5 new technologies coming to a workplace near you

This year saw a number of jaw dropping tech developments that could have big implications for the workplace as we know it. 

The thing is, many may well have slipped under your radar, but may be more than worthy of your attention.

1. Humanyze: Tracking employees in the workplace

You know those ID badges that people in proper jobs wear? Well imagine if those innocuous badges featured microphones and sensors. Imagine if they let your employer know where you are and who you’re talking to – all in the name of productivity, mind.

This is what a company called Humanyze is making possible with its social interaction and people analytics platform and it’s already being put to use by a handful of UK banks.

Productivity benefit: 4/10
Fear factor: 10/10

2. IBM and Ricoh: whiteboards that are all ears

It’s estimated that 90% of all meeting information is lost when a meeting is over. So what’s the solution? Whiteboards that can listen apparently.

That’s why IBM and Ricoh launched the world’s first cognitive whiteboard earlier this year. With a little IBM Watson magic, they’ve created a whiteboard that can become ‘an active meeting participant’ responding to voice commands, taking notes and even translating what people say into other languages.

Could this be the end of meeting room small talk?

Productivity benefit: 7/10
Fear factor: 4/10

3. Amazon Alexa: Bringing voice recognition to business

It may be one of the most advanced AI powered digital assistants available, but my kids taught it to break wind within 5 minutes of getting it home. Amazon seems no longer content with bringing Alexa to every home though – and is now keen to take on the workplace.

In its launch video, Amazon’s Alexa for Business is tasked with scheduling meetings, booking meeting rooms and even pulling up last quarter’s sales reports.

There’s been some doubt as to whether voice recognition systems will ever make headway at work. Read the comments on this BBC article to get a taste of views so far. But surely it’s just a matter of time.

Productivity benefit: 5/10
Fear factor: 8/10

4. Hushme: Putting an end to office eavesdropping

Open plan offices are great. But they’re not very conducive for handling calls of a more sensitive nature. Well that problem has now been addressed by Hushme. Billed as a ‘personal acoustic device that protects speech privacy when speaking on the phone’ – it just looks plain ridiculous. By all accounts it’s not a hoax. I wish it was.

Productivity benefit: 0/10
Fear factor: 0/10

5. AltSpace: virtual reality meetings

Virtual Reality has been looking for a meaningful use case in the workplace for quite a while. I suppose it was just a matter of time before the virtual reality meeting moved beyond concept to actual thing.

Google start-up venture AltSpace VR is looking to make VR conferencing a very real and viable possibility for business. Compatible with the majority of smartphones and allowing users to create business avatars that ‘look, sound and even act like your real self – but just a little better’ – who knows we could see the virtual reality meeting finally kicking the conference call into touch.

For anyone who has read ‘Ready Player One’ (highly recommended), I guess it was an inevitability. And as AltSpace says – why VR alone?

Productivity benefit: 9/10
Fear factor: 2/10

Meaningful progress or cause for concern? You decide. Or ask Alexa.


[Image: Dayne Topkin on Unsplash]