Disruptive Technology: The Future Workplace

Disruptive technology – or technological innovations that displace an established technology and shake up the industry – have already transformed the way we work, live and interact with one another. Thanks to mobile technologies we are now increasingly agile, able to work remotely and collaborate with others around the world at the touch of a button or click of a mouse. But what up-and-coming technologies are set to take hold and shake up the future business office?

1. The internet of things

The Internet of Things (IoT) is already creating a buzz on the digital stage, with Gartner forecasting that 6.4 billion connected ‘things’ will be in use by the close of 2016 – a number set to rise steeply.

This is already in place through smart technology embedded in heating, lighting and electrical systems, that will operate a ‘green’ approach by switching off technologies when staff leave or automatically detecting and adjusting temperate. However, as devices increasingly talk with one another, productivity will be improved through automation.

Imagine walking out of the office with your device, to have it automatically lock the door behind you. Your device opens and starts your car for you as you approach, and on your command will pre-order your coffee or lunch, to be ready at the establishment when you arrive. Your device will detect traffic and automatically postpone your meeting and notify attendees, searching for an alternative room to host it. Alternatively, it changes it to a video call, automatically finds the attendees’ numbers and emails across your presentation.

IoT will automatically replenish stock, detect supplies and order replacements, have company cars book themselves in for service by communicating between service logs and your calendar and generally take over infrastructure management. In essence, algorithms will provide solutions to problems, measure performance and take care of routine tasks: freeing up employee time to enhance their ability to focus on doing their jobs.

Google’s $3.2billion acquisition of Nest showed the belief in the potential of IoT. ‘Works with Nest’ brings together a vast spectrum of technologies that automate the home – from remotely controlling the washing machine and lights to connecting wearable devices to the heating, ensuring that your home is at the perfect temperature on waking.

2. Augmented reality

Gartner has identified that augmented reality will become a vital business tool, displacing the view that it can only ever have a place in gaming or to provide a virtual guide around your local museum. Usage will increase to empower businesses to not only showcase products, experiences or prototypes to prospective customers, but also internally to enable individuals to visualize problems and solutions, provide real-time access to data and bridge the digital and physical world. Early usage includes Augment’s Augmented Reality business card, which allows any smartphone user to scan the card and instantly see a 3D model of of a pre-determined product.

For example, a customer may use AR to visualize how new items will look in their home or see themselves in a new outfit without trying it on; a remote worker can gain real-time step-by-step instructions to complete tasks and receive remote collaboration from colleagues.

3. Digital security

Businesses are already migrating en-masse to the Cloud, with fresh solutions to data storage, applications, software, platforms and even infrastructure as a service now widely available to increase collaboration and efficiency. The only sting in the tail for business has been the underlying concerns around security and data protection, particularly in those organizations handling sensitive information about customers or clients (think the media uproar associated with the Ashley Madison hack, which resulted in the exposure of details for customers seeking to engage in extramarital affairs – with extensive long-term repercussions).

The future of security will be one of the greatest areas of development impacting business. Biometrics will feature at the forefront; developments including Helix, which uses the camera on your smartphone to generate an identifier based on the unique shape of your ear, may be less conventional; however TeleSign’s Behavior ID uses a variety of metrics such as how a user moves their mouse, presses a touch screen, or the way they type to produce a digital fingerprint that can determine the user; behavior that is almost impossible to mimic. In the office, iris or fingerprint scanning will begin to feature more and more.

4. Wireless and connectivity

The frustration of tangled wires and the panic of forgetting your phone charger will soon be a thing of the past. Wireless connectivity of devices is already commonplace and will soon become an essential foundation of office design.

Picture wireless powermats, like those already installed in select Starbucks and McDonalds restaurants, embedded into every desk. Not only will they charge up your phone, they’ll sort out your laptop, tablet, your wearables and your mouse. Through wireless technology, you’ll no longer even need to place items directly onto mats; eventually, centralized wireless chargers will power every digital device within a set radius, surrounding us 24/7. Take a look at WattUp from Energous, which is already leading the way.

Rooting for the right cable to connect to the conference room TV is already on its way out; devices will be able to connect instantly and intuitively to one another, enabling remote collaboration on a mass scale. Whether it’s your colleague in New York delivering a presentation across 20 global TVs simultaneously or using a smartphone app to order yourself a coffee from the office machine, the possibilities are endless.

What disruptive technologies could improve your ability to be more efficient, productive and to collaborate with those around you?