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Fira Barcelona, Gran Vía
31 Jan - 03 Feb 2023

The three worlds that collide to make the Smart Workplace

From its origins as a spin-off from the Smart Building Conference, the Smart Workplace Summit is now a standalone event at ISE 2022. We talked to Content Chair Bob Snyder about why Smart Workplace is such an important area right now, and why every integrator should send someone to attend the Summit.

Name three things that are affecting the smart workplace sector. What effects are they having?

Health: The relationship most companies have with their physical spaces is going to change profoundly over the next few years – and that has huge implications for AV. You can read thousands of articles about the ‘new workplace’ which all agree on one point: the pandemic has changed the workplace forever. People want to feel safe at work in an office and so the workplace environment is stepping up with innovations.

Yes, the pandemic accelerated the distance economy, the work-from-home and business activities that don’t rely on face-to-face activity. But also consider how companies like Amazon invested $11.5 billion in 2020 in COVID response, making 150 significant process changes to keep teams safe, such as reimagining how to conduct meetings and trainings; reconfiguring and adding more break rooms; staggering shifts and breaks; and re-evaluating how workers clock in and out for shifts. Tech is a critical part of introducing, tracking and managing when you change of processes.

And the latest solutions come from places the AV might not be looking. For one example, KONE, a global leader in the elevators and escalators, has introduced a new range of people flow solutions. A start-up in Holland has the world’s first and only employee smart locker platform: a self-service, SaaS system powered by data, and integrated into any IT ecosystem. And facility managers are gobbling up Integrated Workplace Management System (IWMS) software.

Collaboration & Productivity: The recent push to improve remote work has a double-edge. Let’s call it the quantum law of work: you push here and something changes over there: you can’t improve the remote work experience without affecting the office experience. For example, Porsche Design says they will embrace “Remote first, but not remote only.” Yet that only makes them cherish more the importance of in-person meetings. Their office of New Normal will look a little different as they will no longer consider having one large office space. They want “… to design the offices themselves differently. They are to become places of encounter where employees can work together to find the best solution for their needs. To achieve this, we need larger and, above all, more meeting rooms. We also need small retreats where colleagues can have calls or work on a task in peace.”

The industry is exploding with new and more wonderful collaboration devices and tools while the pandemic gives us the motivation to learn how to use them.

Internet of Things: While we recognise the huge boost that the pandemic gave to video conferencing and collaboration, it gave an equally important stimulus to IoT. The Internet of Things – with its network of sensors, meters and other devices capable of sending and receiving data via IP – has become an important part of return-to-offices.
I like this quote from the CEO of Occuspace: “What moved the needle for the internet was creating comprehensive analytics on why people come to a site, how long they spend in each area, what they focus on etc. We have only just begun to do the same in the physical world.”

For example, you can’t talk about improving the air quality index without enabling the measuring and monitoring of air quality. IoT is, of course, more than just air quality – it’s becoming for the office building the airport control tower for building access, meeting room availability, personalised climate comfort, and so much more.

What are the key themes being covered in the Smart Workplace Summit?

This year we would like to concentrate on the here-and-now ‘Innovations Re-shaping the Workplace.’ Companies and organisations, with eyes on a Return-to-Office, need immediately practical and implementable advice from workplace integrators.

There’s no other conference that brings together the three worlds that collide to make the smart workplace: the digital workplace of the IT industry which improves the employee experience, the encompassing workplace of facility managers which controls much of the office environment, and the workplace experiences that the audio/video industry has brought to meeting rooms, lobbies, and open spaces.

Each sector is making progress that goes unnoticed by the other. Companies and organisations need solutions now: they need solutions that make their offices safe for workers and visitors, their remote workers more productive, and their employee experiences more attractive in the middle of the Great Resignation.

How relevant are these themes as we emerge from the pandemic?

While we will provide overviews on the future of the workplace from the best minds in the industry, our workplace conference will focus more on the emerging innovations, products, software and services. Proptech has invested $12 billion in the last three years to create better offices. For companies like Zoom, while their success during the pandemic has been impressive, the real innovations are coming from their growing ecosystems. And IT companies – look at HP’s recent introduction of Presence – have rolled out a new generation of devices for the modern workplace. It’s a new world in workplace, with innovation coming at companies from all directions. Think about a world where LCD panels can be cheaper than office cubicle walls…

What can attendees expect at the Smart Workplace Summit?

Our last physical event brough talks by great companies such as Siemens, Google, Barco, JLL, Lenovo, Bose, Poly, Sharp and others. Attendees can expect to hear (from top tier companies and clever start-ups) about new products, solutions and solutions available now which help organisations on Return-to-Office and remote work. You’ll walk away with a sharper focus on what’s happening in the smart workplace, learning from the experiences already made by the companies leading the way. If 85% of an office budget is in staff salaries, then Smart Workplace is not only the sexiest in terms of great products and solutions but also the place at work where you can have the most impact on the business results.

Why should a visitor to ISE come to the Smart Workplace Summit?

The workplace is such an important market for AV that I think every integrator should send someone to sit in on this conference. The trade show offers the breadth while a high-level conference adds depth. It’s also worth it to network with our audience and speakers.

People attend because we put great content on the stage, content that translates in action items for end users and integrators. ISE helps us attract those top global executives that a stand-alone conference can’t do.

Is there anything else that you would like to mention?

More and more offices will be managed by data. The best data is cross-functional: for instance, facilities systems can inform security; AV systems can inform facilities. We need to play as a team with IT, AV and facilities departments.

There is no single, prescribed solution (and no single vendor) for all the facets of the digital workplace. Every organisation or company has an existing portfolio and when functionality needs to be added, they must select vendors, platforms and applications in each vertical according to the specific needs and desired outcomes. And not all solutions work ‘out of the box’. That’s why so many clients require creative workplace integrators to choose between existing solutions and innovation to take integrated solutions to the next level.

Smart Workplace Summit is where you see how all the pieces come together, as an integrator, as a landlord, as a tenant (company or organisation). Register here

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