How Beacons Will Transform Your Office

By Mike Elgan  |  Posted 2015-02-11 Email Print this article Print

Extremely accurate indoor location technology isn't just for Facebook check-ins. It's going to transform the workplace—and much sooner than you think.

Conference rooms, in particular, will be significantly improved. Booking a room will be easy, and you'll be able to know exactly who's in the room—and when it's vacated and available—by checking a smartphone app. Among other things, beacons will facilitate room lighting, thermostat control, access to the projector (including putting a slide deck on the phone or in the cloud up on the screen), shared notes and automatically created lists of who was in the meeting.

Another benefit: Instead of motion-detectors in bathrooms and offices, beacons will keep the lights on when you need them and turn them off when you don't, thereby saving energy and money.

They'll do the same for company PCs and tablets. Because any compute device can function as a beacon, mere proximity to the unit will be enough to start your computer when you approach, and shut it down or password-protect it when you step away from your desk.

Objects will use beacons to identify their location, enabling IT to keep track of laptops, tablets, projectors and other portable equipment. Prototypes, architectural models and other objects will broadcast their location to anyone interested at all times.

Beacons will improve the process of entering and exiting the workplace by replacing badges and key cards. They also will enable consultants and professionals such as lawyers to more easily calculate billable hours. In larger office buildings, deliveries will be able to be tracked starting from the second those packages hit the mailroom. In addition, you'll be able to get turn-by-turn walking directions inside an office or building.

Undoubtedly, Beacons will also transform the workplace in harder-to-predict ways. It will be up to the application developers to innovate using this very simple, yet potentially powerful technology.

The larger point is that the whole conversation around beacons—which obsesses over retail coupon delivery, stadium and museum navigation, and check-ins— currently focuses almost exclusively on consumer-facing applications. In fact, however, the impact of beacons will be just as great (if not greater) on business and enterprise applications and in our workplaces.


Mike Elgan, a Baseline contributor, is a Silicon Valley-based columnist, writer, speaker and blogger.


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