Just when you thought all the ‘Tech Trends 2021’ articles finally ebb off, surprise, here is another one! But rather than taking a look into the crystal ball, we want to outline here how a fundamental change in the way we work affects our lives and our mental wellbeing. The development we are talking about is the Covid-driven increase in remote work around the globe.
Home office, mainly driven by Covid-19, is here to stay. During global lockdowns, up to 60% of the workforce is working from home . But even if restrictions are lifted during the course of 2021, many people will remain working from their kitchens, bedrooms and whatever other place they can put their laptop on. According to Gartner , 82% of company leaders plan to increase remote work in the upcoming years, and they are met by an even larger amount of employees that wish to spend at least a larger part of their work at home . The implications are huge, sustaining endless office space in the best locations will be challenged, mobility and pressure on infrastructure reduced, teams become even more international, and the environment might profit from reduced CO2 emissions . On the downside, employees experience increased mental fatigue and stress from a lack of separation of private and professional life of breaks between meetings, and of social contacts . The dilemma of constant availability without actual human interaction can weigh heavy on the mind, affect sleep quality, and impact our overall wellbeing.
At IDUN, we also had revisit our digital workplace infrastructure, habits and interaction with each other. By now, we found our rhythm in digital meetings, are comfortable doing all project management on the cloud, brainstorm on digital whiteboards and even have remote beers in the evening (although we miss the real ones dearly). We even hired three interns that are working on a different continent, something we would a deemed impossible two years in the past. And just like many other companies, we found that we can work just as well together and without losing momentum in reaching our ambitious goals.
At the same time, we think about how our technology could be used to tackle some of the mental challenges associated with working mostly remotely. Using neurofeedback, we imagine that productivity software such as Microsoft Office could assist the user’s wellbeing by suggesting small breaks or mindfulness sessions in the calendar, playing relaxing music in times of stress or by connecting us with friends and colleagues. Similar to other health metrics such as activity or heart rate, a personal assessment of stress levels, focus time and mental load over the course of a week could be of high interest for individuals interested in the quantified self. Next to the workplace at home, these metrics could additionally interface with our smart appliances or favorite apps, to make them more emphatic. Neurotech could help us take better care of ourselves.
To reach that end, some major challenges need to be tackled, one of the most important ones being data privacy and ownership of the data by the user. With sensitive biodata being recorded and processed in a cloud environment, a zero trust architecture  where every access request validated based on user identity, device, location, and other variables, seems to be a necessity. If user can be identified by the data recorded (PII), a data architecture is required that allows users to track, access and delete their data at any given time. What this means for machine learning models, that have been trained on that user data, is an ongoing debate. Differential privacy, or introducing artificial ‘noise’ to datasets is an option to prevent reverse identification at the cost of model accuracy. With increasing processing power and bandwidth on the edge, another promising route to ensure data privacy is the use of federated learning, where classifiers are trained decentralized on the user device and no actual user data is exchanged .
 Corona-Krise: Anteil der Belegschaft, der im Homeoffice arbeitete, aktuell arbeitet oder theoretisch arbeiten könnte in Deutschland im 2. Quartal 2020
 Gartner Survey Reveals 82% of Company Leaders Plan to Allow Employees to Work Remotely Some of the Time
Other relevant tech trends for future exploitation:
- continue to push into data analytics, diagnostics and strategy
- discover patterns, reveal anomalies, make predictions and decisions, and generate insights
- This is also going to be a big topic where we use both assisted learning as well as deep learning approaches to analyze and interpret brain data
From individual services to full company ERP
Upcoming Blockchain Applications:
- Secure sharing of medical data
- Music royalties tracking
- Cross-border payments
- Real-time IoT operating systems
- Personal identity security
- Anti-money laundering tracking system
- Supply chain and logistics monitoring
- Voting mechanism
- Advertising insights
- Original content creation
- Cryptocurrency exchange
- Real estate processing platform
thank you for reading my blogpost.
I am a passionate engineer and scientist with experience in world-class research (ETH, MIT, NUS, IMTEK) and a wide range of industries (biomedical, sensors, MEMS, printing).
The intricacy and potential of the human brain is my thing, as well as cutting-edge technologies and their utilization. I am the happiest employee on the block because I can combine all these elements in a product and push the frontiers of neurotechnology together with my amazing team.
We are located in the outskirts of Zurich, near the airport. We always welcome drop-in visits!