The recent headlines and buzz around Amazon Alexa is just one indication that smart home technology may have finally broken through to mainstream. Consumers have grown accustomed to interacting with smart technology to make their lives easier at home and soon will expect that experience to continue when they arrive at the office. While smart technology promises greater efficiency and innovation in the workplace, IT teams face a daunting task of determining which technologies are hype and which will actually make work a better place.
As organizations start to adopt technology that will make work-life better, they need to ensure organizations are set up for success from the beginning. The challenge of supporting and deploying new "smart office" technologies, while upholding corporate security policies is not an easy feat. It might be tempting to act prematurely and incorporate all the latest technologies right away but it’s important to take a holistic approach when evaluating IT projects and prioritize what to implement to ensure organizations are set up for success. While there are a myriad of smart office trends invading the workplace today, here are the top trends we think will most significantly alter the way we communicate and collaborate in the future.
Pointless meetings are arguably the most common thorn in the side of every company today. While we don’t expect the pain of meetings to vanish entirely, smart meeting technology has an opportunity to make a significant impact on the way we work before, during and after meetings. As businesses become more innovative about time management, old, inefficient processes will begin to stand out more than ever. It’s up for debate whether Millennials or Gen-X’ers prompted the rise of remote working, either way meetings often exist outside of the walls of the physical office. For this reason, virtual tools - like audio, video, chat and web conferencing - will be getting a lot smarter -- and sooner than we might think.
Automation will be at the center of smart meeting technology, but will only be widely adopted if it makes life easier to schedule, host and follow up after meetings. During a meeting, one of the most obvious manual processes to automate is taking and distributing notes and minutes. Expect technology to evolve from mere transcription services to providing breakdowns of takeaways and due dates, with notifications automatically sent to the respective stakeholders. Or, how nice would it be if post-meeting, your smart project management suite, team workspaces, calendars and client records (where applicable) in your CRM or task lists were all updated by the time you grab a coffee and get back to your desk? With the right technology in place, meetings can be pivotal pieces of an interconnected process rather than unwelcome clutter on calendars.
Ambient Intelligence technology (AmI) is characterized by systems and technologies that are contextually aware, adaptive, anticipatory, personalized and embedded. For the home, think of the Nest thermostat that automatically adapts to your pre-programmed preferences. Businesses are beginning to use this type of technology to learn more about their office spaces. For example, companies are using sensor technology to understand which spaces their employees are utilizing most. Analyzing this data allows them to potentially reduce overhead costs. Furthermore, with the emergence of smart watches, this technology could be advanced by connecting with sensory technology to convey personal biometrics such as heart rate and temperature, allowing meeting rooms to register these metrics and adjust accordingly, making sure employees are always comfortable in the office, which has been linked to overall improved productivity.
Of course, the ever-increasing acceptance of devices that connect to form the Internet of Things (including AmI tech) pose a serious threat if breached whether inside the workplace or at employees’ homes. Entering 2017, companies will face new challenges both with security and privacy of employees’ information.
The Future of Work: VR in the Workplace
When you think of virtual reality technology, you likely think of gaming and entertainment, when in reality VR actually carries massive promise for corporate innovation and the workplace of the future. Starting with a training processes example, NASA already uses VR technology to help prepare astronauts for missions using flight simulators that replicate the space experience. Immersive training could (and will be) hugely beneficial in a variety of industries, most notably the medical field. VR offers an active training experience that is far more engaging, providing trainees with a hands-on experience that allows them to make mistakes and learn from them in a secure environment.
From a marketing perspective, VR is beginning to be used to facilitate smarter product testing. Focus groups can be formed regardless of location, and instantaneous product feedback would speed up the product development process. In terms of data and analytics, VR also carries the potential to engage your sense of touch for a more immersive data visualization experience; the use of haptic feedback gloves could elevate the presentations of data from the current visual-only format to stimulate three of your five senses.
As exciting as these applications are, the key to integrating new technology successfully into the workplace, however, lies in letting the acquisition of new technology be driven by actual humanistic needs and concerns. VR technology, no matter how alluring, simply won’t work for your company if employees aren’t motivated to use it. New technology should be brought into the workplace because it is something that employees actually need and will want to incorporate into their daily work routine.
Smart office revolution: 25 years in the making
While many of the advancements we’ve mentioned aren’t completely mainstream yet or even feasible for all organizations, the evolution of the smart office is underway -- and now is a good time to become experts on the trends that will become commonplace in our offices in the near future. In order to succeed and stay ahead of the competition in an ever-evolving world of new technology, enterprises and small businesses must be on board and ready to embrace improved tech, tools and processes.