Offices are collecting loads of data—how will they use it?


The Happier Office

Whether you work in a cubicle, café, or corner office.

This is an exciting time in the history of office buildings. The confluence of three long-term trends—the rise of co-working, the adoption of building technology, and the ubiquity of smartphones—is transforming workplaces. These trends are driving a kind of consumerization, in which users can customize their experience to a significant degree or choose a different space as their needs evolve. While this flexibility is a virtue in itself, there is a second benefit less often discussed: the generation of data through use.

Now that internet-of-things (IoT) technology is being baked into buildings from the beginning of the design process, the relationship between IT and real estate is set to become a fulcrum of business success. In some parts of the economy, this transformation has already been happening for some time; witness the many ways WeWork is turning data about occupants into a core business asset.

In some ways, the period we are now entering is reminiscent of the early days of the web. While the value of internet user data has now been fairly well established, it was not always so. Google grew to become one of the most valuable companies in the world by aggregating and analyzing what many users probably thought was worthless information. This phenomenon essentially repeated itself when Facebook and other social media entered the scene.

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