The future digital workplace

Complex social aspects shape the future digital workplace. What will technological progress hold in store for offices in the future? What should companies be prepared for? And what are we contributing to this change together with our sister company DIA? We will answer these questions in the following.

Why do we think about the future of the digital workplace?

Architects can’t help but deal with future scenarios. If they start drafting something today, it won’t be built for months or years to come. Engaging with the zeitgeist, whether social or technological, is the special field of 7Places and in the same time a key success factor of creative work.

In this context, one thing is for sure: digital technology will play an even bigger role tomorrow than it does today. Some industries are already using their digital opportunities beautifully like the manufacturing sector with Industry 4.0. Others are slower to approach their digital options and even existing opportunities are often left untapped. By demonstrating digital possibilities in the context of our architecture, we build bridges and represent different levels from the state of the art to the vision of the future. In order to describe the digital office in its visionary facets, we first want to establish some basics: what could the social standard be in 30 years?

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Moving with the times and looking to the future is part of understanding digitization and exploiting its potential in space.

Forecasts for the digital world: basics 2045

1. People will be more healthy, socially and environmentally concious than ever.

2. The Internet of Things and big data are no longer buzzwords. Every product, part, object and even our clothes will be invisibly connected to the internet. 3. Almost everyone will have some kind of permanently available virtual assistant in 2045.

3. Almost everyone will have some kind of permanently available virtual assistant in 2045.

4. Virtual reality and augmented reality, projections and holograms portray a standard extension of reality.

5. Self-driving cars, capsules or entire rooms and parts of buildings will be standard. Mobility will no longer be limited to land; there will also be high-speed trains (such as Hyperloop trains) or drones in the air.

Office Building: The Outer Shell

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Besides a lot of diverse design possibilities building shells increasingly fulfill intelligent functions. © iStock.com/Andrey_A

Cities will become more condensed, and buildings aspiring to become vertical cities will continue to reach for the sky. At the same time, environmental consciousness and sustainability will already be reflected in the way in which building shells are constructed. Digital technologies will increasingly be integrated into architecture. Sustainable materials, living organisms, flexible, breathing and changing building structures should increasingly find their way into the building industry.

Even today, buildings that generate their own energy are on the rise. This trend will be compounded by the potential of solar energy, wind power or kinetic energy. The externally scalable and dynamic building is also conceivable: rotating parts of the building and modular, quickly expandable construction supported by automated processes. In future, 3D printers will be able to print individual parts at lightning speed and construction robots will attach them to buildings overnight. Permanent construction sites will no longer decisively shape the cityscape; instead, the cityscape will morph in appearance from one day to the next. In addition to significantly increasing nature simulation (such as greening), the latest developments in OLED display technology will also shape the facades of the future and give buildings a completely new look on a daily basis.

The future digital workplace: Interiors

Inside the future workplace, sensors form the basis of intelligence: they are the eyes, ears and feelers of the smart building. For example, cameras detect faces, use of space and moods. Different sensors also sense the indoor climate, humidity, light conditions as well as the state of health and productivity on an individual basis. Actuators such as small electric motors convert the information read into action: they adapt the climate, open windows, or change the wall color or room size.

Even the building interior acquires human reaction capabilities – technology provides the backdrop while nature, haptics, ergonomics, art and design are front and center. Various surfaces double as display mediums for information: projections, holograms or classic displays are integrated into walls, tables and ceilings. Besides the economic, sustainable and employee-friendly use of rooms and buildings, digital technologies can also optimize strategic and operational business processes. Among other things, company performance can be analyzed to the day or even predicted by collecting and intelligently evaluating data.

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The working environments of the future will be shaped by the availability of information – anytime, anywhere.

Which contemporary technologies pave the way for these visions?

Big data analytics. In the workplace, big data’s applications are huge – intelligent badges such as Humanyze‘ssociobiometric employee ID card (1) are already available on the market. There are use cases for almost all disciplines including finance, market analysis, pricing, product development and testing.

Virtual assistants. Virtual assistants will do more and more recurring tasks for us in the future. They act on our behalf and will be able to do even more tasks automatically and anticipate our needs. Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa are familiar to many from the private sector. In the business realm, technologies like IBM Watson (2) already exist to make life easier.

Smart room and building control. From access control to personalized climate control or circadian lighting adapted to human biorhythms, rooms offer extensive digitization options. A well-known example of a building featuring intelligent lighting is »the Edge« in Amsterdam whose lighting technology is provided by Philips Lightning.

Smart furniture. In addition to built-ins, unattached furniture also creates options for individualization. For example, LiveOs furniture is currently capable of storing user profiles and automatically adjusts to individual preference. What a relief in the age of desk sharing!

Projection and holograms. The simple, flexible and situational presentation of ideas and content is crucial for companies to succeed. Products like the Samsung Flip make it easy: a digital flipchart that’s flexible, rotatable and perfect for scribbles and creative sessions. Meanwhile, the vision of flexible content projection is available anytime, anywhere with the help of technologies like the Sony Xperia Touch (3) projector.

Upshot

It’s never too early to expose yourself to technologies of the future. Even companies with large in-house IT departments are not yet fully concerned with space-based digital possibilities. We’re convinced that it pays to tackle the gap between physical space and digital technology. That’s why 7places and DIA design and build places that embrace every facet of the future, including digital elements.

»The fruits of our labor must endure the world of tomorrow«

Also read the article»Workplaces of the Future – The Big Picture« of our corporate sister DIA – Dittel Architekten.

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