Business Issues -> Innovation
By: Matthew Wailling, Director, Cordless Consultants
Published: 21st May 2012
Copyright Cordless Consultants © 2012
Technology in the workplace is increasingly prevalent. Collectively and individually, we use a myriad of devices and technology solutions to live our daily lives and complete our work. The days of 9-5 working are long gone and, with the lines between social and work life blurred, companies and IT directors are forever reviewing their methodologies and adapting to the workforce, so they can meet their corporate objectives.
Sophisticated mobile devices, cloud computing and increased emphasis on workspace efficiency and greater collaboration are just a few of the developments of the past few years to broaden the scope of an IT department’s remit. So with the three major technology events of this year over, what’s in store for 2012 and beyond, and what should you have on your radar or wish-list?
It’s a long time since we used our mobile phones just for talking but this year the change will be radical: in 2012 phones will become both keys and wallets. NFC (Near Field Communication) chips were fitted to a number of mobile handsets in 2011, and 2012 will see far more widespread take-up.
New NFC handsets allow users to swipe a mobile phone in much the same way they would swipe a bank card or building access ID card. Business travellers will soon be swiping their phones to pay for hotel rooms, and then use that same phone to unlock the door to their hotel room.
2 BYOD / virtual desktop
Technology is increasingly used in recruitment, retention and staff engagement, and as personal IT use becomes more sophisticated, it’s increasingly difficult to satisfy ever more demanding staff. Do your people want an Ultrabook, an iPad, an ibook or a mix of the three? Matching staff desire with must-have business technology and access has been something of a challenge.
The good news is that with the latest version of Citrix, a full Windows 7 desktop experience can be delivered securely to any web-enabled device, whether it’s company issue or personally purchased.
Thanks to the new Motorola Razr, that device can even be a mobile phone. The Razr is powered by a quad core processor, and when you arrive in the office you simply slide it into its docking station – which is hooked up to a full-sized HD screen, full-sized mouse and full-sized keyboard - to provide a full desktop experience. You can now ask staff to ‘ Bring Your Own Device’, make more efficient use of workspace, and at the same time IT managers can be safe in the knowledge that company data is secure.
3 Gesture Control
Where the Nintendo Wii started, the Xbox Kinect is taking over. No, not just in the relaxation rooms of creative agencies across London; an increasing volume of manufacturers and developers are now using the Kinect to harness gesture control for business use.
While personal devices such as PCs are likely to remain mouse or touch-screen operated in the immediate future, you can expect to see shop window point of sale displays and large format displays (such as control room media walls) that can be controlled by the swish of an arm.
4 Bespoke telepresence
Telepresence is at risk of becoming a hackneyed – and misapplied - term used to describe any high definition video conference screen. A true telepresence solution is an immersive space where each party sits in an identical environment. Historically this meant premium space was devoted to off-the-shelf products and a room that was absolutely perfect for telepresence calls, but not much use for anything else.
But of course different companies have varying needs, and the importance of workspace efficiency and flexibility has thankfully seen the introduction of bespoke suites, designed to the specific needs of individual businesses. These offer a truly immersive video experience, but can be easily reconfigured for other uses when remote video calls are not required.
5 Transparent LCD display
A quick trawl back through your own TV set ownership history will reveal that we’ve all been buying bigger and bigger TVs as quickly as they get thinner and less obtrusive. Big experience, less space lost from the room. Great. But the fact remains that when you switch that TV off, you’ve got a big black box on the wall.
2012 sees the introduction of the transparent LCD screen: a high quality, large format digital display that is completely transparent when it’s not in use. Initially these will be seen in point of sale areas, such as interactive displays in jewellers and to advertise products on the front of vending machines. But the logical evolution is for these screens to form part of exciting window displays and even sit within glass partition meeting room walls.
6 Windows 8
Out with the start button and in with the tiled home screen. Although the proposed new operating interface from Microsoft may not be seen as anything radical by die-hard Apple users, it stands to revolutionise the way in which many people use with their PCs and especially their tablets.
Focusing much more on the use of haptic displays (that’s touch technology) as opposed to a mouse, the new Windows platform, expected in the 2nd half of 2012, is sure to provide a real challenge for the iPad and Android tablets. With over a million versions of the preview release of Windows 8 downloaded on the day it became available, interest in this new platform is surely only going to increase.
7 Facial recognition display
Digital signage has been shown to increase sales by keeping content fresh and targeted. With facial recognition display, targeting is going to become genuinely bespoke as the viewer’s face is identified, and all sorts of stored data accessed and used. The application could be as simple as identifying that a particular person has viewed the screen before, and therefore certain stages or displays could be skipped, or it might be as detailed as remembering the sex, age, emotion and possibly even identity of the person from a previous visit.
So on the one hand, in the coming months your visitor badge could be printed for you by the time you reach the reception desk and you’ll be greeted with a more convincing personal touch by the person manning the desk, but on the other, a digital display in your usual supermarket could spot you approaching and flash up an offer for the washing powder you always buy. So just be mindful of what you keep buying…
8 Augmented reality
Augmented reality (AR) provides a simple link between the digital world and the real world. It is a live view of a physical environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data.
So, when viewing the real world through the camera of your digital device (such as a phone or tablet), AR will overlay digital images on top of what the camera sees to give you further information. The possibilities here are enormous. For example, an architect could hold a tablet over a printed CAD plan of a building floor plate and the AR program will show a 3D render of the space, which could then be viewed and interacted with by clients and the rest of the design team.
9 Intelligent buildings
Intelligent buildings are not a new concept, but the scale of that intelligence and the way it can be applied is growing fast. It’s not a single technology, but the convergence of multiple systems onto the IP network. Building intelligence is now reaching a granular level.
As an example, through early planning at the design stage, an intelligent BMS system can interface with room booking software, which in turn integrates with AV control software. So when a meeting room is not in use, the lighting and other services remain in a standby state, with associated energy savings. When a pre-booked user checks in, the room wakes from hibernation and the AV springs into life in accordance with predefined requirements. These same spaces will shut down again when a meeting ends and users check out. In the near future perhaps even the plants will get in on the act – send you a quick email you when they need watering.
10 Wireless power
Any forward-thinking workplace is now kitted out with wireless internet and PC peripherals, but in even the most flexible of spaces we find ourselves plugging in a cable to recharge our devices.
For true and lasting mobility and flexibility we need wireless power. Although we are unlikely to see it in the workplace in 2012, wireless power is developing fast. The fastest progress comes from the Wireless Power Consortium, its dozens of members including Nokia, HTC, Samsung, Motorola and Philips. The Consortium has agreed on a common standard - known as Qi, and pronounced ‘chee’ – which uses magnetic induction.
So it won’t be long before any surface displaying the Qi logo will wirelessly charge your Qi battery-powered device, giving true and lasting mobility.
Once again the world of sci-fi is being brought to reality (the gesture control exhibited by Tom Cruise and his team in Minority Report has been a favourite hope of mine for the past ten years), and there are some clear-cut business benefits to be had both in working productivity and flexibility and in enhancing the customer experience. Spend your money wisely…
Fast internet connections such as Megapath cable are vital to help support these workplace technologies.
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Published by: IT Analysis Communications Ltd.
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