Facilities managers beaten to coveted place in boardroom by a piece of software

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Machines and boardrooms don’t mix well

It has always been the ambition of facilities managers to take their place in the boardroom. Yet, after thirty years of trying, with only the occasional cursory glimpse of the C-Suite, it appears they have been beaten to it by a piece of software. A venture capital firm called Deep Knowledge Ventures has appointed a computer algorithm to its board of directors. This is either the shape of things to come or a gimmick*, but the software will have a vote on whether the speculators will invest in a particular business or not. The software, called Vital, won’t be making judgements on gut instinct but will take the non-visceral route of chewing through huge amounts of data before coming to a conclusion.

*It’s a gimmick.

Four million people in UK now work from home, claims TUC

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work from home

Figures released today by the TUC to mark National Work from Home Day show that more than 4 million people now regularly work from home; a rise of more than 62,000 over the course of the last year. The number of people who say they usually work from home increased by 62,000 over the course of last year to reach more than four million for the first time. The findings are from a new TUC analysis published to mark national work from home day, organised by Work Wise UK. The TUC analysis of figures from the Office for National Statistics shows that the number of regular home-workers has risen by over a half a million since 2007 – an increase of more than 10 per cent. Millions of workers across the UK occasionally work from home too, says the TUC. More →

Support for flexible working an increasing challenge for IT managers, claims survey

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Flexible workingOne of the greatest challenges currently facing IT managers is providing secure and robust technological infrastructure for flexible working, and it is set to become even greater as more and more firms adopt Cloud based working, according to a new report  from technology specialists ControlCircle. The survey of 250 UK based CIOs, ‘IT Growth and Transformation’ found that over the next five years the increasing mobility of the workforce is going to present them with a range of increasingly important challenges, with IT leaders predicting that security (56 percent), cloud (46 percent) and mobility (41 percent) set to become the biggest challenges they face. The survey also revealed that nearly half (48 percent) of respondents experience hourly, daily and weekly technology availability issues and a fifth (21 percent) experience business downtime daily or hourly as a result.

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US employers hold very mixed views on flexible working, claims report

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Glued to the desk

It’s not just companies in the UK who appear to have mixed and sometimes contradictory views on the principles of flexible working. A new study from the US based Families and Work Institute in partnership with the Society for Human Resource Management has found that while more and more firms are open to the idea of working from home for permanent employees, other forms of flexible working such as job sharing, career breaks or sabbaticals to deal with personal and family issues. The 2014 National Study of Employers found that two-thirds (67 percent) of US organisations now allow employees to work from home at least some of the time, up from 50 per cent in 2008. In addition, 41 per cent of firms let workers decide their own working hours, compared to 32 per cent in 2008. However there are falls in the proportion of employers willing to let staff work flexibly in other ways.

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Wearable technology will improve productivity and job satisfaction, claims report

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Google_Glass_Explorer_EditionIt’s remains a cause of a great deal of rancour in workplaces and public spaces around the world but new research from Goldsmiths, University of London claims that wearable technology can boost employee productivity by over 8 percent and job satisfaction by around 3.5 percent. The study was carried out as part of the University’s Human Cloud at Work (HCAW) programme and was designed to explore the effects of wearable technologies such as Google Glass in the workplace and on employee wellbeing, productivity and job satisfaction. HCAW is a two-year collaborative project between the Institute of Management Studies and cloud specialist Rackspace to investigate how cloud-enabled wearable devices will impact on individuals and businesses.

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The latest issue of Insight is now available to view online

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firstclassIn the latest Insight newsletter, available to view online; read (and watch) a list of some of the greatest songs to deal with the arcane subject of office furniture and discover the six dimensions of wellbeing that can be impacted by the design of the physical environment. Details of the first free and publicly available resource for building professionals to access detailed comparative data on carbon in buildings; and research that shows moderate stress levels can actually help a manager’s performance.  Mark Eltringham suggests the real reasons why so many employers champion the open plan office layout and argues the design of trains [pictured] is almost as great an indicator of workplace thinking as the office itself. Finally, our regular contributor Simon Heath defends the much maligned HR function.  To automatically receive our weekly newsletter, simply add your email address to the box on the home page.

