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4 Tech Trends Defining the Workplace of Tomorrow

Whitlock and partners highlight four technology trends that are creating exceptional experiences in the corporate office.

“Space, content and technology. These are the three things that come together to form what InfoComm calls the ‘exceptional experience,'” said John Bailey, vice president of technology at Whitlock, on a panel at the integrator’s annual Convergence show in Durham, N.C., on September 10.

The idea of creating exceptional experiences came out of InfoComm‘s most recent three-year plan in late 2013. The goal is to have the end user, architect, designer and integrator think about how the content and the space can inform and collaborate with the technology. In other words, technology doesn’t exist in a vacuum anymore.

Bailey and Whitlock partners examined four technology trends that lend themselves toward such an experience.

Products vs. Platforms

“There’s been a shift in the industry,” said David Morris, regional sales manager of the enterprise at Crestron. “We used to talk about products. Now we talk about platforms.”

The difference, Morris continued, is that a product provides a function while a platform provides a service.

However, it can be harder to coax clients to adjust to a new platform than it is to sell them a new product, because platforms can change entire processes.

“We recognize how hard it is to retrain end users to do something different,” said Sean O’Connor, director of channels systems engineering at Polycom. “The trick is to create solutions toward how people are already doing something, how they’re used to doing something.”

But the move toward platforms is important because products that don’t play well together simply don’t create that exceptional experience. Platforms, and services, speak toward all three elements: space, content and technology.

This is important, because “content voices need to he heard earlier,” explained Bailey. “Space and technology are already talking. It’s time for the content side to speak up and get involved.”

Open Offices vs. Huddle Spaces

“Both huddle spaces and open spaces are business trends trickling out of the innovative companies in Silicon Valley,” said Morris. “Both are efforts in efficiency.”

While the verdict is out on open offices, huddle spaces have been “untouched technologically for a long time,” according to Morris. Suddenly, the rush to fill huddle spaces with video conferencing technology, collaboration technology, BYOD capabilities and more is on.

The link between the two that is rarely discussed is that both open offices and huddle spaces are shared spaces, which means integrators should begin to think about user identity.

“How do I identify myself in a shared space?” asked Bailey. “There are many possibilities out there … badge, keyfab, even facial recognition. But largely today it’s a voluntary act. Is there a way we could make it automatic?”

“You walk into a room, sit at the table, open the computer and log in,” added Eric Stevens, business development manager for Surface Hub at Microsoft. “At the very least, it takes two steps. Maybe more, depending on the collaboration platform. But if something takes too many steps, people won’t use it.”

Interoperable Technologies

A lot of integrators and end users are moving toward the cloud for interoperability, says O’Connor. “People are asking, does it make sense for us to maintain hardware and software on the premises or does it make sense for us to maintain cloud services remotely?”

Oftentimes, the cloud looks easier, cheaper and simpler for integrator and end user alike. At this point, security concerns might be the only thing holding the cloud-wary back.

Additionally, you can’t talk interoperability without talking Internet of Things. But IoT is another all-encompassing rule of law that has its skeptics. Bailey says that now is the time to define the IoT for ourselves, before it really becomes pervasive.

“For example, what is the hierarchy of control [between devices]? Which system decides what’s right and what’s wrong, what’s on and what’s off, and who has the control in any particular moment?” said Bailey. “Maybe our industry is the best one to answer that question.”

4K

On this subject, the panelists agreed. Why is this still a question of debate?

“I remember when HD first emerged,” said Bailey. “People were asking, ‘why do I need HD video conferencing? I don’t need to see that level of detail in the people I’m talking to.’ But now, HD is everywhere. I think we’re going to see the same trend with 4K.”

O’Connor explained that it depends on the vertical market.

“Especially in verticals where the resolution is so key for making critical decisions … that’s where we’re going to see 4K become a necessity, around the content,” O’Connor said. “We still see that there are certain verticals or certain markets that are still okay with standard definition because it’s not absolutely essential to the content. But as time goes on, I think we will see those markets turn towards 4K. It’s all going to come down to processing power, chipsets and the network.”

It might not be about peoples’ readiness to adapt or upgrade to new technologies, according to Morris, but that not enough selection, or price options, exist for the many uses of 4K in different environments.

“There are a ton of 4K displays, but not a lot of 4K sources,” he said. “That’s what we’re working on at Crestron.”

“But let me tell you, 4K is a conversation I have every single day,” Morris added.

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