The driving force of technology | United Workplace

Unlike animals, humans are technological beings. The different innovations that have emerged throughout history have modified and modelled our culture, our beliefs and our lifestyle. Today, technology has turned the world into a globalised experience and become a key driving force for the development of new mobile, flexible, collaborative work practices as well as new trends in office design.

We usually associate the concept of technology with the avant-garde and the future: space travel, genetic engineering, quantum computing. But technological activity, that accumulation of experiences, knowledge and techniques used to achieve a desirable objective, is as old as humanity. Most everyday objects are technological products: books, clothes and cutlery have not always existed. They developed from what was once cutting-edge technology.

Technological innovation does not come from nowhere. It usually owes much to our predecessors and their achievements, and the transmission of knowledge to the next generation allows human culture to keep on evolving without having to start from scratch every time. As time goes by, the process is accelerated . Knowledge is transmitted from one individual to another and from one generation to the next, until someone introduces a new idea to improve it.

Until about 200 years ago, technological development progressed locally and in a linear fashion. However, in recent years knowledge has become global and exponential. Today, the world has been reduced to an interconnected experience and the pace of innovation has accelerated at an unprecedented speed, submerging our lives in new technologies and styles of living, interacting and working.


The history of technology begins slowly but surely 2.5 million years ago, when the first hunters created axes for hunting or cutting by sharpening stones. Later, they employed wood and bones to build tools for fishing and used fur to stay warm. Two million years later they learnt how to use fire, which greatly improved their living conditions: it gave them heat, light and the opportunity to improve their diet.

Much later, just 10,000 years ago, the Neolithic Revolution introduced a radical transformation in the history of mankind in the form of agriculture and the domestication of animals, which in turn gave rise to the first permanent settlements. The wheel appeared around the year 3,500 BC, leading to the creation of the first means of transport pulled by animals.

Writing, one of the great technological innovations of humanity, emerged in Mesopotamia about 3,000 years ago. Not only did it draw a line between prehistory and history, but it made the collection and transmission of knowledge possible. The invention of the printing press in the mid-15th century – a great century of innovation – enabled the dissemination of knowledge, previously reserved for a select few, and laid the foundations of the information society.

With the First Industrial Revolution in the 18th century, the steam engine was created, and the technological innovation curve began to steepen. Society underwent a great transformation, the most important since the Neolithic period. Farmers left the countryside and moved to the cities to work in factories, changing an essentially rural world into an urban society.

During the Second Industrial Revolution, occupying the second half of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, the rate of technological change accelerated again. Electricity catalysed the appearance of new technologies and profoundly altered both the production of goods and the social structure. Intensive use of oil leveraged the evolution of transportation: cars, trains, ships and aeroplanes.

The arrival of transistors in the mid-20th century laid the foundations of the Third Industrial Revolution, marking the beginning of the digital era and information technology and giving rise to the personal computer and a host of electronic devices. The invention of the internet, the mobile phone, wireless networks and tools to process and access information galvanised global development and automation, producing major changes in economic, social and cultural structures around the world.

Up to a decade ago automation was limited to repetitive tasks. Today there are systems capable of carrying out a wide range of non-routine duties which used to be performed by people. Soon, the resources provided by the internet, digital technologies and quantum science will make deep inroads into ever-increasing swathes of human activity, advancing the autonomy of smart systems.


The explosive growth in device connectivity is leading us into a new era of ubiquitous communication that is already changing the way we live and work. Soon, everything we use on a daily basis – from clothing, appliances, urban infrastructure and medical equipment to office temperature sensors and mobile phones – will be sending and receiving data within a huge network, the internet of things, which will be processed in ‘the cloud’ with a view to improving our capabilities, practices and experiences. Buildings and workplaces are integral to this new reality.

This revolutionary concept is not only aimed at collecting data, but also analysing and using that data. And today our world is full of data. There are currently over 19,000 million devices connected to the internet [2] , over 5,000 million mobile users [3] and about 2 zettabytes of traffic per year at a global level. The result is what is known as the era of Big Data. Many companies see opportunities in the analysis of the valuable information hidden within the enormous amount of data constantly being collected.

