Last year, Konica Minolta launched a new portfolio called “Workplace of the Future,™” which integrates existing solutions with new technologies from Konica Minolta’s Business Innovation Center in Silicon Valley. As a founding member of this practice, I have had the opportunity to become fully immersed in the trends and opportunities in the connected office sector through conversations with 75+ startup leaders, extensive industry research, and an active presence at industry conferences.
By understanding the evolution of the Workplace of the Future, we at Konica Minolta can better understand the technology landscape that impacts our core business and that of our customers. Here are five trends that I have identified:
Collaboration. Collaboration. Collaboration. 2017 is going to be a battle for market share in the collaboration space. From enterprise messaging solutions to video conferencing, collaboration will be on top of every organization’s list. In the enterprise space, startups like Slack are going head to head with Microsoft’s Teams and Facebook’s Workplace. In the video conferencing space, new startups such as BlueJeans, Highfive and Pluot will face the likes of Polycom and Cisco’s Telepresence. It is unlikely that there will be consolidation in this space, but certain companies or startups will really start being market leaders (some already are). According to Markets and Markets, Unified Communication as a Service (UCaaS) which includes telephone, unified messaging, and conferencing is estimated to grow from $17.4B in 2016 to 28.7B by 2021. That is a 10.6% CAGR.
Artificial Intelligence (AI). AI has been a focus for a couple of decades with hyped-up peaks and dismal troughs (i.e. AI winters – yes, this is an actual term). In my opinion, we have finally reached a point where AI companies have the right technology, data and use cases to become a multi-billion-dollar industry. AI companies are going to start solving small, day-to-day tasks and, over time, build out complex algorithms to tackle more complex tasks. In the workplace, AI can help small things like schedule meetings plus do more complex things like automate customer service. Similar to the trend in the collaboration space, larger companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple will be going against smaller AI companies such as Sentient, X.ai , and Clarifai. According to Markets and Markets, the AI space is expected to be worth $16.1B by 2022, growing at a 63% CAGR from 2016.
Augmented Reality & Virtual Reality. Another hyped-up industry that is taking off is Augmented Reality. Consumers are getting more comfortable with Virtual Reality (VR) through Samsung Gear VR, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, etc., and businesses are getting more comfortable with Augmented Reality (AR). The use cases for AR include allowing a customer to fix hardware in real time if a technician is not available to placing furniture in a person’s house during the design phase. Even education and training can be made interactive. One of the challenges with AR/VR is the high cost of the hardware equipment; however, these costs are falling so it is just a matter of time before we see cheaper hardware components. It will be exciting to see which companies emerge as leaders in this space.
Drones. Over the past two to three years, drones have really taken off (no pun intended.) Both consumer and enterprise drones have been developing over the past few years. In 2017, we will see more business use cases and, in fact, consumers will start using drones for enterprise / commercial uses and get paid. Just this year, Dronebase, a company that pays pilots for specific aerial footage, has raised close to $7 million from venture capitalists. Personal drones can be used to scout agricultural land, record video footage of oil rigs, take photos of underground pipelines and panoramic videos of real estate. We will see more of this phenomenon in 2017, where consumers who own drones will be able to offer their services to organizations. According to Markets and Markets, the drone market will be worth $21.2B by 2022, growing at a CAGR of 20% from 2016.
Strategic Partnerships. This is not an industry per say, but an important trend that I predict will happen this year. 2017 will be the year to forge new strategic partnerships. In fact, startups that partner with strategic corporate players in various industries are going to be the clear winners. We live in a globalized world, and if your company or startup cannot play nice with others, it will be very hard to succeed. At the same time, partnerships need to be mutual and not one-sided. Both parties need to work together, respect each others cultures and, at the end of the day, have a great time working with each other. Be mindful of whom you partner with, and to those companies partnering with startups, be respectful of their time and resources.
2017 will be a year of growth for new technologies and services for the workplace. We will see new innovations come about with new use cases. Are you ready for future office transformation? If you are interested in transforming your office into the future OR if you are a startup in the Workplace of the Future space, reach out to me at: email@example.com
Ali Sheikh is a member of Konica Minolta’s Business Innovation Center, located in Foster City, CA. He is focused on our Workplace of the Future™ portolio. Previously, he was on Cisco’s Venture Investment team covering the Internet of Things. Prior to that, he spent time at a startup in Silicon Valley. He graduated from the University of Chicago and started his career in investment banking with Morgan Stanley.