My office light knows how I’m feeling: Is the future workplace already here?
Technology is literally transforming the way we see things, dramatically improving office environments, improving productivity and cutting costs at the same time.
As Jim Dean walks into the brightly illuminated office block he is anxious. He needs to clinch this deal to seal the bonus he's been working for all year. As he walks into the foyer he follows his personalized lozenge of blue and yellow light. In the elevator he's comforted by a favorite piece of music and velvet walls that pulse swirling blues and turquoises.
Stepping out in a much better frame of mind, he rejoins his personal guiding light on the carpet and walks past workspaces, some lit with bright energetic daylight and others by more restrained, pensive colors.
After an initial chat with his client, conducted in a gentle warm ambience, they get down to business. The temperature drops a couple of degrees and the light becomes more energizing. The meeting goes well and Jim is delighted. Going down, Jim once again steps into an elevator that responds to his mood. The walls shimmer brightly in gold and the band strikes up the Triumphal March from Verdi's Aida.
A merely futuristic fantasy? Far from it. Most of these technologies already exist or are just around the corner. In the very near future, face and voice recognition may well allow the building's appointment system to identify you on entry. Advanced carpets, fabric walls and dynamic lighting systems are here already, as outlined below.
Advances in the healthcare sector make it possible to monitor heart rate and breathing without having to attach sensors, helping to detect your mood. If the building can identify how you are feeling, it can personalize the space to suit your mindset.
Connected lighting revolution
We are at the beginning of a connected lighting revolution and nowhere is that more evident than in our offices. Vastly more energy efficient and requiring far less maintenance than traditional lighting, sophisticated lighting systems and LED technologies are delighting staff and putting smiles on the faces of facilities managers, financial directors and environmental officers worldwide.
This is partly the result of the dramatic surge in information and communications technology, which is changing how people think about and use spaces. Wireless technology and cloud computing have cut people's ties to desks and locations. People not only behave differently in this environment, they think differently too. Work is being done faster and in a far more knowledge-intensive and customer-focused way.
Wellbeing and performance
"Natural light has a profound effect on our physical and emotional health. But with urban dwellers typically spending up to 90 per cent of their lives indoors, daylight alone is not sufficient in our offices," said Menno Kleingeld, Category leader Indoor at Philips Lighting.
"Lighting can change the way we experience our indoor spaces. It can relieve or prevent eyestrain, fatigue and poor staff performance, particularly in roles involving problem solving and concentration," added Menno.
One innovative office lighting system to be introduced by Philips demonstrates just how far this approach has already come. At Deloitte's office building in Amsterdam, The Edge, a new lighting system will allow employees to personalize and control their own workspace lighting via a smartphone app.
The system, equipped with sensors and transmitters, will also act as a data source to allow facility managers to better control lighting consumption and other building resources. Combined with real-time and historical data on usage and activity patterns, energy efficiency and operations such as cleaning will be optimized as fewer resources need be deployed to unoccupied parts of the building.
Sound and vision
As well as optimizing lighting conditions, Philips has pioneered a ceiling system that integrates lighting with acoustic properties. This brings enhanced direct sound whilst muting ambient noise.
At the University of Surrey in England an innovative space has been converted for use by student entrepreneurs. Darren Barnes, the University's Project Manager, says "Because of the concrete slab ceiling the acoustics in the space are very challenging. It was clear that a standard grid ceiling would not provide the acoustic control required. When we saw the Philips Soundlight Comfort system it was clear this was exactly what we needed."
On walls and floors luminous textiles and carpets can enhance interiors with light, texture and dynamic visual content. At Jones Lang LaSalle's new Moscow office, for example, Philips luminous textile panels covered with Kvadrat Soft Cells' sound-absorbing cloth are arranged on the ceiling in the reception area.
"This helps to underscore the company's image by adding dynamic content to the reception zone and leaves a lasting impression on clients," says Ksenia Agapova, the company's head of environmental innovations section.
My desk light is tweeting…?
We are only scratching the surface of the possibilities created by the digitization of light. New systems like the ones pioneered by Philips will enable environments to dynamically respond to employees and facility managers' needs, boosting the sustainability, productivity and desirability of a space.
In tomorrow's world the interchange of data will be replaced by the interchange of meaningful, relevant information. We will work in office environments that intuitively "understand" our needs by leveraging data from a variety of sources and deliver appropriate responses. New lighting devices could send an automatic tweet to our building manager or simply brighten our mood. And, it will do all this at far less cost to the environment.
So, while there is little in our "futuristic" story which might have surprised Jim, much of what is yet to come certainly will.