May 19, 2023

6 min

BTEX 2023: The Future of Work is Hybrid – Do You Have the Right Technology?

Many of those in attendance said their organizations have fully embraced hybrid work, and others say they’re permanently remote. Technologies on display included solutions designed to support remote working in a world where hybrid is the new normal.

BTEX 2023 Image

Hybrid work is the present and future of work and it’s here to stay, judging by many conversations happening and multiple products on display during CDW Canada’s Techtopia themed Business Technology Expo (BTEX) in Toronto this month.

The tone was set from the get-go regarding the importance and staying power of hybrid work during the event’s opening keynote and discussion with Jesse Hirsh, a broadcaster and technology evangelist, who was immediately asked to comment on the future of work.

Hirsh’s response was to cite what he says is the most asked question by today’s businesses: what are you doing about the return to work? Hirsh admitted many organizations are keen to see at least a partial return to the office, but “nobody wants to force people back” fully.

Hybrid work – a mix of on-premises and remote working – is, in the view of many, the path forward. This comes despite a potential recession, or perhaps an economic slowdown, that might divert some from the hybrid path. It is at least uncertain how workforce reductions and the changing supply/demand dynamic of talent might have an impact on remote working, Hirsh said.

The smart bet is to bank on hybrid being the way many people in Canada and around the world will work. As Hirsh puts it, “We need to prepare for an uncertain future. Dealing with ambiguity and change is potentially the most important capability an organization can have.” Hybrid work is definitely a major change for many industries and Hirsh said he believes “remote tools are important and will have a significant role to play.”

Many of those in attendance with whom we spoke said the companies and organizations they work for have fully embraced hybrid working, and others confirmed they’ve moved permanently remote. Technologies on display at BTEX 2023 included solutions designed to support remote working in a world where hybrid is the new normal. Below is a recap of some of the exciting solutions demonstrated.

The next best thing to being there

Technology is redefining virtual meetings, making them immersive and dynamic like never before. Collaboration solutions have embraced the reality of hybrid working and are now focusing on providing much more inclusive experiences – not just for remote meeting attendees, but also for those who participate within on-premises meeting rooms.

Case in point was a solution on display at BTEX 2023 that consisted of a hardware bundle of components that include intelligent cameras, a microphone bar, a centre-console device to manage interactions and a computing appliance that powers every aspect of the meeting session and all the applications used during the meeting.

Through a wireless beacon on the appliance, all laptop microphones and speakers brought into the meeting room are immediately muted when the online meeting session begins to prevent cross-chatter and echo that typically happens. Instead, all remote and in-room discussion is picked up by an in-room microphone bar.

A display feature on the appliance captures on video the faces of in-room attendees, passes these through a cloud-based separation solution, then separately displays for remote viewers each attendee through individual video feeds that continue to follow them around the room. In turn, a front row layout feature on an in-room video display shows each remote attendee along the bottom, removing individual backgrounds and displaying faces as though all are sitting in the room, shoulder to shoulder. Chats appear along a side frame of the main in-room display.

Notable notebook features

Making it easier to be cybersecure characterizes many advancements in laptops used by hybrid workers and recognizes a need for business equipment to be secure. Laptop makers showed a range of new inherent laptop security features and more integrated hardware functionality. One laptop vendor at BTEX 2023 showcased finger and facial recognition combined with a geolocation capability that could be used for secure sign-in to replace traditional passwords. Any combination of these features might be configured for secure sign-in.

One helpful element sees control of a Bluetooth keyboard, headset and mouse through a single-dongle cable connected to a single laptop port. Other simple but important features are portable and laptop cameras with physical shutters that open and close over a camera lens. Finally, laptop portable battery charging sees the size of a 65-watt charger dramatically reduced to a form factor as small as two inches by three inches.

Managing remote working environments

If home is the new office, then the internet is the new backbone for monitoring, managing and analyzing remote workforce experiences. A remote working environment management platform that was showcased at BTEX 2023 allows IT administrators to monitor the experience of any user’s workstation, view any on- or off-premises device or application and diagnose and correct computing errors that may occur.

The platform provides a capability to observe how all connected computers and applications perform across any network, including the internet, and monitors CPU and memory loads, Wi-Fi quality, gateway latency and VPN packet loss. According to the manufacturer, it’s possible to “analyze every ‘hop’ taken by traffic…and view office LANs, ISP connections and application paths.”  An administrator can diagnose where errors or problems occur, even with an internet service provider’s network. The platform can also be used to identify and understand the performance of digital supply chains.

It’s an ideal remote environment monitoring tool that isn’t just for IT administrators. A user-friendly dashboard of information and drill-down menus makes it a tool that can likewise be used by any senior-level business executive.

A better way to whiteboard

Whiteboard collaborative sessions in boardrooms are among the most frustrating experiences for remote workers who suffer constantly obscured views and an overall inability to see what’s happening as they try to follow along. Technology is now available, and was demonstrated during BTEX 2023, that allows whiteboard exercises to be easily and clearly viewed by remote attendees and provides an immersive in-room experience that allows them to be part of discussions.

The solution features a strategically placed camera that sits above a whiteboard to display what’s happening on the board and ensure an always unobstructed view for remote users since anyone working on the board never gets in the way of what’s being done. To facilitate better room discussion, a 350-degree field-of-view, artificial intelligence-powered tabletop camera and six-speaker system follows multiple participant conversations that may be happening in the room, allowing remote users to see and hear side conversations…and be included.