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Should Your Next Smart Building Be In The Virtual World?

With a growing number of organizations adopting hybrid and remote working, firms have begun testing innovative collaboration technologies to digitally replicate real-world workplaces. For example in 2020, traders at banking firm UBS trialled Microsoft's HoloLens to support remote working with 3D holograms of trading desks and real-time financial data. Meanwhile, Air France is testing out VR technology from Glue to improve collaboration across its dispersed employees.

Virtual workplaces are a nascent but rapidly emerging category of collaboration technology that aims to bring the experience of real-world offices to remote workers. It includes VR-hosted workspaces that employees can experience on VR headsets from vendors such as Glue and Immerse. It also covers simpler desktop-based solutions that provide 2D visualizations of offices alongside collaboration tools such as video conferencing or virtual whiteboards. For example, Gather Town enables employees to move a digital avatar around a 2D workplace, then easily join virtual meetings and conversations between colleagues. Virtual shared spaces, known as the Metaverse, are also emerging in the online gaming sector, with the rise of games such as Minecraft and Roblox.

As corporate real estate executives rethink their office portfolios, should they start planning for future offices to be hosted in virtual spaces? As the technology remains nascent (and expensive if dependent on a VR headset), we recommend that real estate managers closely track the development of this technology and invest when it becomes more battle-tested and refined. Firms looking to take a pioneering role in virtual workspaces should get involved in pilot projects straight away, with the strongest use cases being collaboration and training. Co-working firms should explore whether they can launch virtual workspace-as-a-service offerings as tenants move towards hybrid working.

For deeper insights into the new generation of smart workplace technology emerging to enhance agile and hybrid working, join our upcoming webinar Smart Technology For The Hybrid Workplace.

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Susan Clarke

Research Director, Smart Buildings, Verdantix
Verdantix
Verdantix

Susan leads the Verdantix Smart Buildings practice. Her current research agenda focuses on software solutions for real estate management including integrated workplace management systems and IoT platforms for buildings. Her research expertise also includes a broad range of energy management technologies and energy services. Susan has eight years of experience in technology research. She holds a MSc from the University of London in Sustainable Development.