• Ali Egan

A Currently Automated Population: Office Spaces

In April of 2017, there were 125.53 million full time employees in the United States. These people spend around 8 hours a day, oftentimes more, in their working environment, and need to be supported by their employers. It is known that employees develop the most efficient way of performing a task themselves, if given the freedom and ability to do so. This knowledge, when paired with technology and automation, can create unparalleled productivity.

Many companies equip their employees with access to a Local Area Network (LAN), for file and information sharing. LANs allow employees to access information provided by both the company and by coworkers. Accounting offices use LANs to share client information between departments, as it is likely that multiple people will work on various tasks for one client. Companies like ours, Current Products Corp., use LANs to share engineering documents, so people in multiple departments can access part and product drawings and specs. In addition to a LAN, we use an intranet, a website accessible only to those on our network. On this site, we share calendars and give status updates on our products like the E-Wand. Certain software enables cloud based document sharing, so employees have the freedom and accessibility to access documents remotely. This includes accessing servers from off site, as well as internet-based options like Dropbox or Google Docs. Another remote access option is to enable a virtual server for employees to access documents or programs. Many University systems offer a similar option for students and faculty to access University owned programs and software suites from a virtual desktop.

From an automation standpoint, several systems are available that can help manage and maintain a workplace. There are security services available that automatically disarm at certain times of the day, and then only require a key or card swipe for building entrance. This allows individuals within a large workforce to customize their hours without having to know or have access to the security alarm code. Interior and exterior lights can be placed on scheduling or sensor systems, so interior lights can shut off after a certain period with no motion, or at a certain time. As an example, we have a large bank of windows in our lab, where we perform some product testing. When we were performing the initial sensor tests of the E-Wand, we wanted to test in a real life scenario, with a real sunset and a real sunrise. We equipped a bank of windows with E-Wands and filmed them opening and closing for weeks, but to get the most accurate results, no lab lights could be left on at night. We have motion sensors installed in our individual offices that shut off the light after a certain time without movement, but in our lab we do not. Because of this, we had to post signs on all the doors imploring the last one out to remember to turn all the lights out, and if they didn’t, we compromised valuable data. Having a sensor in the lab would have greatly increased the accuracy of our initial testing, and saved energy by keeping the lights off for the several hours where no one was in the lab.

Modern offices are becoming more open and build outs are including fewer walls. Monitoring and Control systems can aid businesses in controlling their environment through wireless temperature sensors for HVAC, and help property owners with split buildings to better monitor tenant energy consumption. The most cited reason for installing building automation is to control and track energy expenditures, so automation of with this goal is becoming more prevalent in office settings. Automating HVAC systems, lighting systems, and window coverings can control energy consumption and these can all be controlled easily by equipping the building with an automation system. Many of these available systems can even be controlled remotely by tenants or building owners.

Automation functionality in office spaces not only increases energy efficiency, but can also increase employee productivity and job satisfaction by providing a functional and professional working environment.

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