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How the Smart Office is Breathing New Life Into Commercial Real Estate – ReadWrite



Frank Landman

The commercial real estate industry has changed considerably over the past year and a half. Some of the short-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have been devastating while the impact of others remains to be seen. However, when investors look to the future, there’s one thing we can all get excited about, namely the rise of the smart office.

Commercial Office Space in a Post-COVID World

When the COVID-19 pandemic first shocked the United States in April 2020, the majority of the American workforce still “went in” to work. In other words, they commuted into the office, plopped down in a chair, and performed their job duties in a corporate office. When shutdowns forced companies to get creative, everything changed.

Today, much of our workforce is now working remotely from home. Some companies have even decided to get rid of their corporate offices and go 100 percent virtual — a shocking 180-degree pivot that would have been unthinkable just two years ago.

Other businesses are choosing to return to the office but are making important changes and investments along the way. Listed below are a few of the early trends already unfolding.

  • Office buildings are getting smaller as remote and hybrid positions reduce the need for square footage.
  • With employees doing more work from home, many companies are turning unused office space into collaboration spaces for virtual meetings.
  • Safety, proper spacing, and social distancing are fresh on the minds of businesses and commercial office space owners.

While the long-term ramifications of the pandemic on the commercial real estate world remain to be seen, one thing is certain. Businesses are getting smarter about how they optimize their offices for efficiency, productivity, innovation, health, and safety.

No, seriously — the buildings themselves are actually getting smarter. The smart office is emerging as the next iteration of office space. For those who are paying attention, there are several exciting trends coming down the pipeline.

Breathing New Life Into Commercial Real Estate — the Smart Office

We often throw around the term “smart office,” but what exactly is it? It’s more than just having technology in a building. It’s about the intentional use of the right technology.

“A smart office is a workplace where modern technology is leveraged to help employees work smarter, better, and faster. This can be achieved by clearing away hurdles for the employees,” Senion explains. “By removing menial tasks and unnecessary obstacles — activities that drain time and energy from the workforce — smart office solutions let employees focus on what really matters.”

When compared to the traditional office, a smart office offers its workers several distinct benefits. These include:

  • Greater productivity. Technology offers many advantages for businesses, but increased productivity is probably one of the most important. By making menial, repetitive tasks faster and more efficient, organizations can better utilize resources, cut costs, and enjoy greater flexibility. This represents a solid win for everyone.
  • More efficient use of square footage. As expensive as commercial square footage is in competitive urban markets, being more efficient with square footage is an absolute priority. Thanks to the intelligent use of high-tech office spaces, companies can turn static workspaces into flexible areas with two or three different uses. This allows businesses to lease or buy smaller office spaces and save money.
  • Improved collaboration. Collaboration is extremely important, especially nowadays when most companies have some sort of hybrid workforce with some employees in the office and others working remotely. Utilizing smart solutions, it’s easier to communicate and engage with coworkers and employees — regardless of whether they’re in the same physical space or not.
  • Better employee well-being. When your team feels supported and has the tools it needs to work efficiently, there’s better overall focus and satisfaction. In other words, mental health gets a boost. Plus, as you’ll see in the following section on smart office trends, there are certain smart office technologies that also make it safer for employees to interact in a face-to-face manner.

When you add these benefits up, it becomes clear why the smart office is becoming so popular. Although it does require a significant investment on the front end, the advantages are clear.

4 Smart Office Trends Worth Tracking

As with anything technology-related, trends come and go. What’s popular right now will not necessarily be the most viable option in 12 to 18 months. Having said that, here are four smart office trends making the rounds in 2021 and 2022 that are worthy of your investment.

1. 5G Networks

The next wave of internet connectivity and data connection is here. We’re talking about 5G, of course. It’s difficult to overstate just how much of an improvement 5G is over 4G. This new network reduces download times, speeds up connections, and leads to smoother streaming for virtual meetings and other forms of communication.

2. Flexible Workspaces

Regardless of whether companies choose to go back to 100 percent in-person working in the future, or stick with hybrid teams, one thing is sure: virtual is part of our new reality. That means businesses must be prepared to host and join virtual meetings with customers and clients, business partners, and employees. And — since first impressions are everything — businesses must take steps to integrate the right technology.

Another popular trend is the rise of flexible workspaces that double as in-person conference rooms and virtual meeting rooms. These facilities come equipped with advanced camera and audio systems, lighting, and even green screens for inserting virtual backgrounds into the mix. The overall goal is to create sophisticated, high-tech spaces that can be used by employees to maintain a professional image during virtual meetings.

