19 June 2019 | Bradford Keen
Panel host Oren Gershon painted a futuristic picture of participants of a meeting or conference discussion not being present in the flesh-and-bone sense, but rather as realistic holograms projected into the room.
Although Gershon, managing director at O.M.G Consultancy, did not say when this would happen, he told Facilities Show delegates at ExCeL London that he was confident that the next five years would bring with them significant technological advances in the workplace.
Panellist Alistair Craig, managing director at Anabas, was quick to pour cold water on that idea. "I'd counter your view that we'll be looking at holograms in the future; we won't," he said. The trouble with holograms and the reason why similar VR and AR technology has not been readily adopted is that there is a lack of trust. "There's no beating heart beside me," Craig added.
If business is to be thought of, ultimately, as a transaction, then trust is a prerequisite. "Technology has not been able to overcome humans' innate suspicion," said Craig.
Scaling it back from holograms and VR, Julia Kitchen, project manager and workplace consultant at Workplace Change Ltd, said much can be lost even in conference calls. While these are often inevitable, she noted how she had seen in conference calls people ordering items from Amazon or muting those not in the room to chat about other things. The "tiny signals" are lost that would reveal whether participants felt a proposal was a good or bad idea.
"We must never lose sight of the fact that it is all about the people," she said. "We have to focus on communication with people and tech should support not replace that."
Fellow panellist Chris Law, sales director at Accurent, suggested that workplace technology would be likely to grow more personalised - for example, systems would be able to make predictions and suggestions for meeting places and times based on historic and accumulated data.
The idea of personal data being exchanged for convenience and enhanced service was raised, with Gershon and Craig commenting on how many of us skip the terms and conditions when agreeing to use apps.
Gregory Blondeau, co-founder and managing director of Proxyclick, likened the exchange to the way five-star hotels treat their valued and returning guests. They take notice of guests favourite drinks, newspapers, how they like their pillows fluffed, and deliver that experience.
Likewise, should someone in the workplace want to receive their favoured coffee type before a meeting - data gathered from past purchases or app use - then they'd need to hand over that data not only to their own organisation but those of clients or partners too.
The important point is that the data owner should be able to define and limit what they will share, said Blondeau.
Also using the hotel comparison, Kitchen said the future workplace, upon which the panel discussion was based, should provide employees with an experience and choice. It should consider hotel offerings such as concierge services and flexible layout to meet changing requirements and simplify lives.
The Facilities Show runs until tomorrow (20 June).