What technologies are going to have most impact on the workplace in 2018? And are there going to be any breakthroughs that we will be talking about for years to come? Business Info asks the experts.
Eddie Ginja, head of innovation at KYOCERA Document Solutions
IoT has been transforming the workplace year after year, and in 2018, it’ll become even more important. This is because companies and organisations will want to be more agile and provide cheaper support services, whilst collecting the data and parameters that enable them to innovate faster and potentially springboard the competition. Collecting and crunching (relevant) data and intelligence is the best, fastest and most cost-effective way to do this.
Cloud technology has been with us for a few years now, as proved by the very competitive and commoditised cloud-services market. The emergence and rapid evolution of organisations such as Rackspace is a very clear indicator that this technology is only becoming more important; you are now able to buy any cloud service you want – and there are companies that will manage it on your behalf.
Despite this, cloud printing is not yet mainstream in the enterprise segment. As enterprises outsource more and more of their services to the cloud, we think 2018 is the year that cloud printing will become more mainstream.
Adam Fleming, chief technology officer at Apadmi
There are a few key technologies that are sure to shake up a number of industries over the next year. The frst of these is the use of digital assistants.
We’re getting used to the likes of Alexa turning on and off our lights at home, and integrating voice-activated assistants into the workplace is the next step. It will help to smooth out the minor interruptions that break up the working day, allowing employees to set reminders, construct lists and order supplies, without having to break away from whatever task they’re working on.
There have been many discussions around the role Artifcial Intelligence (AI) will play in personalisation. With GDPR legislation coming into force in May, companies will need to re-think how they collect and use data, meaning the smarter use of anonymous data, combined with AI and machine learning. Systems will begin to react to what you do, rather than who you are (or claim to be). In the enterprise world, the same technologies will personalise apps, whilst detecting activity that might suggest stolen or compromised credentials.
The real boom in 2018 will be Augmented Reality (AR), which will overtake Virtual Reality (VR). While VR’s fully-immersive environments are ideal for training in sectors like healthcare, AR is where the true growth in adoption will be. If incorporated well into wearables, AR could provide employees with valuable hands-free information, which could prove critical out in the field.
Phil Lander, head of B2B at Samsung Europe
Samsung’s Big and Small: How to do Bigger Things in Business report states that the workplace is entering an era of ‘digital Darwinism’, when new technology will rapidly shape business.
We are seeing technologies such as Virtual Reality making an impact through improved retail experiences, with Thomas Cook in the UK and Jaguar Land Rover utilising this technology in their showrooms. This is just the beginning for VR, and we can expect to see significant growth in people training and teleworking. We are also seeing AR becoming an exciting area for services to be developed to enhance the customer experience.
Another trend affecting productivity in the workplace is the rise of mobile working. By 2020, 48% of the workforce in developed nations will be classified as mobile. This trend has already changed the definition of an office, with the static, physical offices of the past giving way to more flexible, collaborative and digital workplaces, which further increases workers’ appetite for mobile technology.
Samsung advises businesses to plan for smartphones, in the long-term, to become the hub of the digital workplace. Over the next few years, increasing convergence between PCs and mobile devices will open up new mobile workflows that will unlock new levels of productivity and efficiency for businesses of all sizes.
Mobile devices that promote features such as display, size, battery performance, the experience of editing documents and note-taking will increasingly make their way into the workplace as mainstream business tools.
We have led the convergence between PCs and mobile devices, and have worked with police forces throughout Europe on one of the biggest technological advancements in modern policing. In the UK, we’ve issued Galaxy Note devices to front line officers and staff from Cumbria to Essex as a replacement for traditional pocket notebooks. The mobile devices contain online ‘apps’ which allow officers to record a crime without having to return to a station, reducing admin and enabling them to spend more time on the front line. This is already delivering an average of 18 minutes additional time on the streets, per police officer, equating to a million pounds worth of additional policing annually.
