Employees working remotely is on the rise at a rapid pace, and it’s having a profound impact on what smart home builders and integrators are planning for both current and future needs in the home.
Since 2005, the regular work-from-home employee workforce (not self-employed) has grown by 140%, which is ten times faster than the rest of the workforce. And, it doesn’t show any signs of slowing down either. More and more companies are offering telecommuting options for their employees, including major players like Amazon, Dell, and SAP.
If you’re a smart home builder or integrator, this means you aren’t just building smart homes and transforming the way people live, you’re also building smart home-offices and transforming the way people can work.
The backbone of any smart home-office: Cloud-based VoIP
The main driver of work-from-home capabilities is cloud-based voice over internet protocol (VoIP) services, which are growing in popularity. In fact, BT Openreach, which owns and maintains nearly all telecom infrastructure in the United Kingdom, recently announced plans to switch all of its services over to an IP network by 2025.
It’s no surprise why: VoIP services not only offer massive cost savings over traditional phone line networks, they’re also far more flexible. Employees can stay connected no matter where they are. They can forward work calls to their personal smart phone or move from one regional office to another without switching numbers or requiring costly IT support.
But VoIP isn’t just replacing traditional phone lines. Most VoIP services also enable simple and easy videoconferencing and group videoconferencing, which is a key selling point for a growing number of remote workers. According to one survey, 87% of remote workers feel more connected to their team when chatting face-to-face via video link.
The opportunity for smart home specialists
The challenge, of course, is that cloud-based VoIP requires significant bandwidth to function at a high level. Remote workers require fast and reliable internet to enjoy the high-quality voice calls and videoconferencing their employers demand. This is on top of the other demands placed on a worker’s bandwidth, which is also likely supporting their VPN (virtual private network) connection and other home devices.
VoIP can be highly cost-effective, but it does require a solid internet connection. This is why the rise in VoIP popularity has coincided nicely with the spread of fiber optic networks. Fiber is not only more secure and offers greater bandwidth but is also more reliable than copper-based networks, which are susceptible to circuit outages and interference due to the fact they transmit data as electronic signals rather than as light.
Getting FTTP (fiber to the premises) is just one of the key requirements for the modern smart home specialist. Ensuring optimal performance inside the home, especially in office areas, is the mark of a smart home that’s truly ready to support fully the remote worker of today and tomorrow. Securing modems and routers inside WiFi transparent media panels, installing voice/data distribution modules, and effectively managing complex cable runs are all pieces of the smart home office puzzle that installers need to add to their repertoire.