Vodafone HQ's forward-thinking Innovation Team are always dreaming up new ways to work. But how could Google Glass change office life forever?

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We’ve seen the future. Our first look at the tech ticking away behind the scenes at Vodafone HQ revealed some seriously smart eco-friendliness, but it’s only left us with a hunger for more.

As such, we’ve been back for another chat with Brendan Ludden from Vodafone’s Innovation Team, to eke out some more info on what’s on the horizon for office life, both here in HQ and in the wider world. The good news? There’s some pretty exciting stuff in the works…

Data done differently

“We’ve got a lot of skunkworks going on,” says Brendan as he flicks through reams of files, slides and projects on his laptop. Last time, he told us about how the buildings that make up the Vodafone HQ campus all use clever monitoring tactics to keep on top of its energy usage, but this time we’re talking about people.

While we know that Brendan’s team can see how many people are where within the campus, how that can help the staff?

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“The idea is that there’s someone who’s in charge of an estate,” he says. “With this technology, they can see, at a glance, how many people are on campus every day.” And that means you can make snap decisions based on where’s busy and where’s not: “If the occupancy is higher than normal, we’ll be able to see. We can also see people entering and leaving, and which floors everybody’s on.”

 

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Ok, so that’s the basics, but outside of occupancy, things start to get cool. Brendan’s team have been working on a mobile app that lets maintenance managers and security guards alike keep in touch, stay safe and streamline their work.

“The app gives these members of the team a codename and a log in. What they see on the first screen, in real-time, is where they all are within the campus. Their initial view is of the buildings as a whole, but they can drill down into specific floor plans.”

“We could simulate an incident and they could chase a virtual burglar around the campus.”

Brendan tells us to imagine it a bit like Pac-Man, or a game of cops and robbers. “In fact, when first testing it, we had the idea to make a game out of it. For example we could simulate an incident and they could chase a virtual burglar around the campus. We thought it could combine training with something fun that would help pass the time late at night. They thought we were nuts!”

That’s cool, but in real life use? Things are more straightforward and a lot more useful:

“The app allows staff to manage different areas and to call a colleague. File reporting allows them to log an issue,” Brendan adds. “Maintenance staff can go onto a screen that auto-populates who they are with the date, time and location, then on the next screen they can enter text, take a picture or record an audio file. There’s also a drop-down field for the type of issue, and then it’s automatically uploaded to the property helpdesk, who can then get the issue resolved.

“The great thing is that it should remove the pain for them. The supervisor view has a staff locator and a record of all the issue logs, which lets them manage faults and put people onto them more quickly.”

AR maintenance and Google Glass

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It’s this integration of people, maintenance and occupancy that’s really got Brendan excited. And, while monitoring all of these areas on a mobile device makes things easier, he sees one tech development in the pipeline that could be a total game changer.

“Once you’ve got the data sorted, you can start to do interesting things with it – once the information’s there it can be rendered in a variety of ways.” And that’s where Google Glass – the pioneering augmented reality (AR) headset – could pave the way.

“One of our team members wants to get hold of one of the Google Glass headsets, so that we can program a tool that lets them walk round and look at all the data we collect in real-time. And it’ll all be in front of you.”

 

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“It’s the same information,” he says, “just displayed in a more ‘Minority Report’ kind of way.” The idea would be for staff on the ground to see faults and potential overcrowding without the need for a phone, tablet or computer. Broken tap? The logged issue, with image and audio, would hover over that specific tap in your field of vision.

“You’d just put on your headset and walk around the campus.”

“That way, you don’t even need to have a mobile device on you – you just put on your headset, walk around the campus and you can see the occupancy and maintenance issues projected over the areas. That’d be so cool,” Brendan adds, “ to just walk around and spotting issues as they prop up.”

And the best bit is, that kind of technology could be beneficial to more than just Vodafone’s technical staff:

“Imagine if everyone had a Google Glass headset,” Brendan says. “You could choose where to work within the campus just by looking around as you arrive, before you get to the building. You could say ‘oh, that bit’s busy today, I’ll go elsewhere’.”

Wishful future-gazing? Maybe not: Google Glass is set for a wider release later this year, so we’ll just have to see what Brendan’s team can dream up. Meanwhile, click here for a look at how closely monitoring Vodafone HQ is making us smarter and greener.