Cognitive Hub: the future of work

It’s 10am on a Monday and Ada, a marketing executive, is working with her colleagues to put together a presentation for a new business pitch. The client is a large multinational and the pressure is on to win the account.

Liaising with teams in other locations, Ada has information coming in by e-mail, text, WhatsApp, through instant messaging and by phone. Meanwhile, she’s searching online for useful facts and data for her project.

The global population is expected to reach 7.6 billion in 2020 with the number of internet of things (IoT) connected devices expected to grow to between 20 and 30 billion by the same year. How can Ada and hundreds of millions of others, manage these information sources, identify what’s important and make the right decisions?

“Add together this growing number of people and devices and you can see an exponential increase of available data and ubiquitous information that are already causing what is known as ‘infoxication’,” says Dr Dennis Curry, a senior director at Konica Minolta. The company has recently developed a new platform called Workplace Hub, which will meet the needs of the growing number of people who find themselves in Ada’s position.

“Artificial intelligence looks likely to solve this problem by providing a system of technologies that can help manage information, identify reliable data sources, take informed decisions and above all take advantage of enhanced cognition,” he says.

Shoei Yamana, president and chief executive of Konica Minolta, says: “Workplace Hub is centred on the office and, more importantly, the workplace of the future. It unifies all of an organisation’s technology via a single centralised platform, as well as driving efficiencies by reducing the overall costs of IT management and service provision. It provides real-time data-driven insights that help to improve business processes.”

But Konica Minolta is already planning the next stage of this transformation. By integrating AI and IoT systems, Workplace Hub will evolve within the next five years or so to become what the company calls Cognitive Hub. This new platform will apply intelligent edge computing to AI and augmented human intelligence to extend the network of human interfaces, and enhance collaboration between individuals and teams.

“Cognitive Hub will become a nexus for a company’s information flows within the digital workplace and provide augmented intelligence-based services that anyone can use easily,” says Dr Curry

“It will also be able to connect with the devices of the future, such as augmented reality glasses, smartwalls and flexible screens,” he says. “Cognitive Hub blends collective company wisdom with AI to gather and process data to make life easier for individuals, teams and companies, large and small, helping them to work more efficiently.”

Konica Minolta describes digital activity – the digital objects we engage with such as documents, the people we interact with, and the places and events we visit – as a “digital self”. Usually this information is dispersed around different devices and in various locations, but by applying semantic technologies and identifying relationships, it’s possible to co-ordinate the information and create a meta-information layer that is manageable and scalable.

“Some believe that cloud computing is coming to an end. However, we believe that it won’t die,” explains Christian Mastrodonato, chief technologist for the Konica Minolta Workplace Hub.

“Instead it will diverge and evolve into a cortex-like structure made of complex three-dimensional tree-like substructures. In this new world, Konica Minolta sees itself as the glue between cognitive computing, intelligent automation and other disciplines related to AI, the use of IoT devices and wearables that deploy services and solutions for a more efficient working environment.”

Dr Curry concludes: “Cognitive Hub is currently at the prototype stage, but it represents the next generation of Workplace Hub devices. We still have a lot of work to do to deliver it, but Workplace Hub is already set to revolutionise the way in which we work by helping us to manage the rapid increase in devices, connections and information that we’re all presented with in the modern workplace.”

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