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18 January 2019
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Martin Read is editor of FM World
Martin Read is editor of FM World

04 June 2018 Martin Read

Martin Read shares his thoughts on the evolution of virtual reality and technology in the workplace, and reflects on the recent ThinkFM conference. 

So I’m looking at the wall at the end of our office. The entire thing is a floor-to-ceiling video monitor, permanently on and broadcasting in ultra-high definition. It’s showing our sister office in Singapore, where our colleagues on that side of the Earth saunter in and out of the office just as we do. 

I can simply shout over to them as if they’re sitting next to me.  It’s instant international communication, and the perfect example of what previous generations termed ‘the death of distance’. 

Steelcase, which demonstrated this tech back in 2012, spoke of solving ‘presence disparity’ – individuals invited into virtual meetings feeling ‘out of the loop’ because of their physical absence.

Indeed, the concept of workgroup members in this office casually saying ‘hi’ to their colleagues on another continent as if they’re sitting right next to them means we can all be part of one big happy team. Isn’t this a fabulous example of 21st century technology facilitating greater productivity? 

It would be if, of course, we actually did any of that. In reality we don’t have such a screen, and nor do plenty of the organisations that actually do have Singapore offices (hey, who knows what the future holds?) and could thus actually use this kind of solution.

Some organisations doubtless do, but for many firms these always-on video walls that allow local, regional or international collaboration between workgroups remain on a list of ‘about-to-happen’ tech despite the costs, bandwith and kit having matured since the idea was first mooted a good few years back.

As speakers at this year’s ThinkFM discussed, we’re entering an era of cheap as (potato) chips sensors that offer up entire informational utopias. But just as the live video ‘wormhole’ wall is subject to the filters of both personal and professional acceptance, so to is the adoption of the service-redefining technologies currently taking root. 

ThinkFM proved valuable in highlighting the extraordinary potential that lies ahead, particularly in how data can be obtained in some rather straightforward ways to solve long-held issues such as asset register management. It’s a revolution, alright - and it’s only just getting started.

Martin Read is editor of FM World