Imagine how sensors and artificial intelligence are going to transform the workplace.
Let’s imagine a day at the office, say ten years from now, when the technology behind today’s smart home devices becomes ubiquitous in the workplace. No longer will computing power be limited to server rooms and standalone devices like laptops. Rather a broad range of sensors will be woven into virtually every part of the office environment. And it will all cater to devices with human perceptive intelligence that will turbocharge our creativity, productivity, and security. Here’s how:
You slide into your home office desk chair for a last early check-in with the team before the big presentation to the board. The camera on your desk recognizes your face. The lights automatically adjust to your preferences. Your PC securely logs you in and a friendly voice alerts you that “your schedule is overpacked today—shall we connect to the meeting now?”
You reply, “Let me read the agenda first while you prepare me an expresso,” and the scan the latest updates that appear on the screen instantly.
Phuong, the manager of the factory in Vietnam explains how they have solved the production problems. Your conversation is translated automatically between Vietnamese and English, so language doesn’t slow you down. And it’s being transcribed and summarized as you go.
But the news isn’t so good from James, who has been doing consumer interviews in Kansas City.
“Moms don’t know where the diapers go,” he blurts out. “We need to add a diaper bag.”
Worried about last minute changes, you ask James, always a pro, how much stock he puts in what he heard in the focus groups.
“Last night, after a long day behind the one-way mirror, I did some research. “The computer vision system found 42 million images of parents pushing babies in the database of security camera pictures from parks and malls. In 57% of the footage, it identified some sort of bag of stuff, usually dangling awkwardly off some part of the stroller.”
“Good work,” you acknowledge. “You’ve proven that it’s not just babies in Kansas City who need diaper bags. We’ve got six hours to come up with a bag that doesn’t dangle.”
“If anyone can do it, it’s Sammy,” says Phuong.
“Right,” you exclaim not sure how much you believe that.
As soon as the call is over, you run for the car while voicing orders at the virtual office assistant on your phone.
“Send the 7:30 call minutes to Sammy and tell him I’m on my way over. We need a diaper bag by lunchtime. And it can’t dangle.” You don’t need to explain more since Sammy can read the automatic meeting summary and get going.
Driving through the morning traffic, your ADAS controlled car weaves to the most efficient lanes as you scan the multiple displays in your vehicle. There’s the global news, your local weather, and the scores from your university football team on one touchscreen. On another screen you are securely connected to reports from your company—the latest budget outlook, your calendar, and staffing alerts.
You run through the lobby of the design center, jumping into an elevator as the door was closing. Security is very tight here, but you’d never know it. The elevator wouldn’t budge if your identity hadn’t already been verified via scans of your face and the gait of your walk. It takes you directly to the floor where you are expected, with Sammy already alerted to meet you.
As you step off the elevator, Sammy checks the display wall to find a free conference room. “Conference assistant,” he says to the display, “Book 7B for right now and make it private.”
When you get to 7B, its normally clear walls have turned opaque for extra security. Sammy shows you several fabric samples that have been extruded from the weaving machine based on specifications sent from your favorite designer in Milan. You pick one that feels both soft and strong. Sammy taps your choice into his tablet.
“Take a look,” he says.
You each pick up a pair of virtual reality glasses, and Sammy shows you a 3D rendering of his new design, now with a sleek diaper bag in the fabric you picked attached by clever multipoint magnetic hooks.
“Looks great,” you say. “Now put it through the hell test.”
Sammy taps a button and you see the 3D image of the stroller pushed by a virtual dad suddenly pushed around by strong gusts of wind. Then it rains. Then it snows. Now the stroller, baby removed, tumbles down a long flight of stairs where a waiting dog starts chewing it. It’s a bit wet and rumpled, but the diaper bag is intact and firmly attached.
“They’ll love it, Sammy,” you say relieved.
Back at headquarters, it’s time with the finance team to make sure that all of your projections are bullet proof. Last minute add-ons don’t come cheap. At 12:30 PM, your virtual assistant figures out that you don’t have time to eat anything before the board meeting. The conference room display quickly shows a proposed lunch order for everyone on the team based on their preferences.
“Make mine a salad today,” says Randolph to the virtual assistant. Everyone else just keeps going and their food arrives shortly.
A quick stop to put yourself together before the meeting. Good thing too. A smart camera embedded in the bathroom mirror discreetly alerts you and highlights a circle around a piece of lettuce that seems to have lodged under your collar.
Leaf plucked, you’re ready for show time.
Up to the management floor, as directors file into the boardroom. While they take their seats, their names automatically appear on digital place cards in the room and online. The conference table has a built-in touchscreen at every seat that will display the board presentation as soon as each member taps the built-in fingerprint sensor, an extra security layer on top of the face recognition because the financial reports include sensitive non-public information.
“Ladies and gentlemen of the board, let me present to you the new way for babies to travel in style, the Hover Stroller.”
The doors slide open, and Ash, your assistant, enters pushing a gleaming white basket that is floating three feet above the floor. Snugly attached to the back is a sky-blue diaper bag.
“Sammy, you’re a miracle worker,” you think to yourself as you explain Phuong’s technology and James’ consumer research to the board. Sammy had been able to use a 3D printer to make a prototype of the revised design then send it over to headquarters via secure drone.
The questions are tough, but ultimately the board votes to go ahead with the project.
You’re out celebrating with your whole department. Ash holds up a tablet so everyone can see Phuong and James joining the toasts.
You hardly think how much embedded sensors and ambient intelligence had made a stressful day much easier. You never had to stop to identify yourself, to search for information and figure out how to make technology work. Many of your needs were anticipated; the rest you could simply ask for. And the information you needed was always on a screen or speaker nearby. Other than the drones overhead, the office looked much the same as it did ten years before; it was just a lot smarter.