Simon Dudley, director of product strategy at Logitech VC
Increasingly, video will be integrated into an employee’s workflow, making it a much more central part of day-today activity within the office. Instead of being a separate method of working and collaborating, it’ll integrate into all elements of an employee’s workday.
We predict that we’ll see customer service and support incorporate video into their calls and that the technology will become a core feature of sales calls, with many adopting virtual face-to-face sales strategies.
In business communications, Augmented Reality (AR) will become a ‘next-level’ technology for a handful of applications. For example, we predict that facial recognition in video conferencing will be applied to user identification, room management, call initiation and more. Let’s say there’s an active video conference but a participant is struggling to recognise someone on the other line; they could hover their cursor over the other caller and the facial recognition software would provide full identification details and credentials.
Morten Illum, VP of EMEAI at HPE Aruba
Artificial Intelligence and machine learning will make further inroads into the workplace. We are seeing this already with the massive amount of resources invested into natural language processing initiatives. It will be interesting to see how AI, and more specifically machine learning, shapes the network security landscape. Security is a key concern for chief security officers (CSO) as their enterprises become increasingly mobile. By deploying a machine-learning framework on enterprise networks, suspect behaviour can be spotted, analysed and responded to automatically, which means CSOs can rest assured. This lessens the need to monitor networks manually and leaves IT staff to take care of the day-to-day.
One technology that isn’t new, but which has taken major steps to becoming common practice for enterprises, is Edge Computing. With the explosion of connected devices (IoT), cloud and the global transfer of data, a lot of strain is being put on the bandwidth and network capabilities of enterprise infrastructure. Latency requirements and the fact that data processing is becoming key for all organisations mean that processing will need to move away from central processing nodes and out towards the edge of the network. This will help improve network capabilities for data gathering and processing. Reduced latency issues will enable connected devices to function optimally.
Phil Jones MBE, managing director at Brother UK
With the shape of post-Brexit Britain still unclear, businesses remain vigilant, cautious and careful with their decisions. This behaviour, on top of a drive by firms to maximise efficiency, will influence technology trends in the workplace in 2018.
The economic climate has resulted in more sophisticated buying from decision-makers, as they look to reduce costs and maximise value. As this behaviour rolls over into 2018, it may spark the return of ‘cold tech’. This trend first started in the early 2000s, when there was demand for technology that provided a quick return on investment (ROI) within the same financial year, delivering immediate savings to the bottom line.
Some might find the idea of AI becoming a mainstream feature in businesses far-fetched. They will need to redefine what they think of as Artificial Intelligence.
AI is already being utilised by businesses in the form of automated software that machines learn. We’ve seen a proliferation of this in customer support and audit environments. As the technology continues to mature and become more sophisticated, more processes will become automated. Smart investments in this type of AI can deliver real results for businesses in 2018.
As an industry, we’ll move away from thinking of AI as a sci-fi concept and instead view it as a tool to help our businesses operate more efficiently and productively.
Thomas Walter, section manager strategic product marketing, Public Display Solutions at NEC Display Solutions Europe GmbH
There is an increased demand for flexibility in the workplace, linked to employee morale and productivity. Interactivity is on the rise and organisations are seeking to provide breakout spaces and huddle rooms that offer flexible collaboration choices with video conferencing capabilities. Technology that supports this need for flexibility and collaboration and is reliable and easy to use will be in demand.
The new NEC InfinityBoard is the only product on the market that offers flexibility, choice and reliability, making lives as easy as possible in terms of design and integration by not restricting the software available to end users and by giving our customers the NEC quality experience.
Unified communication displays will increase in volume by 400% (from 2017 to 2021) according to FutureSource. The NEC InfinityBoard, being open and modular, is a perfect ft for all enterprises that need collaborative work tools and need to work together from more than one location.
In addition, UHD resolution in meeting rooms will become mainstream. The majority of display screen sizes over 60” will feature UHD resolution and projection will also soon support UHD for meeting and conferencing rooms.
Frank Nijholt, European field marketing manager at Panasonic
Every year, as technology advances, we see a raft of new solutions that provide workspaces with ways to make the working lives of employees a little easier. 2017 was no different and I have no doubt that 2018 will see similar advances.
