This article was originally published in Forbes by Usman Shuja. Shuja is Vice President/General Manager of Connected Buildings, Honeywell and a Forbes Councils Member. Read his full executive profile here.


A security guard with a clipboard just doesn’t hack it anymore. With the Internet of Things (IoT), companies are finding new and better ways to welcome visitors to their sites, manage contractor access and look after the safety and security of employees while they’re on the job.

Many organizations are trading those clipboards for smartphones, tablets, intuitive dashboards and advanced software that can perform a variety of tasks that are too complex or time-consuming to be done manually.

U.S.-based universities were early pioneers in digital access-control solutions. The University of Alabama, Duke University and the University of Oklahoma were among the first when they launched mobile-based ID cards that provided residence hall and classroom access. For example, the University of Alabama rolled out an ID that could be added to mobile devices or wearables that combined building access with commerce functions related to student life and dining.

Now, companies are implementing new digital tools that go beyond the access-control processes widely used today, which often extend beyond the security gate, employee entrance or lobby. New technologies engage employees and visitors even before they arrive on-site to provide a seamless entry experience.

For example, current and emerging cloud-based workplace management solutions can prescreen visitors for vaccinations, track vaccine compliance, record contractors’ time and activities on a site, gather time and attendance, improve workflows, fine-tune comfort controls based on occupancy and more.

Users can also program new systems to continuously monitor occupants on-site to improve safety, security and efficiency. It can provide an accurate record of who’s in the building and the ability to provide occupants with real-time alerts with critical information via smartphones. Flexible options allow companies to address privacy concerns. Organizations can anonymize data so users can understand if there is a person in a particular location without identifying the person.

For example, current and emerging cloud-based workplace management solutions can prescreen visitors for vaccinations, track vaccine compliance, record contractors’ time and activities on a site, gather time and attendance, improve workflows, fine-tune comfort controls based on occupancy and more.

Users can also program new systems to continuously monitor occupants on-site to improve safety, security and efficiency. It can provide an accurate record of who’s in the building and the ability to provide occupants with real-time alerts with critical information via smartphones. Flexible options allow companies to address privacy concerns. Organizations can anonymize data so users can understand if there is a person in a particular location without identifying the person.

Keeping unauthorized people outside of sites is a basic requirement for any effective access management system. The challenge comes in making entry quick and painless for the people you want inside, like employees and customers. That’s where IoT technologies prove their value. Many organizations are doubling down on the mobile approach to access management and verification of employees on-site. Silverstein Properties created a solution that hosts employees’ badges in Apple Wallet so that employees and customers can easily access tenant floors, fitness centers and amenities at its 7 World Trade Center office space in New York City.

The process gives employees access to their worksite and verifies that they’ve arrived for attendance and payroll verification. For safety, security and workflow purposes, the software can also track their site location until they follow the same process to check out at the end of their shift.

Organizations everywhere are also investing in safety and security as they work to keep people safer by implementing technologies to help improve indoor air quality and comply with new guidelines related to the Covid-19 pandemic. The most advanced access control solutions allow for customizable workflows that prescreen arrivals for proof of Covid-19 vaccination or Covid-19 testing, as needed for compliance with government mandates or company policy. For example, employees at Deutsche Bank’s new offices at the former Time Warner Center in Manhattan enter by presenting their badges loaded with their vaccination statuses.

Contactless software and QR codes can also improve safety and hygiene, while capacity management and movement-tracking on the site can enable social distancing and make contact tracing easier if that becomes necessary.

Employees can integrate their calendars with the system to preregister outside guests. When visitors arrive, they simply enter their details at a sign-in station, and their arrival information is sent to the site security team and the person they would like to see, who has the option of approving or declining their request to enter the site. If the request is approved, the visitor’s photo ID can be captured, and a security badge can be printed on the spot. The system has the capability to recognize regular visitors to speed their entry into the building the next time they visit. London’s 22 Bishopsgate office tower allows visitors to use a custom app that includes the ability to preregister for visits and get QR codes to scan in order to enter.

Looking ahead, there are more opportunities to extend the integration of these new tools to become part of a total site ecosystem. For example, employees’ smartphones could become used as sensors linked to a building automation system and programmed to provide data that can be used to adjust comfort levels and air quality levels in a conference room or turn out the lights after a meeting.

Unlocking the power of data

How To Incorporate IoT Solutions In The Workplace

Organizations looking to bring new IoT solutions into their offices should first identify their stakeholders. Leaders should consider those who will have access to their facilities, such as employees, guests and contractors. The next step should focus on mapping out the needs of each of them. Any development of an IoT solution should meet all stakeholders’ needs, which may require creating a solution with distinct access features. Leaders must also consider whether the solution will be developed as an enterprise-wide solution.

Planning a solution that meets the needs of all stakeholders is one of the biggest stumbling blocks. Poor planning can result in a solution that is slow, cumbersome or complicated to use. Some out-of-the-box solutions may work for organizations with simpler needs, but companies needing more complex or enterprise-wide features may need a custom-built app.

Advanced IoT workplace solutions are increasingly important as companies implement return-to-work and hybrid workplace strategies. It’s a big job for companies, with many people moving around their sites daily. By adopting IoT and intelligent workplace management software, companies can digitally transform a building’s operation and create a safer, more secure and more productive place for visitors and employees.