Smart Home Office

Like many people, we sometimes work from home. One aspect of our Smart Home definition is that our home is also an efficient and fun place to work from. It must also be a component of a flexible, distributed and mobile office though.

The Vision

There are a few videos on YouTube that we really like and fit with our vision of our future smart home office:

Microsoft's office vision:

Corning's vision of 'A Day Made In Glass':

Corning have also produced a second version of this video:

These video clips support our vision of an a future office that is not a fixed space, at a fixed location. Our vision of a Smart Home office is one that is distributed and mobile but, we want a space in our smart home that is optimised for this function and maximises our productivity and enjoyment when 'at work'.

Some may question why you would dedicate space in your home to the 'office' function but, our current thinking is that the 'home office' is not just a physical space that you step into but, is also a mind set. The space will be optimised to support this 'work' function in many ways and be flexible enough to be used in many ways too.

Sometimes, there are benefits from face-to-face interaction and the serendipity that this can enable in an organisation. This further supports our view that out home office is just one part of our future office setup.

Office Environment

Comfort

Physical comfort is an important part of any home office and things like heating, cooling and humidity need to be carefully controlled. We also assume that air will be filtered to remove dust from other elements of the home office, e.g. printers and paper. Comfort also includes coffee and cold drinking water!

Furniture

This is an area where we are doing much research. Future furniture and the technology covered on this page are interlinked. The days steel framed desk with fake wooden work surfaces are gone! Any furniture must be adaptable and capable of personalisation

Interfaces

The interfaces likely to be used in our future office are likely to be much like the interfaces used in the rest of our Smart Home.

Lighting

We have a lighting design section and it is totally relevant to the future home office.

Extensible

The future home office is not limited by the physical space in which it sits. It is already just part of a distributed and mobile office and the part that physically resides 'at home' must be extensible through collaboration and virtual reality. It must be possible to step into a much bigger virtual (and shared) space, than the physical space allotted to this function in our smart home.

Personalised

We envisage our home office as being a shared space, used by several family members and sometimes at the same time. This means that it must possible to personalise it in part or as a whole. This includes things like mood and productivity lighting, configuration and orientation of elements within it and things like furniture, temperature, humidity, wall paper, ambient sounds or music.

Communications & Collaboration

One thing is for sure, the office of the future is well connected. Collaboration and communication is going to use a large part of this bandwidth, with high-definition video conferencing to multiple parties or sites. This is unlikely to be just simple 2D video and we envisage 3D video conferencing, virtual reality and augmented reality applications being in mainstream use very soon.

Softphone
The concept of a fixed telephone will not exist. We currently use a Cisco softphone in our home office and expect to continue with something like this in the foreseeable future.

One challenge of this approach, will be to ensure seamless operation between the home office, mobile or fixed office environments.

Paperless?

One question that crops up over and over is when will the office of the future will be paperless? This is one question we will aim to address here.

In the mean time, we are assuming a need for both 2D printing and 3D printing and we are working on the assumption that we will be using paper for a few more years yet.

Features & Technology

Assistants

What is the role of 'assistants' in the future home office? Surely it has to be something more and something smarter than services like Apple's Siri.

Any assistant will need to handle those legacy tasks that we currently have to deal on a day-to-day basis, such as call screening.

Audio

The audio capability and technology must support other elements of the future home office, such as virtual environments and surround sound. Ideally, they will be subtle to the point of being invisible. Failing that, they will be a stylish addition.

Charging

Charging of mobile devices and elements of our future office needs to be a painless process that just happens in the background. Whilst we are currently limited by our choice of devices (e.g. iPhones, iPads, Android phones and tablets, etc.) wireless charging is going to be essential going forward.

Cloud

The cloud is an essential part of any mobile or home office, much like we consider it an essential part of our Smart Home automation.

Devices

Google Glasses
Smartphones and tablets are a large part of the mobile office at the moment and this isn't going to change over night. We do see a time where wearable technology will replace these devices though.

Asus Padfone
The Asus Padfone is a combination of a display and Smartphone, where the mobile phone acts as the processor for the larger touch-screen display element. We can see this concept being extended further as Smartphones become more and more powerful. Some already support 1080p resolution displays and we can see a point where the 'Smartphone' or its future equivalent is the only (portable) processor you need and it seamlessly connects to other displays and input devices. This is totally complimentary to the wearable technology concept.

There are also opportunities for a wide range of other interfaces.

Displays

As the vision videos above show, the display elements of the future office are going to be a critical part of it being a success. These displays will be versatile and interactive. Some elements (such as the windows or walls) may not be obvious displays at first glance.

We envisage the use of projection systems and interactive white boards also.

Networks

We expect to use a high-speed Fibre To The Premises (FTTP) Internet connection of 100Mbps or above in our Smart Home and for this to be used in the office too. Because of the nature of the applications and services, we will also require high up-link speeds.

Whilst in the home, many devices will be connected by Wi-Fi and the 802.11ac standard will support wireless network speeds up to 3Gbps (where devices support it).

Mi-Fi
In parallel with these technologies (as acting as a fail over network) we have 3G and 4G/LTE networks, which will enable the 'out of home' mobile office to function effectively. It currently makes a lot of sense to use portable Mi-Fi devices that can be used by many devices and in any location.

Presence & Availability

We have undertaken a number of projects to presence in our Smart Home and it makes a lot of sense to link this into any future office services that use presence.

Printing

Brother HL-4150CDN colour laser printer
We already have a networked colour laser printer in our home that can accessed from any device. We also have an inkjet printer for photographic quality prints. It doesn't make sense to add any more but, to simply location these in our new home office. These are not pretty things to look at and can be noisy in operation. In consideration of our comfort, these will be out of sight and hearing.

We envisage that it will be possible to print on these printers from anywhere in the world.

3D Printing

3D printing in many colours
There will be many instances where virtual reality will allow us to explore and navigate things in 3 dimensions but sometimes we need to touch and hold things. For this, we envisage the need for 3D printing. This doesn't necessarily that we will have a 3D printer in our future office but, we do envisage having one in our Smart Home at some point. Initially, we see ourselves using 3D printing services though.

Recycling

An recycling processes must not compromise security.

Robots

Although we see a place for robots in the Smart Home, we are still working through the opportunities as far as the future home office is concerned.

Scanning

Scanning is complementary to printing.

Security

By security, we mean security of communications, data and printed items. This would include encryption of data stored in the cloud.

Synchronisation

Seamless and background synchronisation of data (documents, contacts, accounts, etc.) across devices, people and organisations is going to be important. This will also include synchronisation into the cloud.

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