Having worked as a workplace strategist at BDP, MCM and more recently Perkins+Will. I have over 15 years of experience within the commercial office sector. Working with clients such as BT, Bupa, Discovery Networks, HAVAS Media, Estee Lauder, CBRE and Truphone, I’ve witnessed a huge shift in the way people work and communicate and the environments being occupied. As we get to the end of 2018 and a new year is about to begin. It is time to wonder what the future holds for the workplace and the physical environments that make them up.
This series will touch upon what I feel are the 5 most influential factors regarding the future of workplace flexibility: power, data, physical environment, people and Artificial Intelligence (AI).
The ability for people to use mobile technology is still highly dependent on the availability of power to the device. Simultaneously, how this device manages and uses the energy to execute tasks. Battery technology has come in leaps and bounds in the last few years. So it is a matter of time until it will get better faster and faster. However, the need to charge these batteries and the need for wires to connect these batteries to the power grid have always been a challenge.
There are some wireless power technologies available that can at present charge compatible mobile phones through contact with surfaces connected to a power grid. The next evolution of this is to enable devices to receive power wirelessly and independently of these. There are these technologiesavailable at present and once these become more widespread users will be able to realise greater freedom of movement around the office environment. No longer will there be a need to carry around battery packs to facilitate mobile working.
Fig 1. Early mobile phone with battery ‘case’ vs current battery power pack.
This newfound ability to move more freely around the office environment brings other challenges to users of mobile technology. The issue of data and the transmission of this data from ever-increasing cloud networks primarily through WiFi. Users currently use WiFi when working remotely from a physical connection to a local network. If all staff were able to work remotely using WiFi the issue of the bandwidth starts to rear its head. Users with high demands for access to data would quickly become frustrated with slow access to networks and files reducing their productivity.
The introduction of 5G technology within the next 2 years will enable faster data transfers for mobile technology. There is also the prospect of Li-Fi, or light fidelity, technology which allows data to be transmitted at high speed over the visible light spectrum. The current installation of LED lighting solutions within offices will facilitate this as the Li-Fi works using standard LED lamps.
Fig 2. An image of how LTE and WiFi work compared to how LiFi works. Through beaming data across the light spectrum inside an office.