- Over the period we analysed, the highest average temperature was 13.48°C which is within the recommended guidelines for areas where strenuous work us carried out, but we appreciate it’s still a bit chilly, so have installed more heaters in this area too.
We have a number of quiet rooms in the office, these are areas where staff members can work on projects or hold meetings away from the hustle and bustle of the main office.
The results we found from this were quite astounding. On average our quiet rooms are only in use 70% of the time. When they are used, they are only used for around 76 minutes a day, yet they were being heated all day, every day. From the data, we can see specific times when people are entering one of these spaces and cranking the heating up to max, on occasion these rooms were reaching a tropical temperature of 30 degrees! Given that our energy costs have increased by 189% in the last 12 months, the cost of this is huge.
The Results So Far & Future Development
We are now working on installing MClimate thermostatic radiator valves throughout all of our quiet rooms and meeting rooms. These will enable us to remotely control the radiators in these rooms and for us to set a maximum temperature that the radiators can reach. By maintaining a constant temperature, this will help us to reduce costs and waste.
The second stage will then be to integrate our solution with a meeting booking system. This will enable us to optimise when a room is heated. With some development work we will be able to set the sensor to heat a room before a room is booked for use, again helping us to improve our efficiencies and reduce costs without any manual intervention.
Return on Investment
We’re already starting to see a return on our investment. The shear savings in energy costs alone more than pay for the cost of setting up our smart office. As an SMB, these savings are a clear example of the positive impact IoT can have on a business. To date, we predict our solution will help us to save between £1,800 – £2,000 per year.
Looking to get started on your very own IoT solution? Our expert team are available to discuss your requirements and help you to build the very best solution to deliver the data you require. Get in touch today to discover more about how IoT can transform your SMB.