European Commission names Munich as continent’s main tech hub

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Der Muenchner Christkindlmarkt und das Rathaus strahlen am Montag (28.11.05) waehrend der Blauen Stunde in weihnachtlichem Lichterglanz. Mit der Eroeffnung des zentralen Muenchner Weihnachtsmarktes auf dem Marienplatz begann am Freitag (25.11.05) die WeihNever mind the Champion’s League, there is a fascinating battle across Europe’s major cities to win the tech hub crown, or at least wear it for a year before it is snatched away by some other agglomeration of latte-sipping arrivistes. The latest City to be awarded the mantle is, perhaps surprisingly, Munich often seen as something of a laggard even within the borders of Germany, playing second fiddle to Berlin. According to the European Commission report (not so snappily titled Mapping the European ICT Poles of Excellence: The Atlas of ICT Activity in Europe) even London, usually regarded as the continent’s tech heartland, bends the knee to the Bavarian City. According to the report’s authors Munich is particularly strong in research and development, although it loses out to London on other factors including networking and access to finance. Paris was placed third.

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A rail network carrying people on blurred lines into the future of work

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Office Group PaddingtonThe UK rail industry has a somewhat ambiguous relationship with the idea of remote working. While the business case for the controversial HS2 rail line was until recently predicated on the remarkable assumption that people don’t work on trains (now replaced by another set of assumptions to get to the numbers it needs for politicians to go along with it all), the number of journeys people make on trains has been increasing steadily for some time, regardless of the potential for technology to make many of those journeys unnecessary. So while we’re already into uncharted territory in our ability to forecast the impact of new technology and working practices on the need for physical presence, the train and the rail network  does offer us a touchstone for thinking about it. And what we find in that respect is a blurring of the lines between several worlds, as we do in pretty much every aspect of our lives.

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Local Government is lagging behind in its use of digital technology

Local Government is lagging behind in its use of digital technology

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© Natural History Museum

A new report claims that the UK’s local authorities are not only lagging behind the rest of the world in their use of digital technology but in some areas their development has stalled completely, despite significant investment. The report, Smart People, Smart Places from the New Local Government Network claims that ‘whilst there is much good practice emerging,  councils sometimes struggle to fully unlock the benefits of technologies that they do invest in [because] they are often uncomfortable, and risk averse.’ While it acknowledges that the problem does not apply to every council, with some showing exemplary thinking in certain areas, it also paints a general picture of organisations unable and unwilling to make the most of the technology in which they invest, lacking vision and leadership and intimidated by change.

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Can building design presage a fall from grace for the world’s tech giants?

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Apple HQAt the movies, buildings are often used to denote hubris. The ambitions and egos of Charles Foster Kane and Scarface are embodied in the pleasure domes and gilded cages they erect to themselves. Of course, things then invariably go badly wrong. In the real world too, monstrous edifices have often presaged a crash. The UK’s most ambitious and much talked about office building at the turn of the Millennium was British Airways’ Waterside, completed in 1998, just a year after Margaret Thatcher famously objected to the firm’s new modern tailfin designs by draping them with a hankie and three years before BA had to drop its ‘World’s Favourite Airline’ strapline because by then it was Lufthansa. Nowadays BA isn’t even the UK’s favourite airline, but Waterside remains a symbol of its era, albeit one that continues to influence the way we design offices.

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Benefits of mobile broadband to Australia run to tens of billions, claims report

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mobile-broadbandWhile the UK Government continues to fuss over the rollout of broadband in the UK, bickering with the notoriously ponderous BT about a dysfunctional monopoly they created themselves, a new report from Australia claims that the economic benefits of mobile broadband in that country came to nearly AU$34 billion (£19 billion) last year. The report commissioned by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) in partnership with the Centre for International Economics (CIE) and Analysys Mason found that although the mobile telecoms sector only accounts for 0.5 percent of economic activity in Australia, its impact on productivity is profound. Last year it accounted for an additional AU$33.8 billion in activity, 2.28 percent of Australia’s total gross domestic product. The report makes its claim on the basis that between 2006 and 2013, productivity growth was 11.3 percent per year, but would have been only 6.7 percent without mobile broadband.

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New consortium aims to standardise technology to drive Internet of Things

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Internet of THingsThe development of the much talked-about Internet of Things has been boosted with the announcement that AT&T, Cisco, GE, IBM and Intel have come together to form a group called the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) which will  aim to standardise the way certain technologies function and so drive the uptake of the Internet of Things. The group has the apparent backing of the White House which has also announced that it will invest $100 million in research into the way physical objects can be linked to the internet, which is the fundamental principle of the Internet of Things.   The IIC will be outlining its own plans in the  near future to establish a common, global framework for the development of inter-connected digital and physical worlds and so sped up the adoption of an idea that promises to transform many aspects of our lives but which has not moved quickly enough, according to many commentators.

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