Blog - Commercial
12 Ways Technology is Changing How & Where We Work
Every new push in technology has the ability to change the world, whether that’s financially, environmentally, medically, or socially. At a frightening pace, we bound towards technological advancements like it’s the answer to our existence, despite warnings it could be the opposite.
Every push is an evolution of thought, process, and learning that fuels collective thinking and an undying ambition to change the world we live in (mostly) for the better.
The commercial world and the way we operate within it continues to evolve in new exciting ways. In this post, we look at 12 ways in which technology is shifting the way we work and the buildings we work in.
1) Solar Power Generating Windows
Dutch startup, Physee, has created a commercial window that contains a solar power storing battery cell. This ‘solar cell’ transforms solar light into electricity and generates about 8-10 watts of power.
This generated power is enough to charge a smartphone per square metre twice daily, which is no small feat considering how many devices office workers now use and how much energy could, therefore, be saved.
Physee’s windows have earned them acclaim from the World Economic Forum for their potential to change the world along with 30 other technology pioneers. Ferdinand Grapperhaus, the CEO of Physee, states this recognition is a sign of the business world and governments reacting to climate change: “[over the last three years] corporations are becoming more [environmentally] responsible, governments are becoming more supportive, and venture capitalists are becoming more interested in sustainability”.
The first installation of the solar cell windows was in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, where Rabobank’s headquarters were fitted out with 30sqm of the windows. With an enormous list of companies joining the waiting list, it’s no doubt something we’re likely to see explode through the commercial property market.
2) Predictive Maintenance
Equipment failure can be an enormous impediment to your business, often taking considerable time and finances to rectify. Smart buildings though can include ‘predictive maintenance’ systems, where your vital equipment is being monitored using real-time data and historical performance data to flag, and in some cases resolve, potential issues before they happen.
This adds exceptional value to the building and your business. Yasser Mahmud, vice president of Oracle’s Industry Strategy and Business Development, states that businesses could save around “15% of their capital asset spend by focusing on optimising existing building assets and prioritising maintenance”.
As office equipment issues are often only dealt with when a problem arises, it’s perhaps no surprise that the saving estimate from Mahmud is so considerable. It goes without saying that manufacturing and industries with extensive reliance on mechanical equipment should make predictive maintenance automation a priority.
3) Virtual Reality
While virtual reality is all the rave in gaming and entertainment, digital architects are also utilising it to present building plans to investors and developers in a way that’s never been experienced before.
Using VR and a digital render of the building-to-be, interested parties are able to not only look around but in many cases actually explore the property using a combination of VR and a controller (like a keyboard or gaming controller).
We interviewed Chris Heard, Projects Director for ineni Realtime, a 3D visualisation and design consultancy in Sydney. Below he details what options VR presents to developers and investors, and how it’s changing the way commercial property is built.
While VR visualisations are commonly produced for developers as a sales tool, as well as change management teams from large companies looking to transition to a new space, according to Heard, there are plenty more examples of their uses:
“Part of the flexibility of what we do is that we can produce targeted experiences that engage specific people in useful ways. Some other examples include visualising an apartment off a plan before it has been built, enabling a potential buyer to walk through and customise the space before they ultimately purchase, or providing a clear way to communicate design options and concepts to stakeholders before they are built.”
Contributing to the successfulness of visualisations is the emotional response created with the space continues Heard:
“Using the technology like this creates a personal connection with the space, as well as minimising risk and misunderstandings that are often present when non-technical stakeholders (i.e. a CEO, or a potential home buyer) are presented with a set of architectural plans.”
Asked if he thought that visualisations hold the potential to halt production of a planned building due to poor interest, Heard reasoned that while that could be possible, the cost would need to reduce massively for visualisations to be “used earlier on in the development lifecycle”. At present, there’s plenty of approvals and behind-the-scenes work that’s already gone into the building before a visualisation is considered.
4) Biometric Implants
Headlines were made back in June when Meow-Ludo Disco Gamma Meow-Meow (yes, that’s actually a legal name…), a ‘bio-hacker’, inserted a chip from an Opal transport card into his hand. This allowed him to use his hand to ‘tap-on and tap-off’ instead of the card. An extreme example some would say for the saving of a few seconds to reach into your wallet or purse.
However, Mr Meow-Meow is not alone in his pursuit of biometric implants. Swedish company, Epicenter, recently offered their approximately 2000 employees the opportunity to be implanted with an RFiD (radio frequency identification) chip in their hand.
This chip will allow employees to access many of their office’s functions, including security access to the building and office suites, use of office equipment like printers, and soon even purchases from the office cafeteria.
Currently, only 150 employees have opted for the implant, but Patrick Masterton, CEO of Epicenter, says that these functions are just the start of a technology that “basically simplifies your life”.
Masterton further explains that in the future it could handle your airline check-ins, credit card payments, gym access and essentially anything else that you currently use another form of chip for.
