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What is the Future of Work, and what role will Digital Twins play in its evolution?

20 Jan 2022

The future of work has been significantly influenced by recent events. Whilst technology has been quietly transforming things in the background over the past few years, readying us for a more immersive and virtual working life, the pandemic has accelerated this move-in mind-blowing ways.

So now we are, for the most part, all looking at future ways of working that we may never have considered two years ago. A future that offers more flexibility; where our working environment is more shaped around our needs, rather than forcing us to shape ourselves around it; and where we can relax a little, knowing that as long as we get the job done, it doesn’t really matter where we do it, or when we do it.

So with this in mind, hybrid working and activity-based working are for sure the future of work, but in reality, these are just the start of something a LOT more immersive. With augmented reality and the Metaverse becoming everyday language, it would seem we are set for a type of remote working that we may never have imagined.

What is the Metaverse, and how is it the future of work?

Tech leaders, such as Apple, Google, Microsoft and Meta (formerly Facebook), are investing heavily in the future of the Metaverse, aiming to form a single, connected platform where we can all live, work and play. Set to become the new internet, this platform will considerably disrupt the online world as we know it.

Very recently, Facebook made the landmark move to rebrand as Meta, underlining its clear intention to become a pioneer of Metaverse development. First coined in Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson’s sci-fi novel of 1992, the ‘Metaverse’ consists of a coming together of real-world, augmented and virtual reality, all in a shared online space.

The virtual workplace is a rapidly emerging concept, one that we merely touched upon as we were all plunged, without notice, into the remote working world of the pandemic. Online meetings and internet-based collaboration simply scratched the surface.

The virtual workplace of the future

The future of work lies in the virtual workplace, bringing the experience of real-world offices to remote workers courtesy of virtual reality hosted workspaces that employees can experience on virtual reality headsets. There will also be more straightforward 2D visualisations of offices, working shoulder to shoulder with collaboration tools like video conferencing and virtual whiteboards.

There is already technology, such as Gather Town, that enables workers to move a digital avatar around a 2D workplace and then join virtual meetings and chats between colleagues. Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta Horizon Workrooms is a virtual meeting space where co-workers can join a virtual reality meeting, as avatars, using virtual reality headsets.

Microsoft is also immersing in the world of holograms courtesy of its Microsoft Mesh platform, where they combine the real world with augmented reality and virtual reality to support their new maxim, ‘here can be anywhere’. Holograms and virtual avatars will become part of Microsoft Teams later this year, and 3D virtual connected spaces for workplaces and retail are in development.

But whilst the Metaverse may be gearing up to take us all into virtual worlds and experiences beyond our current scope of imagination, it will also have a number of uses in terms of creating exact replications of reality. In other words, the digital twin.

Digital twins – an essential building block of the Metaverse, aiding the future of work

A digital twin is a virtual representation of a real-world object, process or system. Using Internet of Things (IoT) connected sensors, it synchronises the digital environment with the physical world. Any change in the physical world is reflected in the virtual world, and vice versa, forming a bridge between the two, and making digital twins a fundamental building block of the Metaverse.

How are digital twins used in the enterprise?

Digital twins are being used across the world in a host of settings, supporting future ways of working. From helping to optimise supply chains and boosting workplace productivity and worker comfort, to managing energy consumption and maintenance programmes, there is little the digital twin cannot accomplish.

Digital twins are so much more than a simply 3D mock-up of the physical world. They make it possible to deeply analyse data, workflows and human behaviours, in real time, allowing instant decisions to be made, with a view to maximising performance and avoiding costly issues.

Digital twins have the power to enhance a building’s operational aspects and improve the indoor environment, making the future of work a healthy, comfortable space, where workers thrive.

It is also important to look at the importance of automation as the future of work, and the smart building is already showing us how this can work in practice, with the help of the Metaverse-ready digital twin.

The smart building uses IoT-connected sensors, monitors and meters to gather data that can be used to enhance the operational aspects of a building, to automate processes such as meeting room and workspace bookings and wayfinding, and to improve its indoor environment.

Courtesy of machine learning and artificial intelligence, automated actions improve working conditions, something that is hugely important for the future of work, where attracting top talent and retaining staff for the long term is increasingly hinging on the provision of a positive working atmosphere.

Digital twins considerably improve the capabilities of the smart building. They bring individual systems together, allowing them to communicate with ease. This produces a wealth of information that can be used to make improvements across the organisation and workspace.

The future of work is the smart building, and digital twins will be playing a crucial role

The future of work will see recreations of workplaces, filled with digital twins of equipment and machines, providing insight into operational efficiency and maintenance and servicing needs.

In the workplace, meetings and training sessions will be considerably more productive where everyone is interacting with a precise replica of the organisation’s information system.

The smart building is a learning building. Feeding off data from IoT-connected sensors, cameras, detectors and other sources, it gathers information about the needs of its occupants. Environmental data such as air quality, energy consumption, and available meeting, work and parking spaces, provide information about usage and reveal changing requirements. Used to its full potential, this information can enhance the quality of life for everyone.

As time goes on, smart buildings will become even smarter by incorporating further data sources, and by creating digital twins that simulate the impact of change, and the evolution of technology. The possibilities for the future of work are, therefore, truly endless.

Smart Spaces, digital twins, and the future of work

Smart Spaces is a cloud-based, app-driven platform that uses IoT-connected sensors to collate valuable data about a workspace. It has the power to enhance the overall workspace experience, and provide all-round control of the various building networks and systems.

The Smart Spaces Digital Twin 2.0 creates a live replica of a building, making it possible to streamline day to day management, periodic maintenance and general building monitoring, boosting efficiency and allowing objectives to be achieved safely by first testing potential solutions in a risk-free environment.

To learn more about how Smart Spaces and the Smart Spaces Digital Twin will support your business as you prepare for the future of work, you are welcome to request a free demo or get in touch.

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