SKT brings 5G workplace to life

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SKT brings 5G workplace to life


SK Telecom employees demonstrate a virtual reality meeting, above, and order coffee from a robotic barista via smartphone, right, during the smart office event held at the company’s technology test bed in Jongno District, central Seoul, Wednesday. [YONHAP]

ID cards, laptops and business trips will no longer be necessary, according to SK Telecom, when the 5G network-based smart office environment becomes an industry norm.

The mobile carrier showcased its smart office technology test bed in Jongno District, central Seoul, Wednesday. Currently, about 300 SK Telecom employees are working at the space set up roughly a month ago by renting out three floors in the Centropolis building.

At the entrance to the office, SK Telecom has facial recognition technology manning the security desk. Due to privacy issues, only employees who have agreed to register their biometric information can pass through the gate without an ID card.

Inside the office, a display panel shows seat reservations. The screen shows all available seats inside the office, similar to the systems seen in university libraries and also shows who is in which seat. When designing the smart office, SK Telecom made it into an open space so employees can freely move around. The display even shows how many toilet cubicles are available for immediate use, although in this case employee names aren’t shown.

The carrier said it used roughly 2,300 sensors, including on the ceilings, CCTV and even doorknobs in the bathrooms that track relevant data on employees’ work patterns inside the office. The data collected will be used to develop smart office solutions packages for enterprise customers.

The desks in the office come with desktop computers connected to mobile routers that convert 5G signals into super-fast Wi-Fi. Beside the computer monitor is a docking station for smartphones. The so-called virtual desktop infrastructure enables employees to bring up what they were working on with their personal computers on the desktop computer using the cloud. Unlike simply mirroring a smartphone display, the phones become an authorization medium that allow the computer to verify which work files are downloaded from the cloud.

At one side of the office is a space for so-called telemeetings that could cut down the need for frequent business trips. SK Telecom said it used its “T real telepresence” technology to invite multiple users into a virtual space where participants can have meetings while watching videos or 3-D designs of game characters and buildings together.

After donning Microsoft’s HoloLens, this reporter was invited to a telemeeting to discuss the design of a game character.

Within the virtual meeting, attendees were able to see and walk around a moving 3-D game character while interacting with the avatars of other people in the meeting.

The experience wasn’t perfect - the field of view was small and constantly looking around was necessary in order to follow everything that was going on, but the potential of the technology to greatly reduce the need for business trips was evident.

Other technologies already being used in the office included a barista robot and artificial intelligence-based autonomous vending machine, which can track employee purchases with camera sensors.

Would any of these innovations be possible without 5G network?

According to SK Telecom, yes. But, while all of these technologies are possible on the existing 4G LTE network, the new high-speed network, touted to be 20 times faster when fully commercialized, offers faster and more stable internet connection even when a million devices are connected at once.

In essence, 5G ensures that all these systems work seamlessly without their huge data usage interrupting networks or slowing down work.

“Dependency on landline internet will be reduced and high-capacity data will be delivered fast enough for real-time telemeetings with 5G,” said Shin Seung-ho, a manager from SK Telecom’s media lab under ICT center.

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