Reflections from the Consumer Electronics Show and predictions for the year in tech

At Cisco, we empower people to connect and collaborate with each other from anywhere. From home, the office and everywhere in between, we use Cisco collaboration solutions to solve hybrid work’s greatest challenges, while inspiring innovation, enhancing productivity and simplifying communication.

As the world continues to transition into a more permanent hybrid workforce, 80% of leaders are confident in their current hybrid work strategy – that’s according to the third annual EY Future Workplace Index. Not surprisingly, the biggest challenge employers are facing in optimizing office spaces is creating the right kind of space for their employees. One that makes people want to come into the office. One that delivers an experience more unique, immersive and seamless than what they experience in their home offices. Leaders are looking to strike the right balance between investing in physical office spaces and empowering workers with the flexibility to get work done on their own terms, with the end goal of optimizing the performance of today’s hybrid workforce.

So what does 2024 have on the horizon for striking that balance?  Conversations stemming from last week’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) can help answer this question, as the event provides a window into emerging tech trends.  With no surprise, artifical intelligence (AI) was a significant topic at CES. In 2023’s AI boom, direct interaction with AI increased tenfold. At CES there was also an emphasis on technology designed to make the day-to-day lives of consumers easier.

Reflecting on Cisco’s innovations in 2023, the trends unveiled at this year’s CES, and the solutions we’re prepping to unveil this year, these are my predictions for the year ahead.

AI will enhance collaboration experiences for hybrid workers.

The ‘Year of AI’ was echoed at CES, across industries like tech, food & beverage, entertainment & media, government & security, agriculture, retail, healthcare… every corner of industry. At Cisco, our collaboration solutions have leveraged AI for years, as a powerful tool to make hybrid interactions seamless (our solutions also feature NVIDIA’s Jetson edge AI platform — a company which generated big buzz at this year’s CES). As employees continue to embrace hybrid work, there is an enormous opportunity to leverage AI to enhance the way we work and collaborate.

This past year, Cisco Collaboration announced the concept of Distance Zero, our north star; it’s an aspiration to build technology that delivers the feeling of being there – even when you’re not. Distance Zero can only be accomplished with powerful AI, bringing the rich, human interaction happening into the meeting room into the virtual space.

Since 2016, we’ve been building audio and video intelligence to support reimagined collaboration experiences. Today, with the combination of powerful video and audio AI, Cisco devices follow presenters around the room, intelligently listen for audio cues, and switch between multiple cameras. Combined with framing, zoning, multiple streams and more, our technology chooses the best view of any meeting at any moment— making it feel like you’re in the room with your virtual colleagues. In 2024, we’ll get even closer to fundamentally eliminating distance in any room type.

As organizations map priorities for the year, it will be critical to invest in technology which supports the integration of rapidly evolving AI capabilities, which in turn will increase the longevity of their workplace investments. And, has big implications for inclusivity and equitability – a good segue into my next prediction.

There will be an increased need to address location barriers to ensure equitable and inclusive meetings.

Meetings where everyone is physically present are no longer the norm. In fact, 98% of meetings going forward will have at least one remote participant – it is critical to provide equitable and inclusive meeting experiences. This shift has been so impactful, that the type of work that happens in the office has fundamentally shifted. Prior to the office reopening, those who worked in office had the lowest  average number of virtual  meetings. Today,  people in the office have significantly  higher virtual meeting volume  than  other working modes, going from 50% fewer virtual  meetings before reopening to 40% more today (check out Cisco’s 2023 Future of Work survey to learn just how significantly in-office work has  changed since the pandemic).

Still, only about 15% of conference rooms are equipped with video conferencing technology. For rooms that are equipped, basic camera and audio solutions aren’t enough to achieve equitable and inclusive meetings. They miss the Distance Zero-inspired, rich context that makes face-to-face connections so magical. And, it has big implications for leaders and teams. Reflecting on my own experience, my team is the earliest adopters of Cisco Collaboration technology— and we connect and innovate from around the globe. Our latest product to launch was engineered, designed, and brought to launch by a team spanning 10 cities and 8 countries. That’s significant, and it has implications for access to talent, innovation, efficiency — and so much more.

Companies will need to deploy solutions that help all attendees feel like they’re in the room together, even when they are physically distanced, by deploying technologies that transcend location barriers and embody the feeling of face-to-face collaboration for everyone.

Businesses will reimagine and reconfigure workspaces to make the office a magnet.

Hybrid work is here to stay. And offering employees flexibility & choice in their work increases engagement, recognizes the diverse needs of today’s workforce, and supports talent recruitment regardless of location. It’s an employee -centric model that benefits individuals and organizations alike.

Still, when anywhere can be an office, getting people back into the corporate office is a challenge- organizations must fundamentally reimagine and reconfigure workspaces to generate excitement, by making the experience better than at home.

How do you do it? By building spaces that support interactions that happen best at the office. Consider this – you can’t schedule creativity from 4:30-5:00 on Wednesdays. Creativity and teamwork thrive on serendipitous, happenstance run-ins at the office. Offices should have spaces that support these interactions, like brainstorming areas and technology that supports cocreation and whiteboarding with in-person and hybrid participants alike. The habits we build are also key – at Cisco, we found that employees appreciate remote working but also crave in-person touch points. Bringing people together for intentional and purposeful reasons like relationship-building, innovation, training and mentorship.

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Snorre Kjesbu

Senior Vice President/General Manager of Webex Devices

Meeting Room Systems