Remote Working and British Legislation
by Maryam Khan
There is a growing demand for using technology to stay connected in and outside the workplace, especially due to hybrid and remote working during the pandemic. Following this change in working, there is an even greater demand to adopt smart office business solutions powered by the Internet of Things (IoT) as law firms benefit from more streamlined operations.
What is the Internet of Things?
The Internet of Things refers to everyday objects that can be digitally connected, enabling them to send and receive data through the internet. Such devices are powered by machine to machine technology, allowing them to communicate with other devices through the internet. Following extremely cheap computer chips becoming super accessible alongside wireless networks, billions of products can be turned into IoT devices. Sensors can be added to everyday office equipment such as printers, mobile phones and tablets to make them digitally intelligent, allowing them to communicate real-time data without involving any human interference .
What is a Smart Office?
The integration of IoT devices in a workplace allows law firms to adopt a digital transformation business solution. A smart office is a workplace equipped with IoT devices that are connected to the internet. Such a work environment that relies on internet-connected devices allows law firms to benefit from increased efficiency, better and faster communication and increased collaboration. Having access to these resources enables law firms to effectively and optimally utilise human capital and physical resources . To meet client demands and stay competitive, law firms invest in huge amounts of resources in smart technology, integrating every piece of software or device within their organisation from the ground up.
What is SMART Technology?
Self-Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Technology (SMART) is used to provide cognitive awareness to objects by using advanced technologies like the internet of things, artificial intelligence, machine learning and big data . This workplace technology makes use of smart devices like sensors to collate, adapt and convey information about objects and the environment, making the monitoring process seamless and self-governed . SMART technology lays the foundations for creating a smart office.
How are IoT powered smart offices benefiting law firms?
The Internet of Things has been incorporated into multiple devices that are used daily. Smart fridges detect when food expires and automatically order groceries or an automatic kettle that automatically turns on right before you reach home to have a cup of tea. However, the use of IoT devices goes beyond personal use and can transform business operations and make law firms more profitable by reducing costs and increasing efficiency.
Increased Workplace Security
The average cost of a data breach or cybersecurity attack on a law firm is estimated to be $5 million alongside the reputational damage, which can be irreversible . The improved security features within IoT technology can offset such risks through controlled security access with facial recognition, automated gate access, smart locks when sending and receiving documents containing confidential information . Other IoT office security solutions include security cameras, connected sensors and access control systems that make law firms safer. This significantly increases transparency, reduces the likelihood of any suspicious or illegal activity in the office and mitigates any risks from minor incidents common amongst employees .
Efficient Energy Usage & Climate Control
Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) factors have become a huge priority for law firms as it allows them to create sustainable growth for their stakeholders. IoT devices collect large volumes of data at a much larger rate, resulting in more accurate and streamlined ESG metrics being collected and reported alongside enhancing ESG performance . ESG metrics can be collected, measured and quantified using IoT sensors to manage a law firm’s carbon footprint, energy efficiency, water quality and usage, waste management and indoor air quality .
Law firms become more energy efficient by using IoT solutions such as smart lighting and automated window shades, which allows the light intensity and colour to be customised. Waste is also cut back on as sensors can detect if a room is empty and will automatically turn off the lights and air conditioning. Law firms no longer have to constantly remind their employees to turn off the lights to cut their electricity costs. There is complete control over the efficiency and office energy usage, which again cuts back on costs. Lastly, smart thermostats ensure optimal room temperatures to ensure a comfortable work environment for lawyers so they can work as efficiently as possible alongside saving energy .
Increased Communication & Collaboration
Using IoT devices increases remote working opportunities ensuring greater collaboration between employees regardless of their location. Enhanced video conferencing and interactive displays allow those working from home to experience the same, if not a higher level of communication and collaboration, as data can be easily shared from each device. Law firms can go as far as using robots to create a telepresence experience whilst working from home. The same impact can be seen in the office due to IoT-enabled conference rooms that include smart scheduling systems that solve many space management and coordination issues.
Automated Office Resources
Automated office resources such as handheld IoT powered scanners, automated printers and interactive boards allow information to be shared easily without scanning pages one at a time. IoT also eliminates the worry about printers and other devices not working or running out of ink which can often cause many delays, especially when working with tight deadlines.
Are there any challenges?
The first obstacle law firms meet when considering integrating technology into their operations is the high investment cost. However, pilot versions of IoT prototypes can be integrated first to help law firms decide whether or not integrating IoT devices is the right step. This allows law firms to understand and experience the potential of IoT devices in improving firm performance and prevents them from any unreasonable expenses at the beginning of their IoT journey.
Using Vulnerable IoT Devices
Law firms need to be extremely careful when integrating IoT devices and adopting a smart office business solution. If any vulnerable IoT devices with weak security safeguards and weak access controls are deployed, this can pose a huge risk to the business . Hackers often use vulnerable IoT devices with weak security settings to hack into an organisation’s entire operations and data management system. This means that law firms will have to run security checks for all IoT devices ranging from light bulbs and printers to smart video conference systems.
Adopting a smart office business solution to internal operations can take law firms to the next level. However, the big question is whether taking such a step is really necessary. Do law firms really need smart furniture or printers that automatically order ink when they run out? Is the high-cost investment worth it? Can law firms benefit more from investing in other forms of technology? Are the associated risks worth it?
The answers to these questions depend on how willing law firms are to conduct regular security checks, risk assessments and vulnerability testing to mitigate all associated risks. Moreover, law firms will also have to regularly reboot smart products, change default passwords and usernames and ensure network security. The benefits and investment in such a business solution also have to be weighed against the law firm’s short-term and long-term goals. That said, it is a method of optimisation that will cut down on admin tasks and smooth office operations.