The Edge, an office building in Amsterdam is quite possibly the smartest office space ever constructed. It knows where you live. It knows what car you drive. It knows who you’re meeting with on any given day and how much sugar you take in your coffee, thanks to 28,000 sensors located around the building.
A day at the Edge begins with a smartphone app developed with the building’s main tenant, consulting firm Deloitte. From the minute you wake up, you’re connected. The building recognises your car as you arrive and directs you to a parking space. The app then checks your schedule for the day and finds you a desk, because at the Edge, you don’t have a desk, in fact, no one does. Workspaces are allocated on your schedule and needs for each day. It can allocate a sitting desk, standing desk, work booth, meeting room, balcony seat, or ‘concentration room.’
By allocating workspaces in this way, it means that 2,500 Deloitte workers are able to share 1,000 desks and while the maths may not add up, as if by magic, no one is ever short of a place to work. The concept is called hot desking, and while this concept isn’t new (we’ve been hot desking at ANS for years) it’s designed to create a more efficient use of space, while encouraging new relationships. Desks are only used when they’re needed. Some tiny rooms at the Edge contain just a lounge chair and a lamp which is ideal for just making that quick phone call. There are also games rooms and coffee bars with espresso machines that remember how you take your coffee. And if that isn’t cool enough, wherever you go, the app knows your preferences for light and temperature, and it tweaks the environment accordingly and while this may sound expensive, I assure you it isn’t.
The Edge is actually the greenest building in the world, according to British rating agency BREEAM, which gave it the highest sustainability score ever awarded: 98.4%! The Dutch have a phrase for all of this: het nieuwe werken, which roughly translates to the ‘new way of working’. It’s about harnessing technology to shape both the way we work and the spaces in which we do it. It’s about resource efficiency in the traditional sense which enables the solar panels on the roof to create more electricity than the building uses. And the building doesn’t use a lot of electricity to start with. Super-efficient LED panels, made by Philips specifically for the Edge, require such a trickle of electricity, they can be powered using the same cables that carry data for the Internet. The panels are also packed with sensors—motion, light, temperature, humidity, infrared—creating a “digital ceiling” that wires the building like a brain.
While this may all sound incredibly exciting, it does make you wonder how Deloitte manages all this data.
Well, they’ve got an answer for that too.
You won’t be surprised to hear Deloitte are collecting incomprehensible amounts of data on how the Edge and its employees interact. They manage all this data through a central dashboard which tracks everything from energy usage, to when the coffee machines need to be refilled. On days when fewer employees are expected in the office, an entire section may be shut down, cutting the cost of heating, cooling, lighting and cleaning.
There’s no doubt that in the future all buildings will be connected, both internally and to other buildings. The multi-billion-dollar question is who is going to do it?
For us mere mortals still working in analogue offices, the workplaces of the future may still seem like a distant dream but this doesn’t have to be the case. Many organisations that want to begin their IoT journey are still struggling to understand what’s possible, where to start and how to transform an existing analogue building into a smart hub fit for a digital future.