Ideas about workplaces have changed dramatically over the past decade. Office buildings and interiors have become much more comfortable, more social and above all smarter places. Microsoft’s Dutch headquarters, The Outlook, was already way ahead in this respect, but a radical renovation is now raising the concept of smart buildings to the next level. From The New World of Work to The New World of Networking. bGrid® from Deerns plays a key role in this digital transformation.
Imagine entering a building which then tells you which workspace will be best suited to you and where to find it. A building which gives you advance information on whether a parking space will be available when you arrive at the office. And a building which autonomously welcomes the client you’re expecting for an afternoon appointment through a virtual lobby experience. Sound like a vision of the future? Not at all. A radical renovation is transforming The Outlook into one of the smartest buildings in the world.
Philosophy of The Outlook
The Outlook’s concept is based on the theories in the book ‘Busy: how to thrive in a world of too much’ by Tony Crabbe, explains Digital Advisor Chris Nouveau of Microsoft. “He was the one who said: ‘Define your aspired impact, then choose your activity and workplace.” In The Outlook, the spaces are therefore designed and arranged to provide building users with an optimal working experience. There will be areas for concentration, relaxation, telecommunication, meetings and of course flexible working. Nouveau: “We have identified two different people flows in our building: the employee experience and the visitor experience. We want to use smart technology to facilitate both. From the moment people set off to come here and park, to receiving our guests, being able to work comfortably and host a meeting, through to their departure.”
A building like a smartphone
The backbone of the smart applications in The Outlook is provided by bGrid®, an integral and open IoT platform for buildings developed by Deerns and Evalan. Wireless bGrid® sensors are placed in the building, delivering information 24/7 on occupancy rate, noise levels and air quality in the building, among others. Microsoft then uses its own cloud technology (Azure Cloud) to link and analyse all the data, so that it can be used to offer the best user experience. The accurate indoor positioning means a whole range of location-based services can be offered, allowing the building to act as a personal assistant for staff and visitors. This should lead to more satisfied staff, higher productivity, lower energy consumption, less waste and an improved wellbeing.
However the upgrade to The Outlook not only gives Microsoft a state-of-the-art headquarters, it also opens up new opportunities and markets in smart buildings, explains Digital Advisor Chris Nouveau from Microsoft. “The Internet of Things (IoT) creates an exponential growth of data and technologies like bGrid®. Azure Cloud ensures that we can approach and analyse this data and offer a variety of building solutions to all stakeholders. From energy management to preventive maintenance, the efficient use of the building and more comfort and wellbeing for building users: there’s a huge need for this in the building’s ecosystem.” It’s from this vision that, in collaboration with Schiphol, this smart building platform is now being rolled out further across Schiphol’s Central Business District.
But the comfort and convenience offered – and the allure of a next-level smart building – will also create a fantastic Microsoft experience at brand level. The new Outlook offers the experience that staff and visitors expect from the tech company. This makes the building an extra weapon in the ‘war for talent’ in the IT sector. So in that respect too, Microsoft is taking a step into the future with the digital transformation of its headquarters. Considered in this light, The Outlook is not just a smart building; it’s also a smart business case.