Technology has revolutionized the way we work. This is nothing new, as technology revolutionized farming practices in the 17th and 18th centuries, and it was the driving force behind the first, second, and third industrial revolutions. The role of technology today is enabling humans to work anywhere, anytime, which has fully revolutionized the way people work and collaborate with one another.
Advanced technologies like video conferencing, VoIP phone systems, 3D printing, digital mail, robotics, AI, machine learning, and VR have completely changed the way people do businesses and the way the workplace is used. People no longer need to be in the office in order to work; many work remotely and hire a virtual office to handle their mail and meet people; others work from home or their favorite coffee shop, and some have embraced the digital nomad lifestyle. Thanks to wireless technologies, people only need a smartphone, tablet, or laptop to successfully work regardless of time or place.
From 9 to 5 to 24/7
It seems only natural then, that if people can work anywhere, anytime, that the traditional 9 to 5 job is already sort of obsolete. There’s a downside to working from wherever you like at whichever time you like: people might expect you to always be on. And that’s what happened. Instead of having a fixed schedule, many people who work from home or remotely find it hard to disconnect from work.
Even though they might not be actively working (like me writing an article or blog), they are checking mails and responding on collaboration apps. There’s a reason “workcation” (work-vacation) visas are now a reality in some countries. Instead of working 9 to 5 and taking two weeks’ vacation, people take longer vacations that involve some sort of work.
Still, it’s a pretty sweet deal and technology is poised to further revolutionize the way we work; to the extent that many experts predict humans will be working alongside robots in the near future.
Here’s a list of the top technologies that are revolutionizing work and the workplace.
IoT (Internet of Things)
The IoT is a networking of physical devices, vehicles, appliances, and other items (lightbulbs for example), that connect with electronics, software, sensors allowing them to share and exchange data. IoT is the technology behind smart buildings.
IoT is positively impacting the workplace by making spaces more efficient, easier to customize to the end user’s needs, and easier to interact with. Lights turn themselves on when they sense movement, the temperature is automatically adjusted based on the time of day and the amount of people in the building, sensors and other connected devices gather usage data that can be used to understand how people use the space, etc.
By making buildings more efficient, the IoT is also helping companies tackle sustainability challenges.
AR and VR
Augmented and virtual reality are changing the way we work by allowing users to have immersive experiences. The gadgets are also pretty neat. Augmented reality combines elements of the real world with digital components. Virtual reality takes it a step further and basically, creates a whole new world that can be accessed through a headset.
These technologies have a variety of potential applications: immersive and more realistic meetings, product creating, workplace design, and more.
Cutting edge virtual office solutions could, in the coming years, incorporate AR/VR technology into their conference rooms to provide an immersive virtual meeting environment. Instead of looking at a picture or pixelated video of a colleague, you could interact with a hologram, pull out a CAD model of your latest product and share ideas on a virtual whiteboard.
Though these technologies are in their infancy, they have a promising future.
Robotics and artificial intelligence
Though some of the talk around robots and work is somewhat apocalyptic, the fact is robots are far from making human beings obsolete. They will take over some jobs, but for the most part, experts predict a lot of robot + human collaboration in the future.
Robotics, combined with artificial intelligence (AI), has the potential to maximize humans’ work potential and productivity. They are the technology behind automation and AI can go through thousands, if not millions, of data in minutes.
These technologies can complement human capabilities in a plethora of ways. In the medical field, AI is helping doctors make more informed medical decisions and diagnoses, while robots are helping make surgeries more accurate and safer. In factories, robots are speeding things up and adding safety. Robots are also making delivery a much more lucrative and faster business (one-day shipping is a marvelous thing in today’s fast-paced world).
Often called virtual assistants, digital assistants like Alexa, Siri, Cortana, Watson Assistant, Cisco’s Spark Assistant and Google Echo are already making a big boom in the world of work. They are helping workers increase their productivity and making it easier for them to do certain types of tasks.
These assistants are fountains of information; they can read and interpret information, book appointments, record calls, and meetings, enter data, translate, and much more. These AI powered digital assistants are task-oriented and they are helping organizations in their digital transformation efforts.
For centuries now, technology has revolutionized the way people work. Technology today is evolving faster than ever and reaching new capabilities, however, like in the past, technology is helping make human beings more productive and more efficient.
The more technology reaches new capabilities, so do humans. Technology, in the end, is an enabler.