3. Internet of Things (IoT) Sensors

IoT sensors and associated advanced technology is allowing businesses to increase their connectivity, flexibility, and responsiveness without the need for investing in complex systems, wires, or superfluous devices.

Some solutions are super practical, such as installing fire suppressions systems that don’t require access to a water supply or electricity. Other solutions are more complex, such as temperature sensors, proximity sensors, and touch sensors. In either case, IoT technology is changing the game for good. Manual tasks are being automated, people are staying safer, and the modern smart office is becoming an increasingly frictionless place to work.

4. Intelligent Sanitization

In a world where the COVID-19 virus is still a serious concern for millions of people, it would be remiss not to mention some of the smart technology that’s helping to create safer and healthier workplaces for employees who want the ability to interact face-to-face. More specifically, there’s a lot of exciting innovation happening in the areas of sanitization.

For example, consider air purification and air circulation systems. While these technologies have been around for some time, they’re now being integrated into IoT platforms. As a result, they’re able to work together with people-counting sensors to create safer and better-ventilated office environments that dynamically adapt to real-time circumstances.

Intelligent, automated UV disinfection is another technology that’s expanding beyond healthcare facilities and into modern smart offices. These systems use UV-C lighting to disinfect surfaces at regular intervals. Depending on system integration, some can automatically detect when people enter a room or leave a room. This allows the UV-C to kick in at just the right time.

Putting it all Together

For businesses that are committed to continuing to maintain a presence in a physical office space, the smart office is clearly the way of the future.

Thanks to newer technology such as 5G networks, IoT, cloud computing, and AI, it’s now possible to enhance productivity, lower costs, improve collaboration, and simultaneously keep employees healthy and safe. In a post-COVID world, where uncertainty is high, those are positive trends you’ll want to keep an eye on.

Image Credit: rodnae productions; pexels; thank you!

Frank Landman

Frank is a freelance journalist who has worked in various editorial capacities for over 10 years. He covers trends in technology as they relate to business.


Fintech Kennek raises $12.5M seed round to digitize lending



Google eyed for $2 billion Anthropic deal after major Amazon play

London-based fintech startup Kennek has raised $12.5 million in seed funding to expand its lending operating system.

According to an Oct. 10 report, the round was led by HV Capital and included participation from Dutch Founders Fund, AlbionVC, FFVC, Plug & Play Ventures, and Syndicate One. Kennek offers software-as-a-service tools to help non-bank lenders streamline their operations using open banking, open finance, and payments.

The platform aims to automate time-consuming manual tasks and consolidate fragmented data to simplify lending. Xavier De Pauw, founder of Kennek said:

“Until kennek, lenders had to devote countless hours to menial operational tasks and deal with jumbled and hard-coded data – which makes every other part of lending a headache. As former lenders ourselves, we lived and breathed these frustrations, and built kennek to make them a thing of the past.”

The company said the latest funding round was oversubscribed and closed quickly despite the challenging fundraising environment. The new capital will be used to expand Kennek’s engineering team and strengthen its market position in the UK while exploring expansion into other European markets. Barbod Namini, Partner at lead investor HV Capital, commented on the investment:

“Kennek has developed an ambitious and genuinely unique proposition which we think can be the foundation of the entire alternative lending space. […] It is a complicated market and a solution that brings together all information and stakeholders onto a single platform is highly compelling for both lenders & the ecosystem as a whole.”

The fintech lending space has grown rapidly in recent years, but many lenders still rely on legacy systems and manual processes that limit efficiency and scalability. Kennek aims to leverage open banking and data integration to provide lenders with a more streamlined, automated lending experience.

The seed funding will allow the London-based startup to continue developing its platform and expanding its team to meet demand from non-bank lenders looking to digitize operations. Kennek’s focus on the UK and Europe also comes amid rising adoption of open banking and open finance in the regions.

Featured Image Credit: Photo from; Thank you!

Radek Zielinski

Radek Zielinski is an experienced technology and financial journalist with a passion for cybersecurity and futurology.

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Fortune 500’s race for generative AI breakthroughs



Deanna Ritchie

As excitement around generative AI grows, Fortune 500 companies, including Goldman Sachs, are carefully examining the possible applications of this technology. A recent survey of U.S. executives indicated that 60% believe generative AI will substantially impact their businesses in the long term. However, they anticipate a one to two-year timeframe before implementing their initial solutions. This optimism stems from the potential of generative AI to revolutionize various aspects of businesses, from enhancing customer experiences to optimizing internal processes. In the short term, companies will likely focus on pilot projects and experimentation, gradually integrating generative AI into their operations as they witness its positive influence on efficiency and profitability.

