The modern office has to evolve to stay relevant.

It has to provide the right smart office technology environment customised for the modern interconnected workforce and aimed at helping employees perform at their best potential.

To this end, offices today are employing a number of smart technology solutions ranging from communication to data management and other segments of the office.

You see:

Technology fields such as artificial intelligence, the internet and communication are disrupting how the modern smart office technology runs, in most cases for the better.

In the future, the office is bound to undergo even more change. As new technology comes in and current innovations get better, the office will get smarter.

Things like email, computers and the internet have revolutionised the workplace. But to keep up with a changing world, companies will have to do their best to keep up with the following emerging smart office technologies.

These technologies focus on efficiency, interconnected-ness, productivity and sustainability.

Here are 9 hot tech trends coming to your office soon.

1. Artificial Intelligence is here to stay

Artificial intelligence has an essential role in the modern smart office. It is an invaluable ingredient to increased productivity, ease of work and overall workplace efficiency.

A prime example of this is a case of a recently hired lawyer named ROSS. Based on IBM’s Watson AI system, ROSS is an artificial intelligence program designed to step into the role of a lawyer.

It can comb through massive amounts of data to get you facts about a case from 10 years ago and how it relates to a current case. Through machine learning, ROSS can become a valuable part of a law firm, helping with research and opinions on various cases. Not only will this increase a law firm’s productivity, it will also improve work efficiency and save time.

Simply stated:

AI technology is progressing at a rapid pace and soon, you may have an AI program as just another office colleague. It will be able to manage the office calendar, schedule meetings, help in research and plenty of other office activities.

Too much office time is wasted doing repetitive non-core tasks.

By handing these activities over to AI, huge chunks of time and money could be saved. Most importantly productivity will go up as employees focus on what matters most.


2. Real time collaboration goes beyond docs

Real time collaboration has been an extremely essential technology for the modern smart office. It has greatly improved productivity by allowing enhanced collaboration between different teams.

Real time collaboration has been present mostly in online document editors. Platforms like Microsoft Office 365 have worked to enhance collaboration among different users.

But the technology is quickly moving beyond editing docs and into other smart office tasks. For instance, screen sharing has been there for quite some time. It allows different people to work on the project in a computer. You can browse the same webpages, design a car together or edit a video simultaneously.

With VR and AR (which we talk about further below), real time collaboration expands the scope of projects on which different remote teams can collaborate on.

For example:

Imagine two architects in different cities looking at the same 3D hologram of a planned skyscraper using their AR glasses. They can talk about the design, make design tweaks in real time and walk through the interior together.

The office of the future will not be defined as four walls and people in cubicles; rather it will be a collaboration of individuals regardless of location and proximity to each other.

Office workers using virtual reality to work on a building design

3. Communication – Moving beyond phone & email

Email was one of the biggest things to happen to smart office communication. But even the best things do not last forever in the technology world. Email is following desk phones in becoming an outdated office communication tool.

To be sure, email is still the dominant way of communication but a variety of alternative platforms are cropping up. These platforms emphasise on real time collaboration, “socialness” and integration with a multitude of other productivity tools.

What we are seeing is the rise of communication packages that integrate video chat, image sharing, voice chats and traditional messaging into one platform.

In addition, more and more communication tools are adding on productivity functions such as file sharing, AI and real time collaboration to create all-in-one packages.

The ringing desk phone is a pretty archaic form of office communication. Email, as modern as it seems, is also losing its place in the office of the future. Today’s emerging communication tools go beyond simple interaction to provide full-on integration for maximum productivity.

Laptop running Microsoft

4. 3D Printing

In many ways, 3D printing is still very much a novel technology. It is still the reserve of tech enthusiasts, with ordinary consumers yet to explore this extraordinary technology. In the workplace, experts predict a revolutionary effect once 3D is fully integrated into the smart office.

One area where 3D printing will come in handy is prototyping. Research and technology companies can develop quick prototypes affordably, giving them an edge over their competition.

You see:

With easier and risk-free prototyping, 3D printing could potentially increase innovation as employees get bolder in experimentation. In some cases, 3D printing could even be used for actual production.

Being relatively new and still in a rapid growth phase, we still do not know all the ways 3D printing will disrupt the workplace. But whatever disruptions it brings along, you can be sure they will increase efficiency, boost productivity and hopefully, fatten profit margins.

