Laurent  Philonenko
Laurent Philonenko, vice president and chief technology officer of Cisco's Collaboration Technology Group, is responsible for strategy and direction of...
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Laurent Philonenko | August 04, 2013 |


Innovation in Strange Places

Innovation in Strange Places This is an exciting time for innovators. You have the opportunity to work on the future collaborative workspace that blends physical and virtual environments to boost user productivity.

This is an exciting time for innovators. You have the opportunity to work on the future collaborative workspace that blends physical and virtual environments to boost user productivity.

For those of us living in the Northern Hemisphere, summer is at its peak and lightness of topic with a little of humor seems appropriate. Let us dive into the topic of the workspace...how we work, where we work, and how our workspace is evolving. (Yes, it sounds serious, but I promise some smiles and lightness if you keep on reading.)

The advent of mobile devices, video, cloud, social and other technologies promise great changes to our workspace. Today, our collaborative workspace needs to be a blend of physical and virtual environments. Gen X-ers, Gen Y-ers and my own pre-alphabet generation all have different inclinations and aspirations, but we have something in common...we all live in a physical world--our office, our home, and our things--including computers, smart phones, and such.

On the other hand, virtual environments are becoming the norm and Gen Y workers are very comfortable there. Today millions of people are working, living, and playing in virtual environments Our photos and memories exist in the cloud, millions of players interact with one another within persistent virtual game worlds, we work from anywhere via our mobile devices, and we share content from the cloud with digital communities.

We are getting closer to a pervasive environment where collaboration and communications technologies are natural and transparent in our daily routines, both in our physical and virtual worlds. However, this is still a major opportunity for innovation. Innovative technologies that extend people's reach and knowledge without the barriers of firewalls or imposed organizational boundaries are still in high demand. We need interoperable technologies that enable us to truly connect the unconnected, and to make the vision of any device, any application, from any location a reality--not a marketing tag line.

You can argue that this vision is already a reality. From an evolutionary perspective it is, but it comes with some effort and is enjoyed by few, not the billions of people on earth; hence, the opportunity for innovations in this space.

I believe that these innovations must also be adaptive. By adaptive I mean intelligent technology that takes clues both from our physical and virtual environments and adapts to your needs at the time you need it. Perhaps this is where design and technology innovations come together. Not only do we need to have user experience lead technology development, but the experience also includes our physical surroundings such as furniture and appliances.

Take for instance two such designs: the convertible napping desk and the ostrich pillow. Both designs address the challenge of longer, more demanding workdays and provide an escape for reaping the benefits of a power nap--which increases productivity, according to many studies. Future adaptive technologies should be aware that you are recharging, and perhaps signal applications or digital communities of your availability or state of mind. (On a side note, I find the napping desk to be an awesome and creative design of furniture, but if space is limited, the ostrich pillow seems like an interesting option!)

All these innovations apply to the workspace and are about collaboration and communications. I recently had the opportunity to discuss this topic with an architecture firm and they found the idea of building offices for collaboration compelling; using an integrated approach to designing the office workspace with technology makes sense. Eventually we will be able to configure a room, set up collaborative environments, optimize the quality of a network connection for the type of meeting and the endpoints used, surface up relevant virtual communities and information to participants, without them having to intervene--in a transparent and natural way. And maybe even suggest naps when your attention drifts--this type of suggestion is already available in cars to help prevent the dangers posed by tired drivers--why not in the office?

This is an exciting time for innovators. You have the opportunity to work on the future collaborative workspace that blends physical and virtual environments to boost user productivity.

(Note: if I have not yet delivered a smile to your face, you must have not followed the above links to the ostrich pillow or napping desk.)


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