Today, network and compact seem to be the watchwords for workplace devices. Clients seek business tools that can be woven easily into the office design and quietly perform the job at the highest possible speed. This is the aim of the new KV-S1037 series scanners from Panasonic, which, when launched at the start of 2018, will see two new models unveiled, the KV-S1037 and KV-S1037X. With scanning speeds of up to 30ppm/60ipm @300dpi in colour, both scanners offer cloud connectivity. The KV-S1037X also allows wireless connectivity for built-in networking.
Panasonic believes that through innovation, we give businesses the freedom to achieve what they do best. In the modern business world, that means doing more with less. Greater speed and greater efficiency give workers the time to focus on what’s important to them.
Chris Farinacci, head of business at Asana
Today, even at the world’s greatest companies, it is a constant challenge to keep everyone on the same page. Way too much time is spent on ‘work about work’ instead of getting work done. Information overload, combined with a lack of clarity and accountability, is limiting productivity – the bigger your team, the bigger your mission, the bigger your coordination problem.
In a recent study of UK companies, 42% of employees surveyed said they spend most their day on status meetings, organising work and tracking down information – as opposed to making progress on actual work! Because work is now enabled across a range of technologies, from email to chat to video to shared documents, it’s difficult for teams and organisations to have clarity across their work, projects, processes and goals. Collaboration seems to be at an all-time high, but productivity and morale are still quite low.
In 2018, the growing business imperative to address these critical challenges and empower teams and organisations with clarity of purpose, plan and responsibility will be a common focus. Teams and organisations will increasingly turn to what analysts are calling ‘collaborative work management’ – applications that help people organise, prioritise, track and complete their work. These applications will integrate deeply with (and leverage investments in) existing cloud communications and document collaboration technologies to FINALLY address the fundamental questions that will need to be answered to get great results: Does our team know who’s responsible for what, by when, at any given moment? Are things on track? Will our team achieve our stated goals?
Lieven Bertier, head of product management at Barco
Step by step, the tech industry is moving away from being hardware-driven to being AV- and service-driven. Customers want to buy an outcome from integrators and resellers, not a product. More than anything, they want peace of mind.
This will be mirrored in the workplace. Touch screen technology is finally taking off in meeting rooms. Mainly used in schools before, the tactile element is becoming a key requirement for corporate environments.
It’s not about programming anymore, it’s about configuring things. A typical set up for today’s office environment will feature wireless presentation technology and a switcher to bring in other content sources. We will also see increased use of technologies with Bluetooth and ultrasound, enabling multiple technologies in the room to sense who you are and what your needs will be. This could be a system knowing that it should load certain files for a certain person, or perhaps configuring the user interface to match that person’s seniority and technical ability. This intrinsically smart, interconnected office is the future of corporate environments, and we’ll see much more innovation and disruption in this arena in the months and years to come.
Serena Borghero, Director at Steelcase
In 2018, offices need to get smarter and more connected. We believe that the Internet of Things, whereby anything electronic that is connected to the Internet and to each other, will help build workplaces of the future.
Imagine opening an app on your smartphone to see which colleagues are in the office or what meeting rooms with video conferencing capability are open at 1:00 p.m. As the meeting begins, the room automatically dials in the remote participants, adjusts the lighting and alerts you when your time is running short.
Companies that want to create great workplaces can benefit from embedded technology by drawing on the data that’s generated. Design, facilities and real estate professionals in the UK will be able to make better decisions about where to focus their efforts if they have a data stream to tell them which rooms are always busy; at what times they’re busy; which rooms no one seems to like; and what areas need improving to get the most out of real estate.
Knowing how the workplace is used is great for office leaders. And employees will have the ability to find and choose the right space through mobile apps and internal systems. Their feedback will have a direct impact on their environment.
Just as technology in today’s cars is improving the driving experience, the power of emerging technologies in tomorrow’s office will help people navigate the complexity of work more easily and help organisations create better work experiences for individuals and teams.