workplaces set to get 'smarter'

Today work is somewhere you travel to - in the future work will come to you.

So says a report attempting to work out what the offices and workplaces of 2030 will be like.

It predicts that as workforces get more mobile, technology will ensure that everything an employee needs is available no matter where they are.

Head offices and individual desks are likely to disappear in favour of hot desks, collaborative spaces and decor that adapts to a worker's mood.

"We are getting more mobile and work anywhere, any place that we might be going," said Dr Marie Puybaraud, research director at Johnson Controls, a company that designs car and office interiors and sponsored the report.

"We spend less time in a physical location and more time being on the move."

This trend was only going to accelerate in the future, said Dr Puybaraud, demanding that workplaces change to cope with and make the most of such a situation.

Current technology, said Dr Puybaraud, was very visible and obvious. Often, she said, workers had to get devices all working together themselves and many did not share information well.

"By 2030," she said, "all these pieces of kit will be embedded throughout the environment and become completely transparent."

"A fully integrated set of technologies will follow users wherever they are," said Dr Puybaraud. "The whole focus is on user empowerment."

The report posits a situation in which, from the moment someone wakes, the world is aware of their needs and uses any and every means to keep them up to date.

Walls could become screens showing diaries, documents or video conferences. Homes and cars would measure mood and tune surroundings to, for instance, soothe a worker if they were feeling stressed.

The number of offices in use could shrink as smart scheduling software ensures that they maintain maximum occupancy.

A tiny smart mobile, with a folding screen and a powerful pico-projector could be the gadget that co-ordinates the way information is passed on, speculated the report.

"The whole idea is to have this sensory, seamless smart environment," said Dr Puybaraud. "You will turn up and this environment is ready to support you and the way you work."

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