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Inside the headquarters of networking giant Cisco in San Jose, California, lies a technology showcase where executives can test out advanced technologies like high-definition videoconferencing, a digital avatar named Halie who researches spoken questions, and even a concept dashboard for a car whose mechanical and entertainment systems are fully Internet-connected.

It’s called the “executive technology experience room,” and the man behind it is David Evans, the company’s chief futurist and chief technology officer of its Internet business solutions group. Evans, who built many of the demonstration systems on display and now advises clients on how new technologies could help their businesses, spoke with Technology Review about how these advances could boost worker productivity.

TR: The technology we use at work is changing very quickly. What is the biggest force you see today?

Evans: I think it comes down to us not really needing to go to the office anymore—all our work and connections can come to us, wherever we are. There’s a perfect technology storm of reliable wireless connections and new forms of hardware. I just got my Cisco Cius tablet.  Tablet technology has the potential to revolutionize enterprise collaboration and communications.  It means you can take your full desktop and videoconferencing anywhere, and you are never away from your desk phone number. It can give you a full keyboard-and-screen experience, too. We will see a lot more devices like that in the workplace.

Can these new mobile devices really displace a traditional computer with screen and keyboard?

Laptops aren’t going to go away, but I think we’re going to see more classification of workers, and some people just won’t need them. For some people, just having a smart phone might be enough. I think it will be job-specific.

Will the technology in these devices evolve to be used elsewhere in the workplace?

The multitouch screens will. I think every surface is going to become an interactive display, and you’ll see that multitouch capability we know from the iPad absolutely everywhere. One example is a technology for LCD displays where every fourth pixel is a camera, so you have a display with hundreds of cameras inside. You can put your business card down on something like that to scan, and in real time it could look up a person on Facebook and get all kinds of information. We made a demonstration using Microsoft’s Surface, a multitouch table, showing it can do things like recognize pill bottles and give advice about your medication.

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Credit: Courtesy of Cisco
Video by Tom Simonite, edited by Robert Brilliant

Tagged: Business, Business Impact, The Future of the Office

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