Companies can create value by analysing Big Data [4] . This may include more efficient use of assets (from computer equipment to meeting room or workstation availability), control of the physical environment (obtaining real-time information on temperature, humidity, managing the air conditioning and lighting systems and so on), and generating a large amount of information that can be transmitted to a data centre in the cloud for further analysis.

As Big Data analysis requires vast quantities of storage space, the cloud is transforming into a new paradigm that allows us to use the infrastructure offered by a provider through a network. This is an essential tool when collecting large amounts of data or working from mobile devices without a storage capacity. The cloud also provides efficient access to computer services, regardless of the devices used or their location, so long as internet access is available.

The cloud model encompasses a wide variety of services and applications, some, such as email and information storage, very widely used. It also offers companies the opportunity to delegate part of the management of their computer systems, potentially reducing costs, as well as the potential to expand or reduce their computer resources in response to market conditions.


The evolution of technology has affected all aspects of life, and the office is no exception. The ability to access the internet from a wide range of mobile devices allows us to work at any time and from anywhere. Apps, data and corporate services in the cloud can be accessed from any location with an internet connection, redefining work as a mobile and flexible activity.

Today, work can follow us wherever we go, so it’s no longer necessary to be chained to a desk in order to carry out our daily tasks. The idea of the office as the place where we sit for eight hours a day is giving way to an adaptable and dynamic concept with myriad options for communication and collaboration.

These new work environments have technological equipment giving people more control over their tasks wherever they are, from checking email and editing documents to receiving real-time information on the occupation of the workspace and the availability of meeting rooms. While in the office, people can regulate the temperature or lighting, control videoconferencing systems and audiovisual equipment, and more.

But as technology becomes ever more accessible, a new trend has arisen: the consumerisation of technology. New technologies tend to arise first in the consumer market and then spread to the workplace, which means the average employee has better technology at home than at work.

When the first generation of digital natives entered the labour market, a new practice emerged called bring your own device (BYOD). Employees were encouraged to use their own notebooks, mobile phones and tablets in the workplace, in the hope this would make workers feel more comfortable and be more productive.

But the path is not smooth. As technology continues to evolve exponentially, it’s essential to develop a culture in which rapid technological change is the norm. Organisations will need to train, educate and instruct those who will use this technology.


The transformations that organisations are currently facing are happening faster than ever due to the accelerated development of digital technology and its intimate relationship with business models. Smartphones, cloud computing, social media, the internet of things and Big Data analysis are gaining ground at a faster rate than most organisations can follow.

This set of changes, also called ‘disruptive innovation’, has been widely studied and appears to follow certain patterns or laws:

[5] Moore’s Law states that the capacity of microprocessors doubles every 18 months. The direct consequence is that prices drop as the provision of services rises.

[6] Law of accelerating returns. In 2001, Ray Kurzweil extended Moore’s Law to include future technologies. He established that whenever a technology reaches a barrier, a new one will be invented that makes crossing that barrier possible. As a consequence, it’s estimated that from a technological point of view, we will make more progress in the next 10 years than in the last 100 years.

[7] Gilder’s Law predicts that bandwidth will triple each year, and that growth will accelerate.

[8] Metcalfe’s Law says that the value of a network is proportional to the square of the number of users of the system. This applies to any system that exchanges information.

[9] Martec’s Law states that unlike information technologies, which grow exponentially, organisations (business and political) grow logarithmically.

It follows that if organisations do not adapt to the pace of change, extinction will be inevitable. This process is what some people call ‘digital Darwinism’.


It’s estimated that by 2020 the so-called generation Y (or millennials), together with generation Z (or centennials), will constitute 60% of the global workforce.

Technological development and the arrival of these new workers have begun to bring about change in the office, and as millennials reach leadership positions, this will increase. Young people whose lives have been influenced by technology from birth have demands and aspirations that are very different from those of their predecessors. This means employers must adopt a new approach to manage their talent. The workspace, human resources policies and leadership styles must adapt to match the expectations of those who will soon represent more than half the world’s active population.

In new work environments, use of technology – one of the factors defining millennials and centennials – will be essential to boost efficiency, facilitate activities, support projects, communicate with staff and organise social events. Technology will be the tool with which organisations meet the expectations of the new generations, find innovative ways to complete daily tasks and keep in touch.