Of course, the downside has been raised as well, with many employees and commenters asking about the tracking possibilities with such chips. It could essentially track all your movements and access. Which begs the question – is that something your employer should be able to do?
Regardless of the hot debate sure to surround this issue, pushing towards simpler access to office facilities is something that many offices will look to incorporate.
5) Connection-centric Workplaces
Every time a new device, app, or workplace oriented software is created, one of the primary goals behind its creation is ‘efficiency’. This could be to make tasks simpler, keep you in control of something, or always in communication with necessary parties.
On paper, that sounds great – but in reality, are we making our work more efficient through software, or are we providing ourselves with ways to complete more work over more time every day?
Red Balloon Director, Naomi Simson, has a clear take – “old rule: work is 9-5, new rule: you’re available when you want to work (24/7)”. Some see this as an opportunity, others as confinement, but the fact is that everybody has the capability to be connected to their devices constantly, meaning that should you choose to, you could work all the time.
Our socially fuelled evolution towards constant connectedness carries across to our workplaces, igniting our inner control-freak and developing an addictive-like tendency to always be in control of everything that’s occurring at work.
While there have always been these kinds of personalities in workplaces well before the internet came about, the advancements in technology have not only created this reliance on always being connected but encouraged it constantly.
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6) Drone Meetings
Remember the last teleconference you had and how it was an absolute nightmare to set up, hear anyone, and have a productive meeting? Of course you do.
Well, Google is here to make your next video/conference call a futuristic experience, with great AV and the added experience of having your meeting experiences literally flying in the conference room.
The new Google patent, filed last August and released publicly earlier this year, features a quad-propellered drone with a semi-translucent screen (for all angle viewing), a small projector, a microphone, and speakers, making it an all-in-one answer to the future of teleconferences.
The cynic in us would contemplate the distraction caused by the skill of the drone pilot, others no doubt will relish the opportunity to add some much-needed pizazz to the boardroom.
7) Smart Buildings and The Internet of Things (IoT)
Advancements in technology have led to the creation and significant rise of ‘Smart’ buildings. If you’re not familiar with the term, a smart building is a structure that uses automated processes to control the operation of internal systems like air conditioning, lighting, and security systems. The interconnection of these systems is known as the Internet of Things (IoT).
These systems are controlled through the collection of data from a range of sensors and computer systems throughout the building. Temperature sensors, for example, send room temperature data to the air conditioning units which in turn raise or lower the temperature and the strength of the fan to reach a predefined optimal temperature throughout the day.
According to Memoori Industry Research, the investment in smart buildings (IoT) in the US is set to hit $32 billion in 2020, up from $13.3 billion in 2015. The push towards IoT is increasing rapidly in Australia as well with Perth company, Quantify Technology Holdings, amongst the leaders in the market offering both commercial and residential IoT integrations.
8) Augmented Reality (Realty?)
Augmented reality (AR) has been a huge feature of mobile gaming recently with examples like the worldwide phenomenon, Pokemon Go, slingshotting the technology into stardom. While chasing digitally rendered monsters all over Sydney temporarily stole the spotlight from other AR projects, the construction industry is using it in a far more useful way.
Rhode Island construction group, Gilbane Building Company, have been experimenting with AR to visualise a digital render of their current project while they’re on site using the Microsoft HoloLens.
John Myers, a senior manager with Gilbane, claims the HoloLens has already paid for itself by identifying an issue with the length of steel frames that were to be used for the project. Catching this problem allowed Gilbane to save around $5,000USD in labour costs.
As construction is one of the least automated industries at present, augmented reality is gearing up to be a major factor in futurising developments. Amar Hanspal, senior VP at building visualisation software company, Autodesk, believes that in the not so distant future builders will be able to wear AR eyewear on site and “see in real time, what the building should be and what it actually looks like’”.
There’s still plenty of advancements to make before full implementation is a reality, including the logistics of wearing AR with other safety equipment, but it’s no doubt an exciting technology that’s changing the way we build commercial property.
9) Mobile Addictions
We mentioned previously about whether the software, devices and apps designed for ‘efficiency’ were actually enslaving us to work longer by being always connected. Here, we look at the specific effects that mobile phones have had on the way we work.
In the pre-internet days, we were extremely limited in our connections to both social circles and work commitments. While it could be argued that the technology was a catalyst to our need to communicate constantly, rather than outspoken demand, it’s nonetheless now a part of everyday life, with smartphones by far the most relied upon instrument.
Recent research from dScout found that people interacted with their phones an average of 2,617 times a day. This figure comes from a test group that had a software installed on their phones to track every “tap, type, swipe and click”. This number equates to nearly two interactions per minute, every minute of the day!
It’s hardly surprising when you consider that your phone is your all-in-one tool for every social and work-related interaction across multiple platforms. Even so, it’s still a scarily high number.
