how might we do business in 2020?

Mobile technologies are transforming industries and lives. In the home there is a plethora of connected devices emerging such as intelligent thermostats, utility meters and baby monitors. Mobile tech is impacting transportation as well with NFC and with self-driving cars. It should be no surprise to find these new technologies are also changing working lives.

Take video-conferencing: this relatively mature technology has hit the road. Given decent bandwidth and mutually-compatible conferencing solutions, it's already possible to host huge meetings (even public-focused chats using tools such as Google Hangouts). Where today the majority of such discussions are PC-based, in the future mobile devices - including tech toys such as Google Glass - will play an important part in the mix.

Collaborative solutions are also evolving. As Apple's beta Siri service suggests, in future we'll control our computing devices using our voice - this should enable rapid note taking and dictation, addition of data to a spreadsheet, even within the context of a videoconference. For example, conference attendees may agree a few diary dates that will be automatically added to all my computers and devices.

You won't be disturbed when engaged in a meeting. Set your Presence Indication System to "Meeting" and your technology will be able to separate urgent from non-urgent calls, potentially letting recognized callers know you’re in a meeting via a direct message, SMS or email.

The evolution of enterprise technology infrastructure could incubate intelligent company-wide contextual address books which will note when clients make contact, what they discuss, and what they've discussed before. This rich data may help enterprises quickly recognize future business opportunities.

While at work, employees seats may incorporate health sensors; in conjunction with hot desking, virtualization and the power of NFC-based user identity management, some anticipate the future office will feature treadmill-equipped workstations. It won't matter where employees sit - a single swipe of their NFC-enabled device will give them immediate access to their personal computer desktop - though the PC will change.

For example, office workers may use Google Glass style devices (subject to any future tests of their impact on vision); alternatively offices may feature flexible pop-up displays that move into working position at the touch of a button, used in conjunction with a small device (which fits onto a keyring) that projects a completely functional keyboard onto the desk.

User interface innovations such as the spoken word of Apple's Siri or the gesture-based computing paradigms most recently hinted at by Samsung's eyetracking capability within the Galaxy S4. That's the tip of the iceberg as technology inexorably moves toward Minority Report style interfaces, as evidenced by Leap Motion.

The computer will become increasingly invisible. The smartphone will connect with independent monitors and user interface controls to transact most tasks. Tasks it lacks the processing power to deal with will be dispatched to SaaS services or to the company mainframe.

Social networking will also seize an important place within business practice. In future we'll likely use services such as Yammer to communicate with external partners.

Use of video within the enterprise will grow, most offices will host an on-site mini-video recording studio, (such as Broadcastpod), access to which will enable new opportunities in internal and external video communications.

The impact of these flexible working environments suggest a change in management style. Tasks will be distributed across teams, with members choosing those tasks they think they can make the best contribution too.

This autonomy will come at a price, a move to target-based, independent working practice seems likely to motivate employees to do whatever it takes to achieve agreed target goals. Even today, the BYOD trend means many workers tend to work beyond the normal forty-hour work week.  I’d better sign-off now as it's 2am…


image © Danilo Rizzuti -

Jon Evans

Jon Evans is a highly experienced technology journalist and editor. He has been writing for a living since 1994. These days you might read his daily regular Computerworld AppleHolic and opinion columns. Jon is also technology editor for men's interest magazine, Calibre Quarterly, and news editor for MacFormat magazine, which is the biggest UK Mac title. He's really interested in the impact of technology on the creative spark at the heart of the human experience. In 2010 he won an American Society of Business Publication Editors (Azbee) Award for his work at Computerworld.