One hundred years ago, Berlin was the Silicon Valley of its time. It was known as Elektropolis because of the profusion of electrical gadgets being invented and developed by Siemens and AEG, which were both rooted in the city. The electric tram and electric lifts were two inventions that originated there.
The damage caused by the Second World War and the consequent break-up of Germany saw its technical innovation decline as the city sucked in its stomach and pulled its belt tight during economic strife.
Many cities are beginning to take on the moniker of ‘Tech Hub of the World’, but one shouldn’t count Berlin out so quickly.
Fast-forward to 2017, and innovation is booming for the German capital. It has the fastest-growing start-up ecosystem in the world, receiving some of the largest venture capital investment in Europe.
Since the demolition of the wall in 1989, Berlin has been reinventing itself to contend with some of the biggest giants of technology innovation, providing great opportunities for entrepreneurs and companies.
No surprise, then, that Konica Minolta opted to host the unveiling of its new business Workspace Hub in the urban confines of the city. The Japanese tech firm has partnered with Microsoft, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Sophos, Canonical and BrainTribe to launch an all-in-one central hub designed to simplify IT for businesses across the globe.
According to Konica Minolta, Workplace Hub drives efficiencies by reducing the overall costs of IT management and service provision, and providing real-time data-driven insights that help to improve business processes.
By creating an ecosystem to and coordinate the entire IT infrastructure and services across existing and future IT systems, devices and services, Workplace Hub provides users with a central dashboard showing 360-degree visibility of IT usage patterns across the whole business, allowing for simple management and optimisation of systems.
In the spotlight
As part of Konica Minolta’s Spotlight Live launch event, held on 23 March, a panel of innovators and trailblazers discussed what future offices might look like and exactly how business owners can capitalise on these new opportunities to grow their business.
During the discussion, Belinda Parmar OBE, CEO of Empathy, emphasised that innovation isn’t passive, and successful business leaders must be proactive to take advantage.
‘Leaders of all businesses need to take ownership of their data and take steps to move into this new world of technology, not just because some of the technology in the world is incredible, but because these opportunities are designed to make your life easier,’ Parmar said.
‘Why wouldn’t you use a piece of tech that can streamline your scheduling process in real time? Or a central communication tool for all your staff so that even remote workers can remain in the loop?’
She continued, ‘I think it is key for every staff member in a business to have a common goal that they are all working for, and it really is vital for you to make that journey as easy and simple as possible. Taking hold of that initiative and giving your staff the knowledge and power to use new technology can take your business to places you never thought you would be.’
While there are obvious issues in businesses that rely on new technology to carry them forward, the main problem companies face is a lack of skills to actually utilise data and help them benefit from the information.
‘A major focus for business owners should be to make sure that your staff are capable of harnessing this power,’ said Parmar. ‘The big issue is about skills, and whether we, as a society, are ready to step into this world of interconnectivity. My advice would be to think about how you recruit and the current skills that business owners and employees have, and to retrain, because the power of big data and new tech is really useful.’
The inner child
Arthur Mamou-Mani, an award-winning architect and lecturer at the University of Westminster, was presented on the panel as an example of a business owner who uses artificial intelligence and 3D printing to augment his designs into unexpected results. He said the main challenge, particularly in the design industry, is to use an inherently uncreative robot to design creative patterns.
‘In many ways, dealing with technology in the office, particularly AI, is like dealing with a child,’ Mamou-Mani said. ‘To help guide this intelligence, I will instil in it early on a set of values or parameters, and hope that it will take on these values and that they will be wired in its brain when I set it on a task. And just like a child, the response that you can get from machines can be a welcome surprise and can inspire you to push the boundaries of what you think is possible.
‘The notion that technology can surprise you is something that should inspire business owners and not be a cause for fear. You can get some extremely unexpected results, and it can be an incredibly enlightening experience to watch this AI grow and develop alongside your company ideals.
‘There is a fear from some businesses that technology can’t help them. That is simply not the case, and I really encourage businesses to take advantage of this period when humans are still finding their feet amongst machines.’
When discussing the merits of what Workspace Hub can offer businesses, Dennis Curry, senior director of business innovation and R&D at Konica Minolta, supported this view, saying that businesses need to be ‘more accommodating’ to employees who use technology in their organisation.
For example, if employees want to set up a meeting, the business should make that process easier by providing data and analytics on conference rooms and using scheduling technology and social interaction to streamline the process.
‘There might be someone who needs to connect remotely because they can’t get to work, but there are loads of options for people to connect that give them the power to interact from all over the world and track worker progress,’ said Curry.