Sharp’s Vision for the Smart Workplace
The traditional work environment is fundamentally transforming, and visions of the future Smart Workplace are emerging. Through the combination of the internet, mobility, cloud, sensors, and the internet of things, work can get done virtually anywhere people can communicate, collaborate, and transact.
To better segment and organize the “Smart Workplace”, Keypoint Intelligence has created a taxonomy of services related to our industry. This taxonomy helps define and categorize disparate technologies and services into a more concrete and comprehensive view of the Smart Workplace solutions and services.
Figure 1 : Smart Workplace Segments
As part of our coverage of the Smart Workplace, we interviewed key vendors on their visions. The following is an interview with Jason Cort, European Director Product Management and Market at Sharp Europe on Sharp’s Vision for the Smart Workplace of the Future and what they see as their contribution to this growing space.
According to Sharp’s Jason Cort, the smart office is no one thing. Rather:
“It’s a collection of solutions and services and technology—whether that’s devices, whether that’s platforms, which actually you can deliver in isolation…but also collectively they need to work together so again the value you create is far greater than the sum of the components.”
As a result, no one vendor can deliver the smart office. Technology companies like Sharp need to work with partners to shape standards and collaborate. And while Sharp is strong in technology, it must not over-rely on that technology going forward.
“Ultimately, you have to be careful that (one’s strategy) is not too technology led,” Cort said. Because you might have great technology but what are the use cases, what are the customer problems that you’re trying to solve?”
Sharp seeks to understand problems in a variety of settings, considering the four “smart” environments of the home, office, city, and factory its targets. It’s also working to address the transition from one environment to another through mobile technology.
“So I think from a Sharp perspective we’ve got quite an interesting opportunity in terms of how we harmonize those types of experiences, compared to other vendors who might be purely in the office or purely in the home, for example,” Cort said.
Figure 2: Sharp’s Jason Cort
Sharp is leveraging the technology it has today, while planning for greater transformation going forward. One current offering is Alexa for Business, a new service enabling businesses and organizations to bring Amazon Alexa into the workplace—(interacting with Sharp and non-Sharp devices). Sharp is exploring other new areas of physical workplaces as well.
“…When we talk about the office environment, the physical office environment that you go to as an employee, from that point of view…that office environment is…located in a building. So you then think about, well OK so you talk about smart office, but what about smart buildings?”
A smart building, including physical meeting spaces, may include technology and/or services for presenting, displaying information, voice communication, video communication, computation, room temperature control, lighting, and more. A key question is: who is responsible for these solutions: a company like Sharp, a facilities company, or the building’s architect?
“So again, I think there are some interesting conversations to be had about where are those boundaries…and then working with potentially new partners, whether those partners are companies like (facilities management companies) and/or even the construction companies and architectural practices …I think there are some interesting collaborations to be had.”
Sharp plans to partner with IT services firms to deliver deeper IT capability in areas like network management, mobile device management, and network services like telecom services. It’s also looking to further leverage technologies from third parties, such as 5G for mobile Internet and 8K for screen display.
One area Sharp is looking to cultivate is smartphones in Europe. The company is planning to start introducing products in the third or fourth quarter of this year—which is largely possible due to its relatively new Foxconn ownership.
“Again, with the Foxconn manufacturing capability behind us, it opens up a lot of doors that were previously closed to us,” Cort said.
Sharp considers itself unique among MFP vendors with its collection of non-print technologies, including interactive whiteboards, digital signage, and computing devices manufactured by Foxconn. Its presence in the consumer space can also help it innovate in the office.
“As we look at the smart home, and platforms to manage that…we can start to bring some of that technology into the office environment,” Cort said.
The Sharp brand has an incredible amount of strength, spanning consumer, office and professional business sectors. That coupled with the “Be Original” campaign, a focus on the original technology that Sharp has brought to market over the years will play a key role in developing the concept beyond print solutions delivered today. This is expected to evolve around access to information and improving worker productivity. Sharp sees itself at the beginning of the journey to become a facilitator, together with partners from the channel or technology providers.
Sharp also has the potential to span home, consumer, office and professional environments with its technology and its channels and this is a great plus when considering where work is happening today and where it is likely to go in the future. The powerful backing and expertise from Sharp’s owner Foxconn, is expected to open doors giving impetus for integration as well as bring new products to the market quickly.