The Way we Work. Part 1. Morning with my pod


Posted on: July 4, 2012 by Rob Price

I call it the Tardis. My bigger-on-the-inside-than-the-outside journey through time and space. Mostly I use it for work. Sometimes for play. Sometimes for just drifting off into another place. Last week the kids came in and we watched the sunset1 in Hawaii. We were there – immersed in that near physical experience. We saw it. We smelled the sea. We felt the heat. We touched the palms. We just didn’t go anywhere to do it, other than my own personal tardis – my pod.

The Pod

The pod itself sits in the house. In the room that we once called the study. It is smaller than a 3m cube, a little bigger than the original tardis. Most people have their work pod at home now, though there are still the pod farms for those that don’t. From the inside each pod is simple – four walls, a ceiling and a floor – all white. The floor moulds itself2 to suit the need at the time – one minute a chair, and maybe a table, the next nothing. Each and every surface is an interactive display.3

Social hangout

My day at work isn’t like the day at work used to be. My Dad tells me of the hours spent commuting. I just get up, shower, eat breakfast and wander into the pod. I like to spend the first few minutes on the train – a kind of retro social hangout with fellow workers. I pick a different route every day, watching the scenery fly by the windows - distant countries that we so rarely physically experience now that we can be there so easily in the pod.

Daily tasks

After catching up, it’s down to business. The train dissolves to be replaced by my jobs for the day. First up, approve some expenses from the team. It takes no time, each set appearing automated briefly in front of me before I push it into the appropriate place with a gesture supplemented by spoken comments4. Similarly purchase requests, holiday approvals, time booking approval – no time at all, my hands flying across the primary surface in front of me whilst I provide the commentary of the daily tasks. 5

Avatar anonymised

As I finish a call comes in from a colleague, James. I accept it, at which point the train disappears, and we find ourselves sitting outside a café in Amsterdam. It’s the default meeting place for my calls with James. Within the pod, you can configure how you appear to others as they configure how they appear to you. Your avatar can be representative of you, or if there are reasons, anonymised. We’ve been collaborating on a project together for some time, and so my avatar is using an image of my actual face, and overlaying my facial expressions6. The shirt I threw on first thing clashes with the café awning today so I quickly whizz through my wardrobe and change it instantly. We then look at our project – a section of a secondary wall displaying the detail of some code we had created together. We’ve got a problem.

Collaboration and peer reviews

Still at an impasse, we open the room to others and move to a lecture theatre for more space. Others start to join, having spotted the open room and headline problem definition from the job boards. Some we recognise – regular collaborators – some of whom we’ve even met in reality. Many we don’t, hidden behind their virtual disguise. It doesn’t matter. We need to fix the problem, and we know that here are a bunch of qualified people who are keen to contribute and solve. Any collaboration like this has a financial benefit of course. Peer review7 continually assesses contribution, and any of us can donate credits8 to recognise particular insight or solutions.

An hour in and the collaboration storm is raging. This isn’t just about thinking. This is about Think – Do – Play9. Every change, every solution that is suggested we can decide to create, and then introduce into the experience of the session itself. We want to smell the coffee, we keep going until we smell it! We crack on until I remember I’ve got a clashing session at 11 am, an important meeting with a client.

I instantly switch to a more formal attire, white collar, grey tie, conventional suit and find myself in a board room in London. It looks like the 19th century, wooden panels, smog outside, I can even see horse-drawn carriages down in the street. Not my choice, but I am meeting a client from a legal firm who likes to play the stereotype. We are talking about the necessity of legally submissive records from our new ways of working10. I can’t see the issue personally.

 Automatically recorded, searchable,  semantic analysis

Everything in the pod is automatically recorded. Everything is searchable, subject to the permissions of the individual. The legal audit trail is gained by semantic analysis of the information available, based on the question that is asked. And that, I guess, is the nub. How can you prove that the wording of the question, and, therefore, the automated semantic search (of all written and video content) surfaces all the artifacts with all the right linkages in all the right chronological order? For me, it’s all legalese. I just stick by everything is stored with no intervention by the user, everything is recoverable when needed. No one has prevented that from happening yet (at least they haven’t announced it, and it hasn’t been reported) – but they say that ultimately anything can be hacked, anything could be compromised.

Emerge from the pod for lunch

After that, it’s time for a snack. I emerge from the pod briefly to grab lunch. This isn’t Star Trek you know, no “replicators” yet. I lazily grab a pork pie, one of those with  egg in the middle10, and perch myself on the moulded edge of the top of the Grand Canyon, my feet dangling as I would surely never dare if I were actually there. I suddenly feel rather out of place with the suit still on, so flip to shorts and a fantastically outlandish Hawaiian shirt.

With the sense of the arid landscape and the touch of the wind, it’s time to catch up with what is happening in my world… something I still prefer to do on Flipboard on my iPad VIII.

… to be continued…

This is all based on today’s technology, today’s experiences… just moved forward a little

1. This happened in 2012. A friend watched the sunset in Skyrim with his kids.

2. How different is that to those pins that match the contour of your face or hands

3. Fabric display system provides interactive experience

4a. - Minority Report

4b. - Kinect

5. Based on Atos Zero Email daily tasks

6. Google Patents

7. As already in Atos Scientific Community

8. Many existing social and websites

9. Evolved Agile approach

10. Legal audit trails and questions always raised around Enterprise Social Network, Collaboration, evolved IP decisions, crowdsourcing etc.

11. UK Yahoo Answers

More information about Atos Solutions Bring your own, click here.

Picture is from AntToeKnee's

Continue Reading: The Way we Work - Part 2

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About Rob Price

COO for Worldline UK&I and member of the Scientific Community
Rob is COO for Worldline UK&I, the European leader in the payment and transactional services industry. He was previously Head of Digital for Atos UK&I, is a member of the Atos Scientific Community and was a founder of the award winning CIO/CTO Atos blog, the predecessor to Ascent. He successfully melds inspiration and creativity with strategic direction and implementation, focusing on driving more efficient and effective exploitation of technology and services to drive positive business outcomes and better connect our clients with their end consumers. The insight gained through both operational delivery roles and strategic Digital evangelist roles ensures that he views the Digital Revolution from multiple perspectives. Find him on twitter @The_Digital_COO

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