The pervasive nature of robotics combined with new developments in Artificial Intelligence (AI), has thrown open doors to endless possibilities, especially in business. There are many discussions about robots, their uses, and limitations. In fact, robots have recently been embroiled in an international debate surrounding their right to be called a ‘citizen’ after Saudi Arabia granted citizenship to ‘Sophia’- a social robot that uses artificial intelligence to see and interact with people, thus giving her the ability to understand conversations and form relationships, as per creator Hanson Robotics.
When one thinks about this, it is absolutely amazing! The day is not far when ‘robot citizens’ will become mainstream and robots like Sophia, will become a reality in the offices of the future. Companies are already looking at ways to introduce robotics and cognitive automation at work to create a more efficient workplace. New market predictions also forecast robots will take over millions of jobs worldwide in the next decade alone. One may even say that robots will become an integral part of the next generation office spaces.
Although pure conjecture at this point, one wonders what the office of the future would be like? Will floor managers have to create ‘robot friendly’ workstations? Will robots really take over the conventional office work? Will there be exclusive policies governing ‘robot coworkers?’ It is certainly intriguing; the possibility that man and machine will work together to deliver quick and efficient solutions. It also explains the sudden but steady interest in robotics and the workplace. While possibilities are limitless, few functional areas that robots will shape the CRE landscape include:
Robot Colleagues: when computers first become commonplace in offices, it enabled people to free up time to pursue alternate goals. With the introduction of robots at workplace, a similar effect will be seen. While robots will sort, analyse and execute complex solutions, while people can focus on applications of creativity, empathy, imagination and out of the box thinking. Of course, the one decided fallout of any technological advancement, is that humans will have to re-skill to adapt to the change.
Future Ready Workspaces: Smart workplaces are becoming the norm; with the introduction of artificial intelligence in the mix companies are rethinking their business strategies, their workforce needs and their real estate requirements. Selection of workplace is going beyond traditional physical requirement to accommodate flexibility and accessibility to the talent pool. Companies are balancing their core space requirements with greater flexible spaces and also analysing their requirement over multiple micro and macro influencing factors like traffic, crime rates, pollution, and political stability among others, which previously would have taken inordinately long periods of time to gather and analyse. All these factors are equally given preference when making real estate decisions. These factors can hence be integrated with portfolio data points, such as rental rates, lease expirations and market trends, to design dynamic portfolio strategies and help anticipate future course of business.
The Man and Machine Alliance: The future ‘employee’ is a result of careful consideration, with cognitive automation, the expectation from the workforce is that it is diverse bearing a unique set of skills that promotes innovation. Today, machines aid in delivering results, following and executing orders, but in the future, machines might determine the quality of the workforce itself.
The synergy between man and machine will certainly change the pace of progress. Not just the workforce, the nature of offices and investment will also witness a dramatic change. In one Greek philosopher’s words “Change is the only constant”- that being the case, adoption of technology is what will keep us from becoming redundant.