Creating smart offices with 5G and IoT

Industry leaders collaborate to explore how 5G and IoT will revolutionize tomorrow’s workplaces, today.


  • Steelcase wanted to deploy a proof-of-concept smart office environment in their WorkLife Center in Atlanta.
  • Their goal was to explore how IoT, data and cloud computing could help transform the way people work.
  • To overcome the shortcomings of legacy short-range wireless technologies, Steelcase selected a private 5G network powered by Ericsson Cloud Core and an IoT connectivity management platform based on Ericsson’s IoT Accelerator .
  • Steelcase is working together with Ericsson to investigate how 5G will impact the modern office.
  • They are also in the early stages of exploring how digital transformation can improve safety and predictive maintenance for manufacturers.
  • Steelcase deployed a reliable, high-performance, IoT network that can easily manage and collect data from the immense volume of connected devices - everything from computers to sensors to environmental controls.

The challenge

Steelcase is a leading provider of architecture, furniture and technology products and services that create better, smarter experiences in the workplace. Founded in 1912, its first product was a metal wastebasket. Today, their portfolio of offerings enables companies to provide their employees with sustainable environments that allow them to achieve maximum productivity, with a focus on their health and wellbeing. Simply put, Steelcase creates the connected workplaces of tomorrow. 

Steelcase wanted to test a proof-of-concept (PoC) that would explore how IoT, big data and the cloud could enhance and improve workflows. It envisions the office of the future to be smart and connected to foster agility and hyper-collaboration among team members. Terms like “fixed” and “wired” are considered obstacles to the future of work. Short-range wireless technologies including Bluetooth and Wi-Fi have shown the potential to be unreliable and intermittent. Ethernet cables are costly to install and cumbersome to maintain. 

Instead, Steelcase turned to exploring how 5G could enable more reliable, seamless and high-performance connectivity to power the IoT ecosystem needed by tomorrow’s office. It decided to test its concept in its WorkLife Center in Atlanta, Georgia and turned to a private 5G cellular network to help transform connectivity, mobility and efficiency in the modern smart office environment.

Powering the modern office with 5G and IoT

Steelcase creates better work experiences by connecting devices and analyzing data. The workplace of the future will be fully connected. Usam Shen, Innovation Leader at Steelcase describes why Steelcase felt 5G was the key to their IoT initiatives. 

The solution

Steelcase partnered with Ericsson to enable 5G connectivity and IoT device management in their proof-of-concept office. They deployed a dedicated, distributed and virtualized core network and IoT platform  to turn data from connected devices into actionable intelligence. 

The network was purpose-built for better data and device management, keeping the demanding needs of IoT use cases and applications firmly in mind, including artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML), augmented/virtual reality (AR/VR), robotics and edge computing. 

Powering Steelcase’s IoT ecosystem are Ericsson’s IoT Accelerator and Cloud Core platforms. Ericsson enables customers with the freedom of greater agility and flexibility, support for a wide range of device options and use cases, and an optimized gateway for enterprises to reach the global market. 

Ericsson IoT Connectivity Management - Simplifying IoT for Enterprises

Enterprises need to connect, track and manage all of the devices in their local, regional or global IoT ecosystem from a simple, unified and intuitive platform. Ericsson IoT Connectivity Management, part of the IoT Accelerator, allows enterprises access to a world of telecom service operators while enabling them to digitally transform their operations.

IoT Accelerator

"With cellular IoT and 5G, the issue is finding the right partners to collaborate with to resolve the challenges in IoT applications. Ericsson is in a unique position. We can work with Ericsson and then find the right partner from different regions to collaborate, to build a global scale IoT application.

We were using ethernet cable, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi gateways in connecting things together to collect data. That’s a challenge - how we can lower the barrier in connecting these things to collect this data. Then we use the data to generate insights for our business challenges.

IoT has been a big topic at Steelcase for quite a few years, so we reached out to Ericsson to see how we can leverage cellular to lower the barrier in connecting devices."

- Usam Shen, innovation leader at Steelcase

The results

Today, the Steelcase WorkLife center has transformed into a test bed of innovation as Steelcase and Ericsson continue to investigate how 5G can better enable the modern, smart office environment. Together, they are testing new use cases for the workplace that will allow team members to collaborate more efficiently and effectively. From these proofs-of concept, Steelcase will be able to create smarter, connected solutions, for example, ones that can serve as an interconnected layer to support digital wayfinding, asset location and room scheduling.

Steelcase is also expanding its 5G and IoT explorations into the factory and warehouse. With the capabilities provided by the Ericsson platform, the Steelcase is collecting sensor data from legacy machines and with AI, gaining insights that will save money, reduce unplanned downtime and increase the lifecycle of machines through better predictive maintenance.

5G and IoT will allow Steelcase to create the next generation office environment. Their advancements and innovations will enhance the way people interact, collaborate and achieve in the modern workplace.