Home offices are getting rehabbed courtesy of smart technology that can simplify routine tasks. Best? These options are all within a small business budget.
By Jeffrey McKinney
Picture the doorbell ringing while you are in your upstairs office. Is it a salesman or a delivery you have been expecting? One look at your cell phone shows it is the delivery man, giving you the choice to let him in or go sign for the package.
The day has arrived when Internet of Things (IoT) products could offer consumers more options while running a business from home. Yet the current demand for such items is at the “things to play with stage” because the connected home office does not now have a lot of connected devices, says Mike Krell, a lead IoT analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, an Austin, Texas-based research analysis and consulting firm that focuses on disruptive technologies.
Still, there are some connected devices that can be used to make your office smarter even now. The good news is making a connected home office more comfortable, secure and adaptable to the Internet, can be done without spending a lot money. But before diving in, consider these details.
Should I buy or rent the connected devices and technology?
Most of the separate devices that will be needed can be bought from different vendors relatively inexpensively. Renting is not needed. Krell calls some of the devices “environmentals,” including thermostats, connected lighting and electric window shades. The products can be bought online at Amazon or from local retail stores like Best Buy, Lowe’s and Home Depot.
How much should I think about budgeting to build my connected office?
Say you considering kitting your smart home office with a Wi-Fi enabled home router, printer, connected light bulbs and other gizmos. Krell figures the cost should run between $200 to up to $1,200, depending on the type of business and connected devices used. The plus side is that once installed, many of these devices are accessible anywhere you want to work — as long as there’s a Wi-Fi connection.
What can I expect from building a connected office?
Krell says saving money as the biggest benefit of installing connected devices today. For instance, a Honeywell or Nest thermostat could help cut energy costs. Just as you check voicemail and email remotely, users can heat or cool an office before arriving, reducing energy costs by keeping thermostats off when the office is empty. Other savings can be found through automating tasks.
For example, if your office is on the sunny side of the house, Lutron creates a series of smart devices that can know when to lower the shades. Nest’s smart thermostat can adjust the air conditioning and fan to make it just right for your usage during the day. Printers will track all your consumables like paper and ink and have them waiting for you at home when you need them — even tell you before your printer breaks that it needs service. All of these things will be seamlessly taken care of by voice and from any location you happen to be in.
Will every IoT product work with each other?
That’s a good question. As in the computer space, some systems do not work well with others. While one app may be compatible in both a PC and Mac world, not all are. IoT devices are the same. You’ll want to look at the tools and the networks each products works with before putting down your credit card. For example, Lutron’s motorized shades will work with both Honeywell and Nest thermostats. But Nest thermostats do not currently speak with products that run on the IoT system supported by Lowe’s, called Iris. Think through the tools you’ll want for your smart office and ask before buying.
What connected features should I expect to find?
For those that are interested in experimenting today, printers and environmental hardware is available now. They can be used in combination with software products like IFTTT, allowing you to create “recipes” to automate a variety of tasks. Gartner analyst Nick Jones expects more small business products will become "smart" by 2025 including regular and 3D printers, scanners, security shredders and smart waste bins. Plus, smart home office users should expect to see connected devices become easier to integrate, says Krell.
“You can begin to see the power of IoT and how it will affect your home office today and in the future,” Krell says.