The traditional work environment is fundamentally transforming, and visions of the future Smart Workplace are emerging. Through the combination of the Internet, mobility, cloud, sensors, and the Internet of things, work can get done virtually anywhere people can communicate, collaborate, and transact.
To better segment and organize the “Smart Workplace,” Keypoint Intelligence has created a taxonomy of services related to our industry. This taxonomy helps define and categorize disparate technologies and services into a more concrete and comprehensive view of the Smart Workplace solutions and services.
Figure 1: Smart Workplace Segments
As part of our coverage of the Smart Workplace, we interviewed key vendors on their visions. The following is an excerpt from interviews with key visionaries at Konica Minolta Business Solutions Europe. We spoke to Olaf Lorenz, General Manager and Paul Chaplin, Workplace Portfolio & Investment Manager at KM Innovation Centre Europe.
As it crafts a vision for the smart workplace of the future, Konica Minolta is seeking to better understand the work environment—including what makes people happy.
“The experience of the employee at work affects their performance, it affects how attractive that company is to work for, and more and more and there’s growing evidence that a new generation of people entering the workplace will prioritize the quality of the environment even over basic salary factors,” Chaplin said.
While initial research shows workers value flexibility and mobility, it also appears these trends are elevating the importance of the physical office. When people go to the office, it’s to truly collaborate.
“When you come to a physical workplace, you tend to do that not just to work but to meet other people,” Chaplin said. “And therefore the physical workplace has a very important role to play in helping people to collaborate. And that usually requires space.”
Figure 2: Paul Chaplin, Workplace Portfolio & Investment Manager, KM Innovation Centre Europe
Konica Minolta will continue to leverage its hardware, software, and service capabilities to provide integrated solutions for physical work spaces. It is also building up its smart office portfolio to deliver services in new areas like sensing, predictive analytics, and machine learning.
“Most people are not interested in data,” Chaplin said. “They want to know what to do with it.”
Konica Minolta is actively researching and bringing to market data-driven workplace of the future technologies through its regional Business Innovations Centers. A pilot-stage smart room booking system, for example, helps solve the issue of ineffective room bookings.
“It could happen that two people end up in the biggest meeting room we have in here right now, while another group of 15 are squeezing themselves into the smallest room, just because the system was not able to digest real need or suggest the right meeting location,” Lorenz said.
Figure 3: Olaf Lorenz, General Manager, KMBS Europe
Designed for medium- and large-sized companies, the system uses an array of data to suggest the most appropriate room for a particular group. It also “releases” booked yet unoccupied rooms from the system. A longer-term project is a smart building system that adjusts working conditions to personal requirements—including preferences for lighting, sound, temperature, and desk height in a hot-desk environment.
“You just put your ID card onto a desk, the ID card is read and authenticates your presence…, and ultimately the workspace adjusts to your preference,” Lorenz said.
When it comes to smaller businesses, Konica Minolta is focused on virtual collaboration tools—including those enabled by the upcoming Workplace Hub. This all-in-one IT tool will help businesses manage and monitor a broad range of IT tasks—including disaster recovery, backup services, and network security.
“Workplace Hub is just a physical presence of what we have been doing already remotely for quite some time for various different sets of customer sizes, and now we can do this more efficiently by having a unified and more streamlined IT services platform together with it,” Lorenz said.
In summary, the office of the future won’t be focused on print. While print volume has been declining slowly in recent years, it looks like this decline might accelerate going forward.
“At some point in time the physical document is no longer of existence….,” Lorenz said. “We would like to treat much more the information flow and how information management and information assistants are being connected.”
The changing nature of office spaces and the demands that knowledge workers have around these are key to Konica Minolta’s vision of the Smart Office of the Future. Konica Minolta aims to bring together people, places, and devices to empower people to work more productively, efficiently, and collaboratively. Artificial intelligence and related technologies will increasingly be used for smarter processes. Konica Minolta aims to have the structure and products to support these Smart Office initiatives by offering a wide portfolio emerging from its core document imaging equipment and services, extending to IT platforms, enterprise content management systems, smart receptionists, meeting room optimisers, collaboration systems, robotics, and advanced security video surveillance.
Konica Minolta has shown strong vision by opening the Business Innovation Centres (back in 2014), and allowing them to research business needs from a user perspective. It will remain to be seen whether the Workplace Hub, expected to launch later in 2018, will be an accepted concept. But either way, it illustrates a differentiation of direction and uniqueness that sets Konica Minolta apart from competition. At a time when we all know that the market for office print is threatened, it is important to develop new business areas. KM’s current offerings around the Smart Workplace are strong, coming from a combination of in-house development and acquisition. The focus on the business meeting as a central function, regardless of the location, along with other solutions emerging from this centrepiece seems to be an intelligent move. In the future, we expect to see more developments around sensing, predictive analytics, and machine learning.