Innovation

Coolest smart office tech of 2016

Find out about products that made office life easier and better connected in 2016 with this roundup of the best tech.

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Image: iStock/g-stockstudio

Depending on the connected office, an employee might be able to park their electric vehicle in a designated spot, have biometric scanning of their facial features automatically unlock the building's door, and sensors within the office recognize that they've arrived and log onto their computer as soon as they walk up to their desk.

Here are some of the best smart offices products of the year, that will remain relevant into 2017.

Qualcomm Lumicast and Current by GE smart sensors and lighting

Qualcomm has a smart campus in San Diego that serves as a showroom for customers who want to see the possibilities of an intelligent environment. One of the products it features is Lumicast, Qualcomm's indoor positioning technology, which pairs with Current's LED light fixtures with sensors that can detect if someone is in a meeting room, based on whether the lights come on or not; if needed the room can immediately be released and made available for someone else. Current's sensors detect and analyze occupancy levels to control lighting and HVAC in real time with air-quality sensors for temperature, humidity, and CO2 working with the ventilations systems to make sure the air temperature is suitable for the number of people in the building.

SEE: How smart offices of the future can make companies more intelligent (TechRepublic)

Mezzanine collaborative workspace

This high-tech solution offers a collaborative workspace with 360-degree screens and was designed by John Underkoffler, the creator of the technology seen in "Minority Report." His company, Oblong Industries, created a large multi-screen workspace where employees can work together by using hand gestures to move documents and images around. The technology has been popular, with IBM, Accenture, and Boeing among Oblong's customers. Earlier this year, NASA awarded Oblong a contract to install 10 Mezzanine systems across four NASA Aeronautics research centers in Virginia, Ohio, and California.

Aruba's mobile engagement solution

Aruba's mobile engagement solution includes Aruba Location Services that are powered by Aruba Beacons and the Meridian mobile app platform, which enables enterprises to quickly and easily create mobile apps or improve existing apps.

Some of the features include indoor turn-by-turn directions to allow employees and visitors to more easily navigate a corporate building or campus, reach meetings on time, and find bathrooms and breakrooms. It's particularly useful for new employees and employees visiting from other locations.

Proximity-based notifications can be used to provide personalized information such as details on sites of interest, corporate updates, and pending events. Location sharing allows employees to locate coworkers, and location-aware printing will only print a project once the user is standing next to a printer.

Some companies are using Aruba beacons and the Meridian mobile app platform to create a set of mobile apps that assist the smart enterprise. For example, the Aruba and Robin partnership allows users to find and book available meeting rooms based on real-time information, and in-room displays and meeting tools manage themselves in real-time as people enter and exit meetings.

Oracle Applications User Experience (OAUX)

Oracle has created a lab environment to test various cloud applications to figure out new ways for people to communicate, geo locate, and handle daily tasks at work. Some of the cooler tech being evaluated includes hands-free, mind-sensing headwear to explore how brainwave control can allow for hands-free navigation and movement of objects.

It's not just about custom-made systems. At Oracle, they also use off-the-shelf products such as Amazon Alexa for smart office applications. Part of being smart is avoiding reinventing the wheel.

"Our OAUX team explores the potential of new technologies. We connect commercially available technologies with Oracle Cloud enterprise systems and work to better understand how we can evolve the user experience in our smart office labs. We research and build workplace interactions and scenarios using gesture control, virtual assistants, and location-based authentication—with emerging technologies such as Anki, Leap Motion, Raspberry Pi and more—and think innovatively about the experiences we want to create for our users," said Jeremy Ashley, group vice president, OAUX.

Micello indoor mapping

Indoor mapping, such as Micello's, is a valuable tool. It's not just for employees in offices, but visitors to public buildings such as hotels and conference centers.

"We will begin to see the rise, probably quickly, into the world of indoor mapping, where now your path from your hotel room to the meeting will start at your room on the 39th floor and take you to that meeting room on the 7th floor of Building 3 of the Galleria Complex. And while in route, you will know where the men's room is, that there is a newsstand in the basement, and that the concierge at the hotel is located in the northwest corner of the lobby," said Don DeLoach, president and CEO of Infobright.

ReadyTalk's FoxDen Connect for video conferences

There's a new beacon-powered version of ReadyTalk's FoxDen Connect to provide video interactions on mobile devices and in huddle rooms, by identifying who is in the room and automatically connecting the participants together for HD video conferencing between iOS and Android mobile devices or Chrome browsers. It can save the user up to 10 minutes or more of time that it can take to manually connect a video conference with participants. The company is beta testing facial recognition software so that everyone can be automatically added to a video conference when they walk into a meeting room.

The next big thing

As cool as all of the current tech is, there's always something coming up next.

"In the coming years, virtual reality and augmented reality will fundamentally alter how employees do their jobs. While the technology is still in the early stages, the opportunities to improve worker output are exciting. One example is giving employees like police officers or other emergency workers immersive training experiences. We're also seeing VR applied in the real estate sector. A company called Floored is creating 3D tours of office spaces that haven't even been constructed yet, allowing potential tenants to get a 'real life' experience and visually see potential design tweaks. There's still a long way to go, but in the next year and beyond, virtual and augmented reality will reshape the worker experience as we know it," said Arie Barendrecht, CEO and co-founder of WiredScore.

Also see

About Teena Maddox

Teena Maddox is a Senior Writer at TechRepublic, covering hardware devices, IoT, smart cities and wearables. She ties together the style and substance of tech. Teena has spent 20-plus years writing business and features for publications including Peo...

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