Goldman Sachs’ Cautious Approach to Implementing Generative AI

In a recent interview, Goldman Sachs CIO Marco Argenti revealed that the firm has not yet implemented any generative AI use cases. Instead, the company focuses on experimentation and setting high standards before adopting the technology. Argenti recognized the desire for outcomes in areas like developer and operational efficiency but emphasized ensuring precision before putting experimental AI use cases into production.

According to Argenti, striking the right balance between driving innovation and maintaining accuracy is crucial for successfully integrating generative AI within the firm. Goldman Sachs intends to continue exploring this emerging technology’s potential benefits and applications while diligently assessing risks to ensure it meets the company’s stringent quality standards.

One possible application for Goldman Sachs is in software development, where the company has observed a 20-40% productivity increase during its trials. The goal is for 1,000 developers to utilize generative AI tools by year’s end. However, Argenti emphasized that a well-defined expectation of return on investment is necessary before fully integrating generative AI into production.

To achieve this, the company plans to implement a systematic and strategic approach to adopting generative AI, ensuring that it complements and enhances the skills of its developers. Additionally, Goldman Sachs intends to evaluate the long-term impact of generative AI on their software development processes and the overall quality of the applications being developed.

Goldman Sachs’ approach to AI implementation goes beyond merely executing models. The firm has created a platform encompassing technical, legal, and compliance assessments to filter out improper content and keep track of all interactions. This comprehensive system ensures seamless integration of artificial intelligence in operations while adhering to regulatory standards and maintaining client confidentiality. Moreover, the platform continuously improves and adapts its algorithms, allowing Goldman Sachs to stay at the forefront of technology and offer its clients the most efficient and secure services.

Featured Image Credit: Photo by Google DeepMind; Pexels; Thank you!

Deanna Ritchie

Managing Editor at ReadWrite

Deanna is the Managing Editor at ReadWrite. Previously she worked as the Editor in Chief for Startup Grind and has over 20+ years of experience in content management and content development.

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UK seizes web3 opportunity simplifying crypto regulations



Deanna Ritchie

As Web3 companies increasingly consider leaving the United States due to regulatory ambiguity, the United Kingdom must simplify its cryptocurrency regulations to attract these businesses. The conservative think tank Policy Exchange recently released a report detailing ten suggestions for improving Web3 regulation in the country. Among the recommendations are reducing liability for token holders in decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) and encouraging the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to adopt alternative Know Your Customer (KYC) methodologies, such as digital identities and blockchain analytics tools. These suggestions aim to position the UK as a hub for Web3 innovation and attract blockchain-based businesses looking for a more conducive regulatory environment.

Streamlining Cryptocurrency Regulations for Innovation

To make it easier for emerging Web3 companies to navigate existing legal frameworks and contribute to the UK’s digital economy growth, the government must streamline cryptocurrency regulations and adopt forward-looking approaches. By making the regulatory landscape clear and straightforward, the UK can create an environment that fosters innovation, growth, and competitiveness in the global fintech industry.

The Policy Exchange report also recommends not weakening self-hosted wallets or treating proof-of-stake (PoS) services as financial services. This approach aims to protect the fundamental principles of decentralization and user autonomy while strongly emphasizing security and regulatory compliance. By doing so, the UK can nurture an environment that encourages innovation and the continued growth of blockchain technology.

Despite recent strict measures by UK authorities, such as His Majesty’s Treasury and the FCA, toward the digital assets sector, the proposed changes in the Policy Exchange report strive to make the UK a more attractive location for Web3 enterprises. By adopting these suggestions, the UK can demonstrate its commitment to fostering innovation in the rapidly evolving blockchain and cryptocurrency industries while ensuring a robust and transparent regulatory environment.

The ongoing uncertainty surrounding cryptocurrency regulations in various countries has prompted Web3 companies to explore alternative jurisdictions with more precise legal frameworks. As the United States grapples with regulatory ambiguity, the United Kingdom can position itself as a hub for Web3 innovation by simplifying and streamlining its cryptocurrency regulations.

Featured Image Credit: Photo by Jonathan Borba; Pexels; Thank you!

Deanna Ritchie

Managing Editor at ReadWrite

Deanna is the Managing Editor at ReadWrite. Previously she worked as the Editor in Chief for Startup Grind and has over 20+ years of experience in content management and content development.

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