A year or so on from the start of COVID-19 restrictions, life looks different and not just because none of us ever want to hear the term “the new normal” ever again. While early proclamations that we could abandon offices entirely were perhaps a bit of a stretch, it now seems that combining the best of both remote and office work, or hybrid working, will be a major component of the workforce.
Especially as many Australians saw the events of 2020 as their cue to get out of the city. In December last year, home value growth in regional areas outstripped that of the cities, with areas a “commutable distance” from the city seeing the biggest spike according to CoreLogic. It’s a safe assumption those people are not looking to return to the office fulltime soon.
With this change, it is critical that businesses go where the talent is and provide the tools needed to seamlessly collaborate, contribute and learn. In Australia, organisations need the flexibility and the infrastructure to digitally empower talent, especially those outside the metro areas, to unleash the true potential of the country’s working population.
Personal computers remain at the heart of this shift and are being built with features and capabilities that can drive the emergence of a new era of work. The inaugural Dell Technologies Remote Work Readiness (RWR) Index found that while 84 per cent of employees in Australia feel that they are prepared for long-term remote work, they also believe their employer could provide more resources for productivity.
High performance and reliability in a hybrid work future
The scale of last year’s move to remote working was as sudden as it was unprecedented, and technology was a life saver both personally (hello, binge-watching) and professionally. Microsoft Teams had 20 million daily active users globally in November 2019, which jumped to 75 million last April. By October, it was 115 million active users with many of them also accessing and sharing files within the app.
But shifting to virtual collaboration and meetings was not without challenges. The ACCC found that performance varied depending on whether the conferencing app used local servers. Poor home internet connections were also a concern. “Can you hear me?” was the default greeting. Understanding body language, or “reading the room” becomes more difficult when your brain is trying to process a frozen image, noisy environment or out of sync audio and visuals and even gave rise to the term “Zoom Fatigue” during 2020. And it wasn’t just our metaphoric batteries that suffered: with multiple video calls per day, devices drained faster.
PC innovators must now focus on harnessing the right technologies to deliver high performing devices that ensure a seamless user experience. While powerful multi-core processers in thin and light laptops are already a reality, we are now seeing a deeper integration of new technologies into the processor for a better, hybrid workforce, work-from-anywhere experience.
Business laptops will increasingly leverage the power of AI to drive improved performance and reliability, security, and manageability. AI-based virtual assistants have been around for a while, but now, AI acceleration has been integrated within the processor to ensure faster speeds, instant wake, better responsiveness, better graphical processing, and enhanced video and audio quality. These modern devices can also facilitate faster, high quality content generation. In fact, AI-powered laptops can even offer innovative features like background blurring, or background noise filtering, making for an enhanced video calling experience.
AI is also powering a new generation of devices that can analyse user behaviour and detect their presence to offer better security and personalised experiences. This includes automatically adapting colour and brightness to suit the environment, or even a laptop knowing when it’s in a bag, so it doesn’t overheat.
As business laptops leverage AI to deliver faster and better quality experiences, they will also consume less power to ensure longer battery life. And built in wireless technology capabilities will deliver faster speeds, making it easy for employees to connect and work from anywhere.
Securing the hybrid workforce model
A highly distributed IT infrastructure with multiple unsecured devices working on unsecured home networks, all accessing enterprise apps and data is a cybercriminal’s dream. Predictably, the number of cyberattacks in the form of phishing, ransomware and malware went up significantly especially in the initial months of the pandemic. Between April and June last year, cyberattacks increased by 65 percent according to PwC.
Relying on VPNs and software security is good, but as work from anywhere becomes the norm, enterprises need to weave security into every layer. Hardware-based security will be a key focus for business laptops. In fact, this market is expected to grow to $US43.6 billion by 2024 from $US26.7 billion in 2020 according to Gartner.
Software security solutions must remain a part of every organisation’s cyber defence strategy. But there are now increasingly sophisticated attacks on the OS itself. Embedding security into the hardware will ensure that it cannot be targeted or altered by advanced malware. And by hardwiring AI capabilities into the processing core, intelligent PCs can ensure advanced real time threat detection and protection. AI-powered security drivers can identify and neutralise hidden malware and crypto mining attempts and can act quickly and effectively against attacks targeting the OS and applications. AI-powered hardware-based security can also effectively protect the BIOS and completely encrypt computer memory.
Easy and efficient manageability of a distributed IT architecture
With a dispersed workforce, IT departments struggle to troubleshoot, fix problems, and manage upgrades. Remote manageability can be built into computing platforms to deliver a smart business device that can be accessed remotely. Increasing use of AI has also created the possibility of using advanced telemetry to diagnose and pre-empt problems. For example, if the system detects a problem with the storage drive, or with battery life, the IT department can remotely troubleshoot before it interrupts work.
The remote working trend was developing traction even before the pandemic. But the events of last year made it clear that a shift to large-scale remote working models was feasible and even highly productive with the right tools. The right technologies must be leveraged to ensure that this shift can happen seamlessly and efficiently. The current wave of AI acceleration has the potential to completely transform the way we use and interact with our personal computing devices. Personal computers remain the heart of this shift and organisations that prioritise these will enable a productive and happy hybrid workforce.