How casual connectivity is changing your office

Tech is getting more connected, while at the same time becoming less conspicuous and less intrusive. We’re connecting more, but noticing it, less. Virtual and augmented reality, the Internet of Things, connected cars, wearable and hearable technology mean that casual connectivity is fast becoming the norm, and that means change for business.

Smart homes, smart lives

The Internet of Things (IoT) – network connectivity for all our everyday objects, allowing them to send and receive data – means we have more control than ever over our utilities, our heating and our tech. And all from our smartphones. You can check your home’s CCTV while you’re away on holiday, use sportswear to analyse your yoga technique, and cities are already being redesigned as a result of data collected from devices that record how and when people use transport, buildings, services and more.

Even your car is becoming more intelligent and connected. In the future it’ll be able to predict when it’s going to break down; find the cheapest petrol station; locate, book, and pay for a parking space; and monitor your health (blood pressure, blood sugar, heart rate).

FedEx recently realised that its drivers wasted about 30 seconds per delivery starting the van, so it began installing remote ignition starts to increase efficiency. And that’s just the beginning. In 2017 we’ll see a lot more device-to-device connections, which will subtly change our lives.

The internet untethered

3G and 4G technology allows mobile platforms for our social networking, banking, commerce, and TV-watching. Even our relationships can be nurtured on the move – and it’s changing our behaviour.

People now expect businesses to be able to communicate with them on a mobile basis. New generations of internet users regard themselves as mobile-by-default, with fixed internet seen as an inconvenient and archaic relic of yesteryear. If your business is on the internet, it really needs to be on mobile too.

Augmented reality

If you know anyone who’s chased Pokémon around the streets of the UK, you’ll already be familiar with Augmented Reality (AR – information blended with real-world data, like images on a camphone view of the street) and you may also have encountered Virtual Reality (VR – totally immersive alternative reality, like the latest online games). Both are being developed for use in business:

  • Modeling – an architect could explore their plans, walk around the blueprint and make tweaks there and then, using gestures to adjust walls.
  • Training and education – students in Africa could walk around the Natural History Museum in London.
  • Sales improvements – customers can get a virtual experience of their intended purchase before they buy, for example, they could try out their new kitchen before they buy it.
  • Manufacturing – manufacturers can view prototypes from every conceivable angle before they’re built, to spot problems, and identify areas where improvements are needed.
  • Field sales improvements – one of the most compelling drivers of AR and VR in business is helping field services. With these tools, experts can see what the technician in the field is seeing, even if they’re on the other side of the world.

Wearables and hearables

Mobile technology is now focusing on becoming less intrusive. The fact is, people don’t really want to keep getting the phone out of their pockets to check the latest notification.

We’re already tracking our fitness with wearable wristbands and the data they collect can help us to change our lifestyles. But the arrival of wireless headphones has primed the market for a whole new range of ‘hearable’ devices. It turns out, the ear is a great place to monitor temperature and pulse with the information sent via Bluetooth to wherever it’s needed – so we get an even less obtrusive way to monitor our health.

And particularly useful if you work abroad – one small earpiece uses speech recognition technology to translate conversations into different languages in real time. No more fumbling through that phrase book.

As people spend more of their time online, in many different ways, businesses will need to adapt to keep connecting with them. There’ll be better ways to empower your on and offline life and brands will be seeking new and less intrusive ways of connecting with their customers.