We are living in unprecedented times and with no clear view on when our working lives will revert to how they were before, or even if that still exists, how will the workplace change after this pandemic? And what role is technology playing, both now during the crisis and once the crisis is over?
These new times have called for ingenuity and the use and adoption of technologies some possibly wouldn’t have started using for a few years to come.
Some companies are already reinventing their brand or their offering. Great examples of this are Brewdog, which has partially re-purposed their beer factory to produce hand sanitiser and Ford, 3M and GE which are teaming up to provide ventilators and respirators. Tesla and Dyson, too, have started producing ventilators to be used on patients affected by COVID-19.
Self-isolation has turned many people to technology for their wellbeing and mental health. We are seeing people flock to virtual video events, streaming and video services to keep themselves entertained and connected to loved ones. In the workspace, teams are utilising video calls, screen sharing and remote-control software to keep communication running smoothly. The massive spike in downloads seen by Microsoft Teams, and its consequent outage, shows how tech meant to simplify the way we work – and that’s been around for a while – is currently being adopted because of the changing environment.
The fast adoption of tech will jump-start digital transformation and innovativeness
Digital Transformation helps keep the Community together
Self-isolation doesn’t mean we are alone.
Being away from our workspace can make people feel untethered and, in the long run, less productive because of the disrupted routine. What IoT (i.e. Internet of Things, wiki) is helping us with, is providing a way to have real-time connections and updates on our work community and workspace. An operating system (OS) such as the Smart Spaces platform is a prime example of this, as it supports colleagues’ real-time interactions through the Social Wall, which is a scrollable feed with the latest ‘office’ news, and private Chat, a section dedicated to quick messaging. Magazines and Entertainment are other out-of-the-office perks provided for free to users for some needed break-time.
Immersive Technologies will quickly spread to various industries
Technologies such as VR – virtual reality – and AR – augmented reality – were hugely popular just a couple of years ago. At the time, big names developed goggles that could be attached to smartphones, Pokemon Go was the game app everyone was playing at, and the National Geographic’s travelling exhibitions were wowing their visitors. These technologies – which were lately fading in popularity – may now get the boost they needed to become useful tools for businesses to implement in their everyday activities. Immersive technologies are said to enhance consumer experiences and, therefore, will provide an incredibly powerful platform for those ready to make the jump and start interacting in whole new ways with their audience.
IKEA, for example, used AR in one of their catalogues so that customers could see how the furniture they were interested in buying would fit in their homes. In Construction Technology, both VR and AR will experience a high rise in adoption as businesses start to realise the benefits provided to clients and workers alike through real-like 3D and 4D visualisation of the project, before even beginning to build.
The real estate sector is also looking at virtual and augmented reality solutions to offer a convenient way for buyers to see properties remotely and at a time of their choosing. Another advantage for the sector comes from the creation of real-time digital ‘staging’ of properties. The technology generates different settings based on the clients’ needs or requests.
IoT and Automation will have a big share of the cake
Those industries that have started adopting some kind of automation and IoT solutions, such as manufacturing (PwC, 2019), will possibly now experience higher stability and better performance than those that haven’t yet. With the need for social distancing, those processes which require limited human influence will be less affected by the current situation.
Where does automation come in?
As the 2019 PwC survey on IoT shows, manufacturing is one of the first sectors adopting IoT-related technologies, with 71% of executives asserting their involvement in implementing or testing IoT processes. The market for robots, too, has seen steady growth in the past decade, with Europe being the area with the highest robot density globally (IFR, 2020). Automation acts as a facilitator in the completion of tasks and doesn’t necessarily supplant workers, who may instead require to learn new skills to manage these new processes. In manufacturing, AI capabilities and sensors are making spaces safer for workers, reducing the risks related to the movement of heavy objects. A recent trend also sees the flexibility of IoT being applied to safety solutions for workwear, helping monitor workers’ welfare and visibility during operations.
A whole new reason to go hands-free
In real estate, AI and automation are playing a part in safety measures too. With touch being one of the problems linked to the spreading of COVID-19, adopting a building operating system (BOS) for the integration of buildings’ networks becomes essential, especially if they are voice or remote/wireless controlled.
Everyday actions such as going through doors or barriers and calling a lift have always required some form of contact. Deploying smart devices and NFC identification to let users’ access and navigate a building could prove an effective solution to the problem. Lighting, climate and blinds can be managed using AI devices too. Furthermore, thanks to predictive technology, smart devices can improve users’ wellbeing and the building’s energy efficiency levels.
IoT is sustainable and efficient
What is topical in the current climate is the exceptional opportunity IoT provides into space management. A truly integrated, smart building collates data from its different networks and filters it into actionable insights, essential to buildings’ managers. Knowing occupancy levels means reducing or even switching off those non-essential systems and areas that would otherwise consume precious resources.
A building’s essential maintenance tasks need to be carried out even during difficult times. IoT powered Digital Twin – a 3D replica of the building – make remote monitoring possible and provide a real-time view of the building’s systems for an immediate response to any issues which may occur.
Now more than ever, a business will need to fully embrace the digital transformation currently in act if it doesn’t want to be left behind. The common assumption of adopting technology in its mature stage doesn’t work anymore. Businesses need to be aware that transformation is happening now and is happening fast.