A 3D printer creating an object from file

5. The remote workforce

A recent survey showed that 34% of big businesses expect more than 50% of their workforce to work remotely by 2020. 25% of business leaders were more radical in the opinion, saying that over 75% of employees would be working remotely by the end of this decade.

Research has provided a number of important insights into the remote workforce.

As it turns out:

Remote workers are happier thanks to the increased level of freedom and flexibility enjoyed. Remote employees feel more valued for the work they do.

Working remotely increases productivity as office-related distractions are not present. Reduces employee turnover, one of the costliest expenditures for businesses. Other insights include the fact that working remotely reduces employee stress, reduces management costs, boosts motivation and with the right tools, enhances teamwork.

A variety of technological solutions have come up to solve the challenges of working remotely.

Things like real time collaboration, integrated communication platforms and cloud computing all allow companies to send more and more of their employees to work from home.

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People working remotely in a coffee shop

6. Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality

It has been a great time for virtual and augmented realities. A raft of VR/AR devices has flooded the market from the game-centric Oculus Rift to the futuristic Microsoft HoloLens.

These devices have mostly been used in entertainment and other areas like education without much thought as to how they can benefit the workplace.

Think of a designer, who with her smart AR glasses on, designs a new product without even touching the computer. The design looks and feels so real and very different from what she sees on her computer screen.

Or an architect who, with an immersive VR headset on, walks through a virtual concept of his home design, making a few changes here and there and takes note of the final look.

Or a doctor who, using a VR headset, can step into a patient’s brain and see exactly where the tumor lies and how big it is.

Like 3D printing, VR and AR are relatively new technologies that are still undergoing a rapid growth phase. We still do not know all the ways they will impact the workplace. But if early indications are anything to go by, they will change how we work and collaborate in the office.

Some experts talk about a new smart office technology environment where computers will be pretty much useless. We will be doing everything in an immersive virtual world or an augmented world integrated into the actual environment.

Employee wearing Microsoft HoloLens headset

7. Internet of Things(IoT) – The office just got smarter

The Internet of Things or just IoT is being described as the next big wave in technology. As we increase the number of gadgets around us, there is more need to connect them to each other. We talk about a future of cars that talk to each other, smart homes with communicating appliances and an ever interconnected smart office.

Though it is described as a machine-to-machine system, IoT is aimed at empowering office workers to save time, become more efficient and increase productivity.

For example:

Your calendar says there is a meeting at 10am in the conference room. When you get there, all the audiovisual equipment has set itself up in readiness. Even the smart coffee machine in the corner has brewed coffee ready to go without anyone pressing a button.

During the meeting, you are tasked with meeting a prospective client at noon. Your smartphone automatically adds it to the calendar. At noon, you enter your car but you do not have to enter your destination – it already knows it from your calendar.

All these gadgets are communicating and anticipating your needs. In the process you save time and focus on what really matters. IoT in the smart office will get even better as technology advances and we add even more gadgets such as wearables.

Google Home speaker on a table

8. Cloud computing takes the office online

If there is one technological development that will prove essential to the workplace, it is cloud computing. Its impact is so great that major companies are betting billions of dollars on the growth of cloud computing.

Companies like Amazon, Google and Microsoft have been aggressive in providing cloud solutions to businesses.

One of the biggest advantages of cloud computing is that it allows a business to double, triple and even quadruple in scale without having to move office or even buy more hardware.

All applications are stored and operated online. Data is stored and manipulated in the cloud, meaning there is no need for bulky servers or external storage.

Remote employees can be easily managed via the cloud. Essentially, the entire office can be run from the web.

Workers can access the office from anywhere, collaboration among teams is enhanced and communication becomes even easier. Cloud computing is truly revolutionary and any smart business should already be on the train if it hopes to survive this super-interconnected and information-driven new world.

Employees working using the cloud at a business

9. Environmental sustainability & energy efficiency

Increasingly, we are seeing innovative energy saving and environmentally protective solutions in the workplace. From green office supplies to energy-saving lighting, offices are stepping up to help boost the fight for our blue planet.

For example, we are seeing office buildings integrate renewable energy solutions such as solar and wind to meet their high energy needs. Some office buildings are integrating artificial intelligence to monitor energy usage and apply smart solutions in improving energy efficiency.

New technologies such as super-efficient air conditioners, advanced window controls and better building materials are helping to make offices even greener.

Wind turbines