Extensive research has been done to try and examine the effects that this has on people, their sleep, their work, their mental health and their relationships. Stress is a major factor, with the expectation of immediate response dwelling heavy on the mind of users. The impulsion to check every notification also presents itself as a strong contributor to higher levels of anxiety and stress.
Addiction, as defined by Front Psychiatry’s study, is the “capacity to get hooked on reinforcing behaviours, excessive worry about consumption or behaviours with high positive reinforcement, tolerance, loss of control, and difficulty in avoiding said behaviour despite its negative effects”.
They even have a term for the feeling when you’re refused the use of your mobile phone – “Nomophobia”, implying that you fear the lack of mobile contact. There’s also the term “Phantom Vibration Syndrome” which is a name for the feeling you get when you think your phone has just rung or vibrated to notify you of something, when in fact it hasn’t.
Mobiles have also reduced our capacity to get to sleep and the quality of that rest. It’s made us anxious and lonely when a text, Facebook message, or Snapchat has gone unanswered for longer than two minutes, and it’s made us want to control every facet of our life (the side of it we share anyway), 24/7.
But it’s all just a fun and simple way to stay connected to your friends…right?
10) Working Environments
There can be no doubt that advancements in technology have led to the evolution of the term ‘workplace’. While we were once bound to desks with paper and pens and the necessity to be inside the same room as our colleagues, we’re now on laptops and mobile devices and able to work from opposite ends of the globe with relative ease.
Going to work was once just a requirement of your employment, but businesses are now needing to work harder to make their office somewhere employees, both present and potential, want to be.
Despina Katsikakas, Google’s workplace concept advisor, believes that workplaces ten years from now will need to be a “diversified portfolio or flexible on-demand workspaces…based on convenience, function and comfort”.
Katsikakas continues “this will mean [the work spaces] are much simpler and used much more intensively and intermittently”. This is an interesting concept as the push towards more ‘break-out’ areas has been a strong focus in office fit-outs.
It’s not about desks and chairs anymore – that’s stale, boring and not conducive to your best work. It’s about environments that inspire creativity and the freedom to set up wherever you like so that you’re comfortable and focussed.
Managing Director of Wiredscore France, Tamara Brisk, believes that future workplaces will “foster our cognitive processes and working preferences…as people are more creative at certain times of day and that environmental stimuli can amplify collaboration”.
This move towards ‘collaborative spaces’ as opposed to ‘office suites’ is also likely the result of more flexible work arrangements and remote working possibilities. With many jobs simply requiring a laptop and an internet connection, the office needs to become more of a place to enhance social interaction and teamwork than it is a necessity to complete your duties.
11) Driverless Cars
Driverless cars are already being tested in the US thanks to Google and Uber, and while their impact on the roads is largely discussed, what of their effect on commercial real estate?
Fortune.com’s David Morris notes that cars spend 95% of their time parked. So, it’s no surprise that inner-city parking comes at a high premium and is exceptionally valuable. What if there was no need to park your car though? Or what if you never needed to purchase a car in the first place?
Driverless cars could spend nearly their entire life on the road, ferrying people to and from home and the office, all but eliminating the need for parking. Parking space could then be adapted and reused, potentially adding value to the property.
Taking a broader look though, and the potential impact on the commercial landscape stretches far beyond the repurposing of carparks and into the realm of industry-shifting change.
Hotels would see a decline in overnight stays as you could easily travel interstate with the car driving itself. The retail industry would move even further into online shopping as outlets could offer immediate delivery via driverless fleets. And, zoning and development laws and regulations could shift to no longer require parking infrastructure.
Of course, these scenarios are years, possibly decades, away according to experts, but it certainly signals an enormous technological change on the horizon.
12) Making Decisions with Big Data
Experience, knowledge and “trusting your gut” are staples of the commercial landscape. Taking chances, testing ideas, and following your intuition were characteristics of a corporate gamble that birthed amazing ideas as often as it did spectacular failures.
Those days though are quickly coming to a close as big data combines ideas into quantifiable and measurable metrics that are far more effective and unbiased than the any gut in town.
The sheer volume of data that’s processed by businesses every day is staggering, and studying that data is arguably the most powerful investment a company can make. It’s no wonder that business analyst and data scientist roles have skyrocketed in recent years. The latter being named “The Sexiest Job of the 21st Century”.
Whether you’re analysing people’s spending habits at your supermarket to make smarter stocking choices or analysing traffic data to reduce congestion on busy routes, the world is becoming increasingly more digital. Nearly everyone is contributing their data to one system or another, giving businesses unrivalled analysis into every facet of people’s lives and actions.
Looking to data can give you an unbiased assessment of your business efforts in a tangible way, allowing you to be agile to change by modifying things that aren’t working and putting effort into things that are.
Matt Rissell, CEO of TSheets, sums it up simply – “don’t trust your gut…use data to find out if [your idea] is working or not working”. You can have that answer now, and those answers deliver a better product, better infrastructure, and better insight into all facets of life, and that’s a massive way in which technology has changed the way we operate.
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