4th February, 2021
These tech trends may not all be brand new, but they are beginning to hit a lot harder following the unexpected events of the past 12 months.
After an extended period of relative stagnation, the working world is finally moving with the times, if only for a reason that no one wanted (namely the COVID-19 pandemic).
With the old office system no longer viable, companies have been forced to operate remotely. Many of them would have clung to the past for years to come, insisting that leaving the classic office would inevitably lead to hampered productivity and effective corporate dissolution.
Not so. Today, managers everywhere have come to accept what countless workers knew a long time ago: that it’s perfectly possible to run a company remotely without sacrificing efficacy or losing vital team cohesion. In fact, it’s a huge improvement in various ways.
Renting an office is much more expensive than paying for home office equipment, for instance, and doing away with unnecessary commutes is great for employee morale.
In other words, the innovation floodgates are now open.
If remote (and flexible) working can change working life for the better, then what else can? How can businesses get ahead of the curve, or at least anticipate what’s looming over the horizon? Well, in this post we’re going to look at four pieces of tech that are set to revolutionise working life sooner or later.
A note on the framing, though: when talking about pieces of tech, I won’t be concentrating on specific products, or even specific product types. Instead, I’ll be looking at certain pieces of the tech industry targeting particular issues. With that noted, we can get started.
The current norm involves a hybrid approach for reasons including patchy internet infrastructure and the enduring appeal of some programs only available through local installation. We access some apps through the internet, but otherwise rely on the horsepower of our machines.
The future lies in near-total cloud migration, with all but the most basic operating system of a device being accessed remotely. There are drawbacks to this approach (such as reduced privacy and the inability to proceed without internet access), but you can relate the latter to the move to digital technology. Back then, people would have worried about the inconsistency of electricity supply, but it isn’t a realistic concern now — and eventually that will be true of the internet.
And the advantages are huge. Through cloud computing, you can field the immense power of a supercomputer in a handheld device (Microsoft has already built a supercomputer for its Azure cloud platform).
You don’t need to worry about losing data through device damage, as it’s all stored elsewhere. You can go back and forth between devices and always have all your files and preferences there to meet you. When cloud computing reaches maturity and the business world is truly ready for it, the nature of how we work will change.
Companies are increasingly understanding that they need to invest in the wellbeing of their employees — and that means both physical and mental wellbeing.
It’s ultimately a win-win situation. The employees become happier, and the companies benefit from their elevated productivity. And there are many ways in which tech stands to help with this.
First there’s the matter of sleep, something that matters immensely to performance but can be given short shrift. The proliferation of gadgets capable of gauging and regulating sleep (such as the Hapbee headset or the Withings Sleep Analyzer, respectively) gives a strong indication of what the future holds. The more these tools are adopted, the better people can sleep.
And then there’s the matter of nutrition, another thing that gets overlooked all too easily. The wrong diet can markedly reduce someone’s ability to work effectively, but what’s the right diet?
Advancements in tech for reading blood sugar levels (and other health metrics, as evidenced by the new Apple Watch) and coming up with personalised suggestions of suitable foods are set to alter how workplace health schemes are handled.
There are two key ways in which 3D printing is going to change how we work as it continues to grow in acceptance.
Here’s the first: it’s going to keep automating more and more elements of manufacturing, reducing the need for workers to manually get involved.
This has pros and cons, of course. It’s concerning because it will lead to redundancies, but that’s just the nature of technological advancement (and there’s no holding back the tide).
At the same time, it will provide new opportunities. Manufacturing workers could take safer quality-control positions, or retrain somehow (though that’s obviously easier said than done).
Here’s the second way in which 3D printing will change how we work: it’ll provide workers in certain industries with fascinating options for getting things done.
Think of an architect, for instance, often needing to create and preview designs (whether for presentations or for pitches). I
nstead of painstakingly assembling their model, an architect with a low-cost 3D printer could simply print it — and while costs are already remarkably low, they’re only going to get lower.
Soon enough it’ll become entirely normal for someone to own a 3D printer capable of delivering incredible results (by today’s standards).
The best indication of what the future may hold for VR and AR in the working world is Microsoft’s Hololens project: a wireless mixed-reality headset that allows the viewing and manipulation of complex 3D models.
Just one person using such a headset can make things easier, but one of the key points is that several people can use their headsets in combination.
Imagine gathering your team around a table, giving everyone a headset, and being able to pull up a full project preview that you can all manipulate non-destructively. Now imagine not needing to gather people in person because you can simply have each person appear in avatar form as part of the 3D model you’re looking at.
Using headset cameras and external cameras together, it’s perfectly possible to work with a full team on a room-size 3D model without needing to leave your home.
This will eventually lead to industries that have previously resisted remote working finding that they too can get things done without needing costly office space — and it’ll be fascinating to see that development.