Can the Smart Office Bring Back the Work-from-Home Employee?

New York City ‘Innovation Lab’ shows off the potential of building automation for offices, teams

From corporate mandates to more money, companies are trying all kinds of things to bring employees back into the office. The battle may be an uphill one, given Gallup’s recent findings, showing that 60 percent of remote workers would be “extremely likely” to look for another job if their employer stopped allowing remote working.

Software developers for MHT Lighting, a Staten Island-based building automation firm, however, have an idea: To satisfy work-from-homers, why not make work more like home?

To bring their hypothesis to life, the developers petitioned MHT’s leadership to let them create a next-generation, ‘smart’ office in the heart of New York City. Leadership said yes, giving the developer team full rein to reinvent its space at 241 W. 37th St., Ste. 1202, New York, NY 10018. The office is now ready to receive visitors.

“Everyone is welcome to come and play in our new space,” said MHT Lighting Ira Horowitz CEO of the space, which is internally known as the MHT Innovation Lab. “But we’re really hoping to show off for employers, particularly those searching for creative ways to excite employees about returning to in-person work.”

What Visitors Will See in the MHT Innovation Lab

Among the enhancements the MHT staff is most excited to showcase is the Innovation Lab’s Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) infrastructure.

PoE is typically recognized by its characteristic blue cabling, the kind hotels once used to offer in-room Internet access. The cables carry power and data simultaneously. Today, PoE is experiencing a vastly expanded set of use cases, including building automation. In many cases, PoE removes the need for wire housing or conduit, none of which can be found in the MHT Innovation Lab.

In fact, PoE is on display even from the outside of the lab. Employees unlock the PoE-wired front doors from an app. Once inside, MHT’s proprietary inspeXtor® software recognizes individual employees using the app’s Bluetooth signals as they enter their private office spaces and activates custom lighting and window shade settings based on their pre-set preferences.

PoE infrastructure continues into the MHT Innovation Lab’s common areas. In the main conference room, PoE-based lights, shades and sensors are monitored continuously and adjusted as needed through a tablet dashboard. This enables employers to set the scene for a variety of events, such as daytime presentations or nighttime entertaining, either on-demand or on a schedule.

“Customization at the end user level is one of the main benefits of PoE automation platforms like Inspextor,” said Akram “AK” Khalis, MHT Lighting chief technology officer and a sustainable technology advocate. “Enabling hyper-personalization is a powerful way to show employees they are seen, heard and valued. Building-automation strategy is a scalable way to achieve personalization across hundreds, potentially thousands, of team members.”

The Green Benefits of PoE Infrastructure

Aside from the ability to customize spaces, PoE building automation empowers companies to execute on different sustainability policies, such as reducing energy consumption. Sustainability values are an increasingly important draw for employees. IBM recently found that 68 percent of people are more willing to accept positions from environmentally sustainable companies.

Sensors, like those placed throughout the MHT Innovation Lab, monitor things like movement, ambient light and temperature. Data is reported in Inspextor’s sustainability dashboard, providing real-time feedback towards energy goals. The platform’s artificial intelligence engine suggests tweaks for further reducing energy consumption and reaching sustainability goals.

Unlike line voltage, a typical PoE installation can contribute significantly to the points needed for LEED certification. Constructing or renovating with PoE lowers a building owner’s carbon footprint, not to mention overall labor and material costs.

About MHT Lighting

MHT Lighting is a New York-based lighting manufacturer and building automation software company. Founded in 2009, the company provides world-class Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) and line voltage lighting solutions to clients throughout North and Central America and Europe. MHT engineers, software developers and lighting designers take lighting projects from the drawing board to implementation across a range of spaces, including office, healthcare, hospitality and education.

MHT is best known for its patented PoE building automation platform, Inspextor, which features AI capabilities, an intuitive graphic user interface (GUI) and the highest encryption security available on the market today. To learn more, visit or follow MHT Lighting on LinkedIn.