BANK OF AMERICA MERRILL LYNCH (2016): Thematic Investing: New Kids On The Block – Millennials & Centennials Primer. | CDW (2015): The App Roadmap: Mobile App Strategy for the Workplace.


As technology becomes part of our everyday lives, companies must update their business strategies or risk being left behind. The answer is digital transformation. Research shows that certain disruptive technologies are converging to form what Fred Wilson calls ‘the golden triangle of disruption’[10] : real-time apps, social media and mobile technologies.

• Real-time solutions

With access to increasingly affordable Big Data analysis solutions, tools are now available that allow companies to respond to customer and employee demands in real time. In workspaces, for example, companies can use networks of sensors to collect information about occupancy, lighting, temperature, humidity and other factors. As the information is received, a smart system evaluates and adjusts the parameters in real time, helping to maintain a comfortable environment, improve use of space and reduce operation and maintenance costs.

• Social media

Since the arrival of Facebook, social media has achieved unprecedented popularity. This has piqued the interest of companies who see an opportunity to build their brand and improve communication with customers and employees. According to Jody Nimetz [11] , companies need to take five important actions: create brand awareness, manage online reputation, recruit the best talent, learn about new technologies and competitors, and intercept potential prospects. So-called ‘corporate social media’ informal networks are being created to promote collaboration and communication within the organisation.

• Mobility

Mobile devices allow users to perform numerous functions thanks to their internet connectivity. Today’s smartphone has more computing power than a room-sized 1970s mainframe [12] . This has led to new mobile work styles, forcing a shift in the concept of the traditional office – employees can work wherever they are. Companies must increase their investment in technological infrastructure and collaborative tools to support this new mobile workforce, even as office size decreases.


ACCOUNTANCY FUTURES ACADEMY (2013): Digital Darwinism: Thriving in the Face of Technology Change.

DOWNES, L. (2009): The Laws of Disruption: Harnessing the New Forces that Govern Life and Business in the Digital Age.

EVANS, D. (2011). L’Internet des objets: Comment l’évolution actuelle d’Internet transforme-t-elle le monde? Cisco.

GRASSIE, W. (2007): Human Creativity: Expanding Complexity and Evolutionary Discontinuities.

HWANG, J. S. (2016): The Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0): Intelligent Manufacturing. SMT Magazine.

KELLY, J. E. (2015): Computing, Cognition and the Future of Knowing. IBM Corporation.

MCKINSEY GLOBAL INSTITUTE (2013): Disruptive Technologies: Advances that Will Transform Life, Business, and the Global Economy.

NIMETZ, J. (2007): Jody Nimetz on Emerging Trends in B2B Social Networking. Marketing Jive.

SOLIS, B., LI, C. & SZYMANSKI, J. (2013): Digital Transformation.


Until about 200 years ago, technological development was local and linear. However, in recent years this evolution has become global and exponential. The arrival of information and communication technologies boosted global development and automation, producing major changes in economic, social and cultural structures around the world. Soon, everything we interact with will be sending and receiving data within a huge network – the internet of things.

The idea of the office as the place where we sit for eight hours a day is giving way to an adaptable and dynamic concept offering myriad options. With the exponential growth of technology, organisations must develop a culture conducive to rapid change. As technology becomes part of everyday life, companies will be forced to update their business strategies to avoid being left behind.

[1] GRASSIE, W. (2007): Human Creativity: Expanding Complexity and Evolutionary Discontinuities.




[5] Gordon" class="redactor-autoparser-object"> Moore is the co-founder of Intel, leading manufacturer of integrated circuits.

[6] Raymond Kurzweil is an entrepreneur, writer and scientist specialising in computer science and artificial intelligence. Since 2012, he has been Director of Engineering at Google.

[7] George Gilder is Director at Media Lab, Massachusetts, an icon of the internet era.

[8] Robert Metcalfe is one of the inventors of Ethernet technology, a standard for connecting devices within a local network.

[9] Martec’s Law is named after the weblog created by marketing expert Scott Brinker.

[10] SOLIS, B., LI, C. & SZYMANSKI, J. (2013): Digital Transformation.

[11] NIMETZ, J. (2007): Jody Nimetz on Emerging Trends in B2B Social Networking. Marketing Jive.

[12] ACCOUNTANCY FUTURES ACADEMY (2013): Digital Darwinism: Thriving in the Face of Technology Change.