Covid-19 & the IoT Opportunity: The 2020 Home Office & the 2021 Smart Office

The Internet of Things (IoT) made huge gains in 2020, partly fuelled by the remote working pivot following Covid-19. We took a look at how IoT has evolved in the past year – and what this means for 2021…

2020 witnessed the coronavirus pandemic bring the hurried pace of modern living to an abrupt standstill, forcing workers globally to settle in for the long-haul of ‘slower living’ and remote working. Yet, Covid-19 simultaneously forced organisations into rapid transformation, requiring them to adapt their working practices and pivot to accommodate this new Working from Home (WFH) era.

Consequently, businesses everywhere have implemented increased automation and connectivity in the form of the Internet of Things (IoT) to tackle such unforeseeable circumstances in the years to come. No longer banded around as a popular buzzword or simply an ’emerging tech’ trend, IoT technology has henceforth been propelled by Covid-19 into the eye of the storm of the Industrial 4.0 revolution. IoT is now building upon the foundations laid by Artificial Intelligence, Big Data and Cloud Infrastructure, unlocking new possibilities for business.


The 2020 IoT Spotlight Report

The new 2020 IoT Spotlight report from Vodafone Business has revealed that Covid-19 has accelerated the plans of 73% of businesses that were previously considering adopting IoT technologies. According to this report, many adopters now view the integration of IoT devices with workers as a higher priority. And 87% have agreed that IoT technology is now vital to keeping business flowing during the pandemic.

The research findings are clear: 87% of IoT adopters have enjoyed rising ROI while 51% of these adopters have also seen operating costs decrease by an average of 19%. From improving operational efficiency to creating new connected products and services, other key benefits of IoT deployments include boosted employee productivity (44%) and improved customer experience (38%).

Echoing this sentiment, Erik Brenneis, IoT Director at Vodafone Business, concluded that “IoT has grown up. It’s no longer just about increasing return on investment but is now an essential technology for businesses that want to be resilient, more flexible, and quicker to adapt and react to change”.


Looking Forward: The Smart Office Prediction

Clearly, the 2020 pandemic has accelerated the notion that IoT implementation has a leading role to play in the future. But what can businesses expect from 2021? Utilising IoT in pivoting organisations’ WFH practices was the reactionary tech trend of 2020, but looking forward to 2021 and the much-anticipated return to the office and Pret a Manger lunches, it is evident that IoT technology will really come into its own and solidify its title of future-proofing technology with the implementation of The Smart Office.

This notion found traction in Forrester’s Predictions 2021: Internet of Things (IoT) report released last month. It focused on the “significant momentum” at which new IoT use cases will be rolled out in 2021 across different environments and geographies. Such cases include capturing patient health data from wearables and healthcare devices, extending the deployment of remote monitoring for connected machines, and (all-importantly) enhancing the employee experience in smart offices.

Forrester expects at least 80% of firms to develop comprehensive smart office initiatives that will include state-of-the-art architectures, platforms, and applications to enhance employee safety and improve resource efficiency. Such IoT-based solutions will comprise of HVAC systems that will optimise air quality, and sensor-enabled space utilization to uphold social distancing measures.


Forrester expects at least 80% of firms to soon develop comprehensive smart office initiatives that will include state-of-the-art architectures, platforms and applications.


O2’s Suite of Covid-19 Safety Tools

Leading the pack on the Smart Office revolution is O2. The telecommunications giant is rolling out a range of digital Covid-19 safety tools for UK businesses, including a social distancing room management device created in partnership with Bell Integration. It monitors the occupancy status of communal areas and a digital display lights either green or red, depending on whether it’s safe to enter. The suite also includes a thermal imaging tablet that can read surface body temperature from one metre away and can manage visitors by ensuring a contactless check-in.

But this trickle of connected devices is just the start. The true cost and scale of investment in this connectivity is still to come. CIO’s have pivoted their priorities to spending on technology that is deemed “mission-critical” over initiatives aimed at growth or transformation. Therefore, spending on software and hardware related to IoT is projected to continue escalating, from US$726 billion in 2019 to US$1.1 trillion in 2023, according to a market research report.


IoT Is Now a Necessity, Not a Nice-to-Have

Investing in connected technologies is no longer a luxury, but a necessity for survival and business continuity. And with numerous use cases for IoT development rearing their heads across all sectors and environments, Covid-19 may well have been the ultimate catalyst of the Internet of Things.

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