By Anand Parthasarathy
October 2, 2022: Imagine you are a tech professional and have been working from home for the last 2 years and more. Your employer invites you to start coming back to work, but you are not very keen to restart that twice-daily commute at rush hour.
Then you are informed about some changes that have been made in your work place during the 20 months or so when it was almost empty, allowing management to put in some innovations:
- There is a new cloud based smart parking solution you can access on your mobile phone: if you plan on going to work on a particular day, you can check if there is a vacant parking spot available inside the campus. If yes, you can book it. If the parking bays are full you are encouraged to come on another day.
- Next, you check to see if a work space would be free for the 6 hours or so you expect to be working. Your employer now provides work spaces for just 70 % of the staff at any given time. You can see a real time map of the Agile Workspace -- with 3200 seats bookable. Like booking seats in a multiplex, you can select the exact seat of your choice -- away from the exit, close to a window or whatever works for you. If you want to save a trip to your gym, you can even choose to work at one of a dozen ‘cardio’ treadmills or exercise cycling machines with fixtures to strap on your laptop: work as you workout!
- Once you have reached your office and used your phone to locate your parking spot, you park your car or bike and if your selected seat is some distance away, you hitch a ride in the electric buggy that is constantly shuttling around the campus.
- Having reached your seat (grabbing a cup of complementary coffee en route from the conveniently placed dispenser), you then proceed to adjust the temperature to your exact liking. Yes, the hall which seats some 500 others like you, is centrally air conditioned, but clever engineers in your plant have added a network of water pipes to the gas cooling system. This allows you to adjust the temperature right above you to your taste. Goodbye to the days when some always found the temperature in a workspace too cold while others found it too warm -- but had to lump it.
- Final adjustment: the ambient lighting in the hall is fixed at 100 lux. But if your work demands better illumination, you have individual controls that allow you to turn on a desk lamp and adjust it up to 250 lux.
All set, let’s get to work then! And who wouldn’t? It makes the switch back to office something to look forward to because, the changes since you were last year in 2020, mean one thing: YOU’re in control now.
The scenario described here is real. It’s all happening exactly as detailed, at the new 3300 square metre campus called Spark.NXT created at the Adugodi, Bengaluru campus of Robert Bosch, the Germany-headquartered global automotive, power tools and braking system specialists.It was inaugurated by Prime Minister Modi on June 30 this year, to mark 100 years of Bosch operations and manufacturing in India.
In his video taped message he said he was confident “This campus will take the lead in developing futuristic solutions for India – and the world …It was (already) an example of German engineering and Indian energy.”
Three months is a fair period for a new system to complete its proving phase – which I why just shy of 90 days after it was opened, this correspondent was enabled to check out the multiple solutions from smart parking, agile work spaces and air quality monitoring and control to visitor management and security/surveillance which go to make Spark.NXT, one of the smartest office spaces in India today – and one where 85 percent of its campus is powered by green, renewable energy.
In just 3 months, I learned, an 8 percent reduction in energy consumption has been achieved. Even before the twin towers of the new office blocks were opened Bosch, in India – as indeed all its 400 locations worldwide -- has been carbon neutral.
Sustainability goes hand in hand with security and safety: which is why Bosch engineers who designed inhouse, all the smart solutions described above, also put in place a system which wipes away the waiting time of visitors who may need to visit the facility.
Face recognition, GPS-enabled visitor badge
Once my visit was approved, I received a text message with a link that encouraged me to upload the usual ID and contact details and mail it along with a fresh selfie. This generated a QR code, which allowed me on arrival at Spark.NXT, to jump the queue of casual visitors, look into the camera of a self-operated kiosk which then did facial recognition, matched it with my pre sent selfie and created a smart card on a lanyard that ensured I could visit all the areas that were part of my tour – and nowhere else. The smart card was GPS-driven and at any point, on my smartphone, a map guided me step by step to my next planned location. (I’m guessing it allowed the system to track me at all times and nudge me gently if I strayed into a no -go area).
All employees – at Bosch they are called Associates – also use a similar phone and smart badge-based system.
In addition to the more tangible benefits of a sharply reduced energy bill, investment in such smart technologies today, is seeing some unexpected bonuses: Like most large tech-driven enterprises, Bosch is slowly moving away from the Work From Home regime of the Covid lockdowns and is encouraging its associates to return to their desks, albeit without coercive pressures. Incredibly -- and I imagine in no small measure because of the new staff-friendly features -- some 70 percent of the workforce at the Robert Bosch facility I visited have chosen to come in, 3-4 days a week. A smart move -- literally – for all concerned.
This is an edited version of a fuller story that has appeared in Swarajya