It wasn't that many years ago that I walked out of the corporate headquarters of Cisco Systems very impressed (and envious) that employees had such flexible and efficient workspaces. It wasn't just their access to a high-speed network that caught my attention, but the fact that anyone could connect to it from just about anywhere. As I moved among various offices and conference rooms, I noticed how employees easily connected to the network from ports all over the place and quickly got the information they needed. Such easy access isn't uncommon today, as many companies have wired conference rooms and other places, but it made an impression on me back then. Just a few weeks ago, I was in the Boston area meeting with some folks at Groove Networks. Once again, I left feeling envious. Employees there walk around with untethered PCs thanks to a wireless network. The flexibility was magnified by my experience the day before when I was taking turns using an Ethernet port with one of my colleagues while visiting an office in New York. "No, you go ahead and download your E-mail first," I said. "No, you first," he said. "No, I've got a PowerPoint presentation waiting for me, it could take a few minutes." Thankfully, that type of scenario doesn't happen too often, but it sure made the convenience of a wireless network look even more delightful.
Fast forward a few years. Imagine walking into your office in the morning and it recognizes that you are there through ID sensors in your employee badge. The room temperature is then automatically adjusted to your preference, and your colleagues are automatically alerted that you are available (if you so choose). No need to use a keyboard; you can simply talk to your computer or write your thoughts on a tablet that feeds the data into a personal or shared storage space. And when you do meet with a group, imagine a wall-sized display that can be viewed and updated by all participants. Resolution would be super-sharp, thanks to nanotechnology called microelectromechanical systems. In this week's cover story, senior writer Aaron Ricadela gives you a taste of what the office of the future will look like ("New Way To Work").
The story is part of InformationWeek's quest to find emerging technologies that could change the way you run your business. Innovative applications may come from the biotechnology space, as Ricadela recently reported ("IT At The Edge Of Science"). Also, there are a number of mind-blowing research initiatives aimed at making software more reliable, self-healing, and able to automatically adapt to changes in a system's environment. Next month, we'll show you how some researchers apply biological models and genetic algorithms to software design to take some of the human effort out of software maintenance.
In the broad intersection where science and technology meet, new ways of improving business processes will emerge. We'll keep you posted.