Forget the Ping-Pong Tables. AI Is Coming to an Office Near You.
From ping-pong tables to in-house coffee-bars to catered lunches, companies expend a lot of money and effort on cultural amenities for their employees.
But while many businesses are trying to make the workplace engaging for employees, they have been slow in adopting new technology. But that’s about to change. The workplace of the future is the smart workplace: one which integrates IoT, AI, networked platforms, sensors and more for a more efficient and productive environment—and, hopefully, a more engaging one for workers.
Here, we look at some of the innovations that are making our workplaces smarter.
One example of a common technology that is only now being adopted in the workplace is the voice-enabled virtual assistant. As we are becoming more comfortable with using Alexa, Siri and their like in our homes, voice-activated assistants have yet to fully invade our workspaces.
Those companies that have begun using them have applied voice assistants to administrative tasks such as managing calendars, creating to-do lists, ordering or reordering office supplies, booking conference rooms, controlling lights and room temperature, making travel plans and initiating calls and meetings. In the future, we may be using voice assistants for more complex tasks, like creating Facebook ads.
Talk around beacons (aka wireless virtual beacon technology) has focused almost exclusively on consumer-facing applications, such as retail coupon delivery, stadium and museum navigation, and check-ins. But the technology offers a number of workplace solutions.
The small, inexpensive devices (costing between $5 and $30 each) transmit tiny amounts of data via Bluetooth. Any phone, tablet or PC can function as a beacon. So, approaching your computer will be enough to start it, while stepping away from your desk will shut it down or password-protect it.
The tech, distributed throughout the office environs, can also reveal which parking spaces and workspaces are available. Booking a conference room will be as easy as checking an app to see which rooms are currently in use and which aren’t.
Beacons can also facilitate room lighting, thermostat control, access to a projector (including putting a slide deck on the phone or in the cloud up on the screen) and note-sharing. They can keep track of who was in the meeting and track employees and devices.
Like beacons, electronic conference room schedulers can tell you who is the room. Unlike beacons, schedulers are screens that are either integrated directly into walls or on a stand outside of the room. They use analytics such as occupancy usage and size, average meeting lengths, as well as most commonly used or glitchy equipment, to help maximize efficiency.
Using this data, companies can, among other things, decide if a boardroom should be broken into smaller huddle rooms (small-team collaboration hubs with integrated tech for brainstorming and co-working sessions).
AR systems use special glasses to project a digital overlay onto the wearer's field of vision. Although Google’s attempt at AR, Glass, flopped in the consumer market upon its debut in 2012, an enterprise version thrives. Users include engineers who use AR glasses to assemble jet engines, auto mechanics who wear goggles that receive visual guidance from remote experts, and surgeons at hospitals consulting glasses that visualize data from ultrasound scanners, allowing them to peer through skin at underlying tissue. As AR moves into more conventional workspaces, we could soon see the average cubicle jockey using holographic screens to type emails and create virtual 3D models in the air.
One application for AI in the workplace is in recruitment. AI can target people who have been viewing job advertisements online with relevant job adverts. It can also target those who may not be actively looking but have expressed desire in finding a new job on their social profiles. Software company Headstart has developed an app that uses questionnaires and psychometric assessments to create job profiles that are applied to a series of algorithms. This allows recruiters to find applicants with appropriate skillsets.
Dynamic branding is a high-impact design integrating screens with company information or branding. The screens inform clients or those outside of your organization a little bit about who you are, giving you the opportunity to control and broadcast your message on your own turf.
Examples are most often found in areas like lobbies and meeting spaces. But another option is dynamic LED billboards, which of course are simply moving digital billboards that can be placed where they will have the most impact.
Unlike the once-imagined “paperless office,” smarter buildings and workplaces are here. It’s just a matter of adopting the technology in ways that work best for each organization.