Working remotely has been a dream for many professionals in the technology sector since the Web took off in the early ‘90s. However, it technology a couple of decades to catch up to this dream. Now professionals in a wide range of fields ranging from graphic design to software development are working from home and managing their schedules while freeing companies from overhead costs (thus capital expenditures) in their recruitment & hiring efforts.
The benefits are enormous for both employees and employers alike. However, the field continues to expand in scope as technology grows and start-ups are offering unique ways for workers to collaborate. There are more remote technical opportunities than ever today through various Web technologies and software/hardware advancements.
Teleconferening Opportunities Continue to Expand with the Cloud
An example of such advancements making this possible is companies holding Google Hangout meetings that include both on-site and remote workers collaborating on a project together, editing the project, and seeing their changes tracked in real time. Google Docs is being followed by other cloud collaborative software such as Adobe’s (Creative Cloud), Microsoft’s (Office), and Apple’s (iWork) suites. Each are implementing collaboration with on-demand editing and real time publishing.
Another example of advancements being made in the field of telecommunications, in terms of working remotely, is video conferencing. Various services are currently available ranging from Skype to again Google Hangout that bring the employers to the office space from across the globe. The technology has advanced to this stage due to widespread and far-ranging broadband adoption; this is combined with software that allows synchronous communication with non existent or close to non existent network packet loss.
Today’s collaborative software allows work to be much more efficient than one person sitting in front of their desk at work and e-mailing revisions around the office while waiting for feedback and multiple documents being shuffled around e-mail attachments, as it used to be the case. These are just some examples of the technologies employers and employees alike have at their disposal today through telecommunication and broadband Internet accessmbeimg widespread. It took years for the broadband access to be able to support such infrastructures and Silicon Valley has also paved the way through software for the dream to become a reality.
Hardware Solutions for Remote Workers
Software is continually being refined with cloud integration, SaaS and storage solutions such as Dropbox that allow users to share files between one another. However, more-efficient hardware is also making remote work easier than ever today. One hardware-based integration with teleconferencing software is robotics with cameras attached to an on-wheels chassis.
A remote worker can feel as if they are sitting at the office with co-workers and interact with them, but in reality they are sitting at home physically, and simply using a keyboard or tablet to move a robot around. They can see each co worker with a camera attached to the robot that transmits dat in real time over the Internet and participate in discussions. The tech described here is a telepresence robot called “EmBot” from Double Robotics and includes an iPad screen and a Segway-like base for movement.
A Wired feature titled, ”My Life As A Robot” delves into this advancing technology with a personalized account of one person’s journey of sitting at home physically, but virtually moving around an office space full of people. The tech described here is a telepresence robot or “EmBot” from Double Robotics and includes an iPad screen and a Segway-like base for movement.
When describing what it feels like being a walking and talking person inside an office space, Emily Dreyfuss says, ”I feel like a dog, the recipient of gawking smiles that say, Awwww, you’re so adorably unable to take care of yourself. But, most importantly, I am surprised to find that being a robot is delightful. It’s thrilling. I am in the office! There is the kitchen! There is Sam! Hi, everyone! I am here!”
This is a technology that is bridging the gap between being able to express body language, gestures and other non-verbal means of communications that has been the roadblock impossible to replicate virtually until now. It still is in its infancy, but as iPads or other tablets advance alongside camera software and 4G/wifi coverage; it will only improve.
There are obviously a lot of hurdles to overcome with this technology before it really reaches the mainstream in remote workforces — including functionality and some latency issues that still arise as networks get clogged with users and fiber optics aren’t widespread yet. There really needs to be user input of 1:1 for this to function efficiently with minimal ping or pocket loss in terms of latency. However, this is just one example of how companies of today and tomorrow are becoming ever more remote in functionality.
This is a technology that is bridging the gap between workers being in different parts of the globe, but feeling physically present at the location of their companies. It will never be the same as someone physically present at a location who is able to express body language, gestures and other non-verbal means of communications, with the possible exception of virtual reality technologies that are also making headways. As fiber optics and 4G coverage continues to improve we will see strides in virtual reality used by workplaces as well.
Startups Paving the Way
Startups have been the places to look for what we can see in remote work possibilities and software remote workers can take advantage of. This is because many start ups have lower marginal earnings and rely on remote workers and telecommunications rather than having big offfice spaces that can fill many workers. Often, when these start ups create a great product that can be used by bigger firms for remote work or other possibilities, they get acquired or bought out by the bigger firms in the long run.
We can look at what sorts of directions these start-up companies are going — thus predict trends — as well as see their influence on bigger firms, both through ideas and acquisitions, by looking at the mobile app space. Apps for tablets and smartphones are really where many start-up technologird make their presence felt before really focusing on enterprise markets.
There are now various database software infrastructures that allow employees to edit projects, comment on others, collaborate and communicate directly with their peers from one database. This field is also improving with mobile devices being ever more integrated.
Startups have accelerated these options through ever more competitive price points of entry for other startups or companies to utilize and leverage. The end result is that companies from the Silicon Valley seize on these trends or opportunities and often end acquiring the start ups or their technology to focus more on the B2B side of the equation. This means, however, that all workers from those who freelance to those employed by bigger firms can benefit from collaborative and telecommuting software.
The technology has advanced to this stage due to widespread and far-ranging broadband adoption; this is combined with software that allows synchronous communication with non existent or close to non existent network packet loss. However, there are still hurdles that need to be overcome as highlighted in the Wired feature about the Segway-like EmBot on wheels chassis and user input using such hardware not being yet up to par with the vision.