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The Future of Work: 3 things that will change the way we work forever

By Alyson Edmunds, Head of Digital Innovation at O2

As Head of Digital Innovation at O2, I get to see examples of technology changing the way we live and work on an almost daily basis. Last month I was asked to speak at a conference about the future of work. I think that there are three key developments whose impact will be such that they will change the way we work forever.

  1. Internet of Things (IoT)

According to research analysts Gartner, there will be 20 billion internet-connected, dedicated-function devices by 2020. These IoT devices will range from simple, connected household appliances through to the most advanced jet engines.

So far IoT growth has come from the home, with an explosion in the use of wearables, the roll out of smart meters and demand for the enhanced capabilities of smart televisions and other entertainment devices. But IoT is already changing the way we work as well.

The heating, lighting and energy systems in many of our offices and warehouses are being monitored and maintained by connected sensors, resulting in substantial energy savings. Transport operations are benefitting from IoT technology as well. For example, our own O2 Smart Vehicle is a simple device that transmits vehicle and driver information, in real time, making industry-leading vehicle telematics easily accessible for fleet managers and vehicle leasing companies. In the future IoT and 5G connectivity will be key enablers to driverless cars.

At O2 we offer compliance solutions. For example, O2 Smart Compliance uses IoT sensors and regular hand-held devices for data collection, enabling field workers to complete business-critical safety and compliance tasks, capturing and processing data securely in real-time. Read how O2 Smart Compliance helps Scotrail to deliver real-time records of safety and security checks, with time-sensitive prompts and tamper-proof records.

  1. Artificial Intelligence (AI)

We are already seeing digital assistants use artificial intelligence, natural language processing and machine learning technology to support day to day tasks. In a very short time they have advanced from basic devices that rely on search technology to answer relatively simple questions, to fully fledged intelligent devices that can handle complex enquiries and control other devices in our homes.

The business application for AI has focused on the processing and analysis of complex data. Connected businesses are collecting and storing more data than we can possibly analyse ourselves, and it will require AI technologies to deliver the insights that this data contains.

Wayra, the world-leading technology start-up accelerator programme is a part of Telefónica Open Future_, a global innovation network.  In October 2018 Wayra will be opening a new accelerator programme focusing solely on AI and Blockchain start-ups.  If you’re a start up in this space then check out Wayra’s application page for details on how to apply.

In our retail stores we use Rotageek software, which uses AI & predictive data-driven technologies to rotate and schedule staff effectively and fairly. It enables us to predict the number of staff required at any time in our retail stores to meet demand and delight our customers.

With AI comes concerns and challenges however. One example is ensuring that AI algorithms can recognise and understand bias, and we may encounter ethical or moral issues in the future as well. However few would disagree that AI will play an increasing role in our future working lives.

  1. 5G

Although existing networks are more than sufficient to sustain the growth of smaller scale IoT devices, it will be the rollout of 5G that delivers the ultra high speeds and low latency that larger smart city initiatives will demand.

You can read O2’s recently published report The value of 5G for cities and communities. We believe that the smart city of the future could deliver energy savings for households, local authorities and businesses, as well as introduce 5G enabled energy grids capable of powering the autonomous vehicles on our streets.

5G networks will be able to capture and manage unstructured data for business analytics applications that were unimaginable until now.

Read about O2’s scheduled launch of a 5G test bed at The O2 in North Greenwich bringing a 5G experience to the world’s most popular entertainment venue.

What factors do you think will influence the way we work in the future? I’d love to hear from you. You can connect with me via LinkedIn.

The Future of the Workplace is just one of the many topics we’ll be discussing at our O2 Blue Door Conference, as part of O2 Live. Join us, guest speakers from across the industry and other businesses looking to scale up on the 27th September at The O2. Register here. 

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