“Alexa – turn on the lights in the kitchen.” You’re talking to a box – and it no longer feels weird.
Home digital assistants are gaining traction in the market, and to many people they are now just a way of life. It’s more than likely their use – and functions – will continue to grow.
So why do some people feel uneasy about making the most of up-to-date location technology in the workplace?
Cutting-edge offices have already cottoned on to the amazing abilities of two related technologies – beacons and sensors. With the cost of workspace at an all-time high, they represent a real opportunity not only to gain a deep understanding of how every expensive square foot is being used, but to plan ahead for future requirements.
So how do these workplace technologies do it – and why should workers actually welcome them with open arms?
Occupancy sensors connected by wi-fi can be used to monitor desks, collaborative areas or meeting rooms, and as their name suggests, they show when an area is being used.
This is probably where they unease comes in – isn’t this all a bit Big Brother?
No, not really. They’re not keeping tabs on people, just desks, booths and rooms, and they can provide an invaluable aid to people coping with the modern office environment.
Agile workers benefit particularly, because occupancy sensors display available space in real-time on digital screens, and can be combined with workplace scheduling software such as Rendezvous Workspace to enable staff to identify, select and book the space they need before they even come into the office.
No more wandering round, laptop in hand, looking for a suitable place to sit down or meet colleagues…
Sensors also help make sure workspace is fully utilised by detecting when it is going unused – a meeting room where no-one has turned up, for instance, and allowing the workspace scheduling system to release it automatically back into availability.
All of which is good news to anyone who’s ever needed a quiet room and found one, only to see that’s it’s being ‘used’ – even though it’s completely empty.
Beacons add even further to the convenience of the working environment for the people who use it. They are small connected devices that have already become popular in the retail industry – but in the form of indoor positioning technology, they are likely to revolutionise our workplaces.
With beacons, an app can detect – with permission, of course – whenever someone is standing near. It’s simple but brilliant; for instance, if you’ve left your desk for a meeting, it could automatically re-route calls from the desk phone to where you are.
Beacons could also provide wayfaring guidance, helping meeting guests to find the right conference room like a mini-workspace GPS system. They could also make it possible for room technology to start dialling your conference call for you as soon as you enter the room, so there is no longer any need to remember login codes.
Personalisation is a huge trend right across society, as everyone becomes more and more used to accessing everything they need seamlessly through their mobile device – and receiving tailor-made services in return.
The arrival in our workplaces of smart technology including sensors and beacons, combined with powerful meeting room and resource scheduling software, could be the start of the personalisation of the working environment.
Prefer a quiet place to work – or a private space? Like an informal breakout area for chatty meetings – or a formal space to entertain guests? Want catering with that?
Today’s workplace technology can provide it all, available online wherever you are and usually bookable in a single transaction. And in true smart mode, if anything changes, everyone involved is automatically notified by the software (even the caterers).
It provides an unprecedented level of control over your own working environment if you are a member of staff. And if you are in management, the data captured provides a valuable real-time view of whether your space is being well-used, and how it can be improved.
And just as Alexa and similar devices are slowly changing the way we live, beacons and sensors are starting to change the way we work. Not so much Big Brother as a helping hand in the office, when you come to think about it.