Friday, September 26

Computers Go Anywhere, So You Don't Have To

Cisco and Amsterdam start a satellite system of multiple Smart Work Centers near home for computer workers

If you're like me ---and probably half the American work force, a computer is your workspace.

So imagine, if instead of driving 20 miles to get to that computer you did the same job but telecommuted from a fully equipped communal office set up a mere 15 minute walk from your home?

Currently, we all commute great distances just to wind up parked in front of a computer somewhere.

We have computers at home, but telecommuting doesn't work for everyone. Maybe your home computer won't run the fancy math necessary to engineer those molecular chemical bonds you build, or maybe your boss just isn't comfortable with the idea of you working in your jammies.

Still, we're doing a ridiculous amount of driving, just to do something that can be done just as efficiently much closer to home. The solution? How about a network of well-equipped work spaces only a 15-minute walk from home? What would it take? Well:

* Office space (that someone cleans at night)
* Computers (good ones with high speed internet etc)
* Virtual meeting video conferencing (like TV pundits use)
* Power supplied using clean energy (to lower your carbon footprint even more)
* High-end catering services (in case you are too pooped to walk home for lunch)
* Proximity to public transportation, and a freeway (for now)
* Quiet private work spaces (if you really need to focus)
* Open work spaces (illustrated above)
* Public area for companionship (to replace the office cooler)
* On-site daycare (so you don't have to drive anywhere else before work)

Give it snappy name; something like the Smart Work Center, and then build more of them only 15 minutes apart. Maybe every new apartment building should have its own Smart Work Center.

Say you're an escrow writer. Instead of driving 20 miles to an office full of escrow people, you'd walk your 15 minutes and share space with, say, a sitcom script writer, three stockbrokers and four telemarketers. (Uh-oh... there's the reason for those private cubicles.) Throw in a couple of drug rehab grant writers, a shoe designer and a repo man, and wouldn't that be an interesting place to work?

Since you all live in the same neighborhood, this would cut down on the play-date driving for your kiddies, too, because the friends they make at daycare would live nearby. We'd be close enough to walk home for lunch. And if we are on a 10,000-step weight-loss program, why, there's the lion's share of all the walking already. Another walk around the supermarket at night to get dinner, and you're at 10,000.

Meanwhile, you'd stay abreast of things at work by sharing virtual space with your fellow escrow writers. Heck, we're half way to living in the virtual world as it is. I know more environmental activists online than I do my neighbors two blocks away.

This system would be better for the jammies media too. My commute is only 17 stairs down to my computer. While that's an admirable carbon-footprint on my part, that leaves almost 9, 800 steps in my 10,000 steps for my day. I have never seen my editor or my boss, or the writers I share this page with. If I could check in with everyone else at the video story meeting, wouldn't that be great?

Well, the day may be getting closer when I can.

Cisco has taken the first step in creating the first of these Smart Work Centers, incorporating every amenity on my wish-list at a test site in Almere, Holland, near Amsterdam. From there, it's on to San Francisco, Seoul, Madrid, Lisbon, Hamburg and Birmingham, England. But Almere is the perfect site to test out the Smart Work Center, because the town expects to double its number of inhabitants by 2030. It will need 60,000 new houses and 100,000 new jobs, making it a good candidate for a network of work centers.

It also has a mayor who gets it.

"We want to invest in modern employer practice and make lifestyle changes in order to preserve the environment," says Annemarie Jorritsma, Almere's mayor. "We need new knowledge to help us make our lifestyles and production processes as energy-neutral and CO2-neutral as possible.

"Almere is an innovative city. We have a new citywide fiber-optic network, (and) an innovative broadband solution for high-quality visual communication that enables companies to maintain visual contact with their head offices elsewhere – both within and outside the Netherlands. This is the epitome of globalization."

As a sponsor of the Clinton Global Initiative, Cisco had to commit to creating a sustainable solution to climate change. Cisco has picked a sensible option.

For Matter Network