But uptake has slowed.
The automated office gets one step closer with SmartThings store
There’s been lots of talk about smart office buildings, where sensors will track activity and respond by turning items on and off automatically, but so far they're rare. They require an investment in sophisticated systems for new construction, and it often isn’t worth the cost to update older buildings. However, the smart sensor products being showcased in the new SmartThings online store, which launched today, could make the smart office a reality.
SmartThings makes a bunch of sensors that let users find things, receive alerts when things are moved or when movement is sensed, and turn things on and off. Users can buy the different kinds of sensors and set up how they want them to work, controlling the sensors from their phones.
SmartThings has been licensing its technology out to other companies, so now manufacturers like GE, Schlage, and Kwikset make products that use the SmartThings technology.
But the problem has been figuring out who makes compatible products and where to buy them. To try to help move the market along, SmartThings has launched a store.
It’s small for now – a few dozen products and packages of products. SmartThings says there are more than 1,000 products that use its technology and that it’s curating the store to focus on the kinds of products that people have asked for most.
So for now, the store is really focused on home automation. But it’s easy to see how the same products and services could be used in an office.
Brew Media Relations, the New York public relations firm that represents SmartThings, got its offices decked out with SmartThings gear. That means that everyone can turn on and off the air conditioning and lights at their desks. Sensors on the windows detect if the windows are still open at quitting time, alerting workers to shut them before leaving for the day. Certain doors have sensors so that an alert is sent if they are opened in the middle of the night when no one should be around. Motion detectors turn certain lights on and off when people walk by.
There are sophisticated systems for doing these kinds of things. They work well with new construction. Microsoft, for instance, has a number of these energy-saving processes built into its newer buildings so that lights turn on when people enter a room and off when they leave.
But sensors like those from SmartThings can help out in older buildings and are relatively simple and inexpensive to deploy. Users buy the sensors and then program them how they like. A business could attach a sensor to expensive equipment and then be alerted if the equipment is moved. The motion sensor could send an alert when a drawer is opened. All of the sensors can be controlled remotely by phone, so an office administrator can remotely turn on or off lights.
Since the system is relatively inexpensive – SmartThings sells a kit for $300 that includes six sensors and the hub that controls them – groups could buy them for specific uses, like tracking equipment. It doesn’t require a large centralized buy.
The SmartThings store looks pretty sparse today, but if it attracts more manufacturers and new kinds of applications, even more applications may pop up that appeal to businesses.
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