Interview: Gary Keene, Smart Workplace Summit chair

Interview: Gary Keene, Smart Workplace Summit chair
Gary Keene, Audio Visual Architect at University of the Arts London, is the chair of the Smart Workplace Summit at ISE 2024. He told us about what he aims to achieve at the summit and what delegates will take away from it.

Gary KeeneWho is the audience for the Smart Workplace Summit, and what are its aims?

Overall, we want our participants to come away with an awareness of some of the emerging issues in smart workplaces, and also with the knowledge that enables them to think about how they might address their own challenges.

I feel we have three distinct audiences. Manufacturers, who are interested in understanding the changing landscape within buildings and how that might impact their product roadmaps. Then there are end users – those who are responsible not just for the design, but increasingly for the ongoing management of buildings and campuses. Thirdly, the Summit is for the systems integrators and design consultants who sit between those two audiences and often face the problem of trying to reconcile increasingly sophisticated customer needs with a manufacturer roadmap that hasn't changed.

The theme of the Summit is ‘Tackling new challenges’. What does that mean to you as Summit chair?

We're at a really interesting point in the evolution of the industry. From a workplace perspective,  we're now coming up to almost three years post Covid by the time ISE comes around. There’s been a move away from having a workforce that predominantly comes into the office and collaborates on site, to trying to support audiences that might be more hybrid, or predominantly remote. So we’ll be asking: from an AV perspective, how well have we achieved those goals? Are we supporting our audiences in the ways that they need to be supported now?

We're also recognising the newer, more emergent challenges that are coming along. On the first of our two days, we're going to be focusing on cyber security. The move to more hybrid working setups has created a whole series of cyber security challenges that impact AV teams, but not necessarily directly. Organisations have large populations working from home or working remotely, and they're typically relying on laptops, and in some cases mobile devices, which can be more prone to attack. The sheer variety of vulnerable endpoints are has increased almost exponentially over the last few years.

And AV teams are indirectly encouraging that in many ways, by assuming that there are no security threats around those who work remotely, because the impact doesn't come back to them. Their responsibility tends to be more focused on kit that goes into meeting rooms or lecture theatres on sites. If you were to sit down with an AV manufacturer, an AV manager, or a systems integrator, they would probably grossly underestimate the sheer amount of challenges. We want to raise awareness and ensure that people are making more intelligent decisions within the AV space.

We’ll then go on to look at AI. There is some genuinely interesting work going on in the collaboration space that's AI supported. Some of that is based around intelligent recognition through cameras and audio, increasing the sensation for remote participants of being in the meeting by seeing close-ups of the people who are talking. But is that really making a difference? We want to explore that more.

We also want to have a discussion around the ethics of AI. We want to raise awareness of some of the potentially more challenging and intractable issues that might be being overlooked. One of our speakers will point out that there are inbuilt biases within much of the recognition software that is beginning to support conferencing. Who loses out from those biases?

And what can people look forward to on Day 2?

We’ll be focusing on workplace design. What are some of the new challenges emerging there, and how are people dealing with them? There’ll be a practical focus on what's being done in certain areas.

Our guest speaker on Day 2 is Marcus Saunders, Associate Director of Technical Resources at the London College of Fashion. They've just opened a new 14-storey building in east London that supports around 5000 students across a very wide range of subjects. The teaching and learning spaces have to be very flexible. At one end of the spectrum they run courses on the psychology of fashion; and at the other end they have very practical workshops with subject matter experts who might be working on, say, jewellery design at a very small scale, with cameras picking up what's going on and showing that to 30 students in the teaching environment, and potentially remote students too.

Also, fashion being fashion, things change. So the design's been done in a way that recognises that it's not permanent and will need to change. So what are the drivers for change? Where do they come from and how is that reflected in an operational model that allows this building to be constantly changed to meet ongoing customer demand?

Marcus will share his experiences, working closely with internal customers to understand their needs in depth and turn those needs into AV designs – influenced by the requirements to be flexible and modular, to encourage creative thinking, to be energy conscious and to build a source of data for insight and change.

We’re also going to focus on the environment. Everyone is under pressure to ensure that AV technology Is being used in a way that’s as energy efficient as possible. But there's very little benchmarking going on and there's very little common understanding of how to achieve goals. We’ll have a series of speakers talking through case studies and practical solutions here.

The final focus of Day 2 is inclusive workplaces. I think it's fair to say that when we turn up at ISE, 70- 80% of our audience is probably going to be white men. How well do they know what the needs of other groups, audiences and populations are? And how is that being reflected in the design of collaboration and learning facilities in buildings going forwards?

The Smart Workplace Summit runs from 15:30 - 18:00 on Wednesday 31 January and Thursday 1 February, in CC5.1. Book your place.


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