Opinion

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From light speed starships and eco-bubble space stations to robots and computers thinking, there’s no doubt that everyone wants to know what will be possible for mankind in the future.

In 1969, thanks to huge technological advances, a man took what became iconic steps on the surface of the moon and ever since teams across the globe have been researching, testing and building new technologies to help us work together in ways we never before imagined, not just in the outer-reaches of our galaxy but in some of the simplest tasks that are part of our everyday lives.

Every five years or so I like to try and figure out what life, or at least what life in the workplace, is going to be like in ten years’ time but as technology shifts and changes so quickly it’s hard to know for certain what it will be like in 2023.

There is no doubt that technology has come on leaps and bounds over the last decade, as the digital age boomed so has our reliance on the technology that has emerged from it. It’s hard to image that ten years ago we didn’t have Facebook, there was no Google Maps, no Dropbox, no YouTube, no Twitter, the services that we have come to rely on in our everyday lives just didn’t exists ten years ago.

What is our workplace going to be like in a decade from now?

First off, there won’t necessarily be a workplace that you need, or have to, go to. Cloud computing has grown at an unprecedented rate over the last year and there’s no doubt that it will form the basis of collaboration tools in the future, paired with other features such as virtual reality and anticipatory computing it will become more resilient and predictive. The workforce of 2023, will not just be able to operate remotely, thanks to this new solution teams will be able to transpose themselves into the workplace, physically attending meetings through virtual means in a three dimensional capacity and still be able to interact with both the people, surfaces and content around them.

If you walked into an office today chances are you’ll see the traditional computer set up, however in the office of 2023, the computers we rely on today will look different. They will no longer be a bulky box set up of wires and disks, instead you’ll have a curved all LED screen, which you can roll up like a sheet of paper and put in your pocket to take with you wherever you go. Your compute power will not just be limited to this screen thanks to virtual reality you’ll be able to interact and develop content seemingly in midair, reaching into the information you’re working with and physically manipulating it.

Along with this new computer you’ll also have an array of highly advanced wearable devices. We’ve already seen people clamoring to get hold of Google Glasses and smart watches. In the future we’ll see this go a step further with things like smart contact lenses and telephonic fashion such as earrings, all of which will be the norm rather than a novelty replacing the smartphones we have come to rely on today.

It’s not just going to be the physical infrastructure that changes in the workplace of the future. New software will enable us to work faster, better, be more creative and have more fun, as augmented reality and gamification enters the mix, seamlessly blending into the background while at the same time enhancing our working lives to simply become smarter.

When you ask people, what the future will be like, robotics is one of the most common answers. But in our workplace robots won’t be as obvious as Doctor Who’s K9, instead our robo-assistants, much like IBM’s Watson, will come from the very fundamentals of what makes robotics work, things such as artificial intelligence will be weaved into the very fiber of the technology we use. This, combined with advances in anticipatory computing, will bring forth software developed and informed by a greater understanding of our psychology which will become so intelligent that it will take into account mood and feelings as human beings. It will adapt and learn how we work, it will understand that if we are creative we work one way where if we’re more of a thinker rather than feeler person we work in another way, the technology will understand how best to adapt if we are introverted, extroverted and how we want to connect and work with colleagues. It will be so smart that you would think it was alive simply due to the shear amount of compute capacity you will have at your fingertips.

Most importantly this advanced software will help us focus. Over the last ten years we’ve lost our ability to concentrate at work, as things pop up on our screens throughout the day we never actually get anything done, this will all change as systems adapt and allow us to concentrate on individual tasks. The software we use will be so sophisticated that some of the things we think we are bad at may actually become some of the things we are exceptional in, becoming so easy to manage even my parents will think it’s easy…and actually fun.

We can already see hints of what the future will be like in the ways we work today, but there’s so much more still to happen. Work shouldn’t be boring it should be amazing and the technology we use should help us engage with the content we are developing, consuming and collaborating on.. More than anything in the workplace of the future it’s going to be about powering us to simply get things done, furthering human capacity to innovate beyond today’s wildest plans.

John Newton is CTO and Chairman of Alfresco, and a former Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Benchmark Capital 

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