It is hard to believe that the World Wide Web (WWW), or the internet in its current form was not mainstream until 1995. In December 2019, internet sales accounted for 21% of all retail sales, triple of thatrecorded 10 years prior. The first iPhone was not launched until 2007 – 2.2 billion have since been sold. Our adoption and subsequent reliance on technology has influenced every part of our lives, whether we see it or not. The pace at which technology has impacted the workplace is equally as fast and transformative, changing not just how we work, but what work we do and from where we do it. 2020 will be no different with regards new technologies, but what do we expect to be the game changers for the workplace.

Smart tech gains traction with tenants - Smart technology and its use within a building and workspace is not a new concept. But the take-up of this technology to date has generally derived from large corporates, developers and a few of the tech-savvy flexible office operators. We expect this to turn mainstream this year as confidence in the benefits, whether its cost, effectiveness or the usability, increases. The connection to lighting, heating, water, electric and air conditioning systems and personalising the output, not only improves energy efficiencies but can also improve the wellbeing of staff. Increased use of similar technologies in the home environment has given rise to businesses having the belief to explore and embrace.

Operational analytics to aid office design - with the world connecting via technology like never before, the capturing of data through our various devices such as smartphones, laptops or even key passes, means that the office design process will be more widely influenced by data and interpretation than the opinions of stakeholders. The improvements in technology and accessibility means it is even easier for us to utilise smart technology, online surveys, and feedback tools and apps to track movement and habits across an office. All of which will feed into an initial design of a new space or can help support the function and flow of an existing space. The workplace is a treasure trove of data on how a business functions, now is the time that trove is opened and used.

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5G has arrived – the next generation of mobile connectivity which provides faster speeds and greater reliability for mobiles phones and other devices was partially deployed in 2019. Full coverage across the UK has not yet been achieved and to-date only two operators can offer the service. It is currently the larger cities such as London, Cardiff, Birmingham and Manchester that only benefit from being switched on. Yet, the impact that 5G can have on a business has possibly been underplayed in contrast to personal benefits gained by video streaming, gaming or general online activity. The arrival of 5G can give businesses increased reliability of working wirelessly, remotely, increased productivity, and in some cases achieve cost savings. 2020 is expected to be the year that the business community benefits from this additional network capacity.

Automation and Artificial Intelligence – Manual inputting and analysis of data can be labour intensive and prone to human error. We work in a world where data and information are a core part of a business, whether its budgets or expenses, project management or manufacturing, the streamlining of day-to-day processes through automation are surely to be welcomed by businesses. Some industries such as the professional sector have been resistant to change – adding the personal touch is seen as the value-add. However, the ever-increasing sophistication of software for almost all business sectors is revolutionising the workplace. Taking it one-step further and introducing artificial intelligence (AI) to automation processes could achieve further business efficiencies and competitive advantages. These changes in the workplace are not designed to downsize the workforce, they are to provide the opportunity for workers and businesses to concentrate on the human aspect of a job. We expect that 2020 will see an increase in sector specific technology applications to modernise and improve the workplace and its jobs. Technology in the workplace and its subsequent impact on real estate is evident in the amount of office space that businesses take, more importantly how they then use the space they have. The requirement to house large data rooms, archiving and in-house libraries have all waned. The increase in the use of space for people is now more of a business imperative.