Augmented Connected Workforce: Revolutionizing Remote Collaboration in Web Development (Or Not?)

Augmented Connected Workforce: Revolutionizing Remote Collaboration in Web Development (Or Not?)

So, Gartner has predicted the trends to watch out for in 2024. Us, being very fancy and self-important, decided: “Hey, let’s take a look at these trends, and say if they are yay or nay.

Today, we’ll examine an augmented connected workplace…or remote work environment, as we know it. 

Will it change significantly in 2024, or will it be more similar? Let’s find out!

As always, you can check out our previous articles in this “Gartner series” here:

The Remote Work Pillars: How Do They Map to the Augmented Workplace?

So, let’s look at some of the pillars, in my opinion, of remote work and their state at the time of writing. Are they viable NOW? Will they be feasible IN THE FUTURE? Let’s take a look. 

Remote Collaboration Tools

This is a fancy name for the apps we have become all too familiar with since 2020. Zoom, Miro, Google Workspace, Teams – your choice. They are basically the best approximation of office experience we can do on a flat screen – you have your meetings, whiteboards, document collaboration, and the works. 

Example products

  • Zoom: Video conferencing platform with features like virtual breakout rooms and screen sharing
  • Miro: Virtual whiteboarding and collaboration tool
  • Google Workspace: Suite of collaboration tools, including Google Docs for real-time document editing

Example implementation and benefits

If you’re reading this, I hope you’re our target audience (if not, our marketing team is for a rough conversation). So, the example would be redundant here as you are already familiar with the procedures we use these things for. 

Things like organizing meetings, exchanging documents, and ensuring everyone is on the same page. The main upside here—over things like email—is immediacy. Thus, it certainly streamlines the working process in a remote setting that still may feel clunky to some. 

Viability assessment

Remote collaboration tools are already widely adopted and have proven essential for remote work. The demand for these tools will only grow as remote and hybrid work models continue to prevail.

Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR)

AR and VR technologies create immersive experiences by overlaying digital information in the real world (AR) or creating entirely virtual environments (VR). These technologies enable remote teams to collaborate, train, and troubleshoot in previously impossible ways.

So, in a sense, this is a logical continuation of the previous tech for remote work, erasing the gap between home and office even further…with the maybe unfortunate downside that you can’t just mute and turn off your cam during meetings anymore. 

Example products

  • Microsoft HoloLens: AR headset for immersive remote collaboration and training
  • Oculus Quest: VR headset for virtual meetings and interactive design reviews
  • Vuforia: AR platform for creating immersive experiences on mobile devices

Example implementation and benefits

Here, we’re talking primarily about office implementation, so examples of companies using VR and AR headsets to train employees to operate heavy machinery probably don’t count. 

So, what can we use it for in the good ol’ white-collar world? Mark Zuckerberg hopes Metaverse will kick in and, with it, the world of polygonal corporate Disneyworld, I suppose. 

I asked my trusty LLM AI for ideas, and it dished out some dodgy examples of “visualizing data in a 3D environment to increase worker’s efficiency.” Eeeeeh. 🤷

Viability assessment

I can’t imagine buying 30 Apple VR headsets at $3,000 a pop just to see Excel sheets fly through the office space, but I don’t know. If we’re talking explicitly about a white-collar environment with no XR-adjacent development, I don’t see a viable use case for this tech right now…at least not at the price you’d be willing to pay. 

Internet of Things (IoT) and Wearables

One day, someone woke up and thought, “What if the fridge but…Internet?” And—lo—the world of IoT is upon us. 

IoTs are everyday devices enhanced via software implementation and connection to the Internet. They allow you, for example, to track and record desirable metrics over time. 

Example products

  • Fitbit: Smartwatch that tracks activity, sleep, and heart rate
  • RealWear HMT-1: Industrial-grade AR wearable for hands-free remote support
  • Residential IoT, or “Smart Home,” is a level of devices that monitor temperature, air quality, and occupancy and adjust these things for maximum efficiency. 

Example implementation and benefits

An office can set up many sensors throughout their premises to control things like HVAC or the level and frequency of occupation of specific rooms and areas. 

Knowing each area’s precise condition and population density helps the company save money, as it won’t have to ventilate or clean frequently barren places unnecessarily. 

