Technology is one of the most exciting fields of change and development in flexible workspace. It drives clients’ business requirements, it saves valuable time and resources, and it powers our workspaces.
We’ve already seen a seismic shift in the way clients use their spaces, with a particular emphasis on mobile ways of working. So what technologies are coming around the corner that could further influence the flexible workspace landscape?
Here are three technologies that could be making a bigger splash in our industry in 2016:
1) Mobile Payments
Mobile payments or “m-payments” are forecasted to grow exponentially this year. eMarketer claims that 2016 will be “a year of significant growth” for the number of people in the US using their phones to pay for goods and services at the point of sale. Based on their research, eMarketer states that the total value of mobile payment transactions in the US will grow 210% in 2016.
Chip-and-pin payment services, already well established in Europe, are set to become more widespread this year and many users are also adopting payment systems like Apple Pay, Android Pay and Samsung Pay. Greater use of mobile payments could be good news for all workspace operators, but especially coworking and drop-in workspaces, paving the way for greater acceptance of instant point-of-sale payments.
2) Smart Objects
This field of development is nothing short of revolutionary. Yet given its infancy, there is a security minefield ahead as the industry struggles to keep up with the phenomenal rate at which ‘smart technology’ is evolving.
Still, the opportunities are virtually limitless. Smart technology forms part of the wider ‘Internet of Things’ concept (IoT) in which inanimate objects can become ‘smart’ by connecting wirelessly to the Internet or Bluetooth. Mashable’s Lance Ulanoff includes ‘smart objects’ as one of his top 9 technologies to watch in 2016, describing it as intelligence which will start to pop up in “unexpected places” like door handles, doormats, office chairs and more.
Here’s one example of how office door access can become ‘smart’.
“Most will simply tell you when they’re being used, for how long and at what time of the day,” says Ulanoff. “You’ll use this information to adjust your own habits and to track the activities of others (think an office situation). Essentially, these smart objects will focus on helping you quantify your lives. What you do with all that information is up to you.”
3) AI and Robotics
AI is not just the stuff of Hollywood sci-fi. In day-to-day life, Artificial Intelligence has already made itself known in the form of Apple’s Siri voice assistant and Google Now – an intelligent personal assistant.
It’s easy to see how AI can work its way into the office. Most notably, it could help to save time and ramp up productivity by scheduling meetings between attendees (making the back-and-forth email battle a thing of the past). More importantly, AI can be used as a data-cruncher that analyses multiple scenarios and delivers real solutions for managers and business owners.
In a separate but related line of AI development, at essensys’ TEC Conference in 2014 we saw how cute little robot, NAO, is transforming lives through its ability to connect and communicate with people. Another example is household robot Jibo, which learns through engagement. This field of development could lead to ‘social’ assistants in the workplace, designed to support staff and even to greet guests on reception.
And, telepresence technology like Kubi is worth watching. It creates a more ‘human’ side to video calls that comes much closer to simulating a remote worker’s presence in the office. As mobile working continues to evolve, technologies like this could help office-based employees communicate more effectively with absent colleagues and coworkers.
All of these developments hold real promise for the flexible workspace industry, but ultimately, technology must be an enabler for it to survive and thrive in the workplace. As Ulanoff explains, the real test is still to come: “Technology advances not so much when it exhibits innovation, but when it becomes truly practical for everyday people.”