Another dystopian example is wearing wearables akin to Fitbit to monitor employees’ physical and emotional health through metrics such as heart rate, blood pressure, etc. Understanding the overall fitness level of one’s employees can guide you toward implementing preventative care programs to keep your workers productive. But I sincerely hope we won’t do this. 

Viability assessment

So, the general issue with IoT is that it’s at odds with the trajectory of the current remote work paradigm solidifying. It’s either a full remote or hybrid model, and I see full on-site positions even less and less. With such a predicament, I don’t think the majority will be that interested or compelled to invest in these IoT solutions. 

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning

If we talk about these topics enough, we’ll all be AI experts sooner rather than later. But yeah, the gist here is that all kinds of tools, like ChatGPT and DALL-E, and old tools, are getting a new life through AI implementation (like Grammarly and Notion).

This is the category of apps that helps do the thinking for us, “freeing up resources” for more meaningful output. 

Example products

  • Microsoft Power BI: AI-powered business intelligence and data visualization
  • Amazon Lex: Conversational AI for chatbots and voice interfaces
  • Grammarly: AI-powered writing assistant
  • ChatGPT: you know who that is 😉

Example implementation and benefits

Last week, I needed to make an internal presentation.

I knew what had to be in there. I had the numbers, I had the idea, but I was just feeling quite meh about stringing it all together into a cohesive presentation.

So, I asked ChatGPT to create tables from the numbers I gave it and also condense my ramblings into short, biting text.

I then asked it to reconstruct it all as PowerPoint slides and then write me a Visual Basic script to autocompile that presentation

Need I say more? What would have taken an office worker a few hours in the years past now was a casual hour or two. 

The best worker is the lazy one, and, boy, does AI let us be as lazy as we can be. 

Viability assessment

Everyone and their mother is trying to get in on that AI action, and—in my humble opinion—they’re right on the money for doing that. 

Sure, some skeptics will tout that this is yet another fad like NFTs or 3D TVs! But, I do think that generative AI is an office worker’s dream, as it streamlines all the things we all sincerely hate about this line of work. 

Addressing Challenges and Concerns

While implementing an Augmented Connected Workforce offers numerous benefits, it also comes with challenges and concerns. We must know these potential obstacles and develop strategies to address them.

Cybersecurity and data privacy considerations

  • Challenge: Remote work and the use of connected devices increase the attack surface and the risk of data breaches
  • Solution: Implement robust cybersecurity measures, such as:
    • Encrypting data in transit and at rest
    • Enforcing multi-factor authentication and strong password policies
    • Regularly updating software and firmware to patch vulnerabilities
    • Conducting security audits and penetration testing
    • Providing cybersecurity training to employees

Integration with existing systems and workflows

  • Challenge: Integrating new technologies and tools with legacy systems and established workflows can be complex and time-consuming
  • Solution: Develop a phased integration plan that includes:
    • Assessing current systems and identifying integration points
    • Prioritizing the most critical and valuable integrations
    • Conducting pilot projects to test and refine the integration process
    • Providing training and support to employees during the transition
    • Continuously monitoring and optimizing the integrated systems

Training and adoption strategies for your development team

  • Challenge: Ensuring that team members are proficient in using new tools and technologies can be challenging, especially in a remote work environment
  • Solution: Implement a comprehensive training and adoption strategy that includes:
    • Providing online training courses and workshops
    • Assigning mentors to guide and support team members
    • Encouraging knowledge sharing and collaboration through virtual communities of practice
    • Recognizing and rewarding employees who demonstrate proficiency and leadership in adopting new technologies
    • Regularly gathering feedback and addressing any concerns or challenges faced by the team

Conclusion

So, to sum up, what’s Gartner’s take on this?

  • Remote tools: already there
  • AR/VR/MR: meh
  • IoT: not happening
  • AI: yes, yes, yes!

As such, I feel there is insufficient merit to call whatever’s opening “augmented connected workforce” unless you love fancy formulations.

At best, I think what will change the most are the tools we already work with – Slack, Teams, etc. These will undoubtedly become even more potent thanks to AI augmentation. Still, I do think that 2024 is NOT the year when we will be seeing IoT and VR becoming meaningful accompaniments in the office scape.