Robot commuters and Wi-Fi sticky notes: Google Drive’s Scott Johnston on the future of work

Robot commuters and Wi-Fi sticky notes: Google Drive’s Scott Johnston on the future of work

Google Drive got a snazzy new Chrome extension yesterday but we sat down with the man in charge of Google’s personal file fortress, Scott Johnston, at the Web Summit in Dublin to look further into the future. With Google Drive baked into Chrome and Gmail, how long before we see Google Now-style features helping us with our files?

While shying away from any concrete revelations, Johnston says a smarter Drive is certainly on the cards: “When you look at something like Google Drive in a Google Now context you should walk into a meeting and have all the files related to it ready for you without you needing to prepare them, you should have a profile of who you’re meeting and a photo of them.

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“When we look at Google Apps, we can take a thread that has reached more than 20 replies in a short time, we can prompt you to select a time that suits everyone and have a Hangout instead.”

In the short-term, he wants to see improvements in how Google Drive presents files to users: “I think we can do a lot better job with auto-organization, prompting you to share a document with a person or group because you tend to share that kind of content with them.

“We also need to work hard on the area of being better than local storage. There’s a lot of great things about the cloud now but there’s still issues around the efficiency of getting things up and down, in search and just in the area of how you intelligently make sure content is local when you need it.”

Prompted to peer a little deeper into the crystal ball, Johnston predicts a future with even fewer reasons to head into an office. How will the world of work look in 10 years’ time? “Location is not going to be an issue at all. Right now, video conferencing is impressive but you’re still a little bit out of sync. We’ll get through that.

“We already have customers who have constantly open Google Hangouts, some of the more advanced ones even have robots, and it feels like you’re in the same office. In the future it’ll be even easier to work with the people who are the best fit for you without having to worry about where you are, which is more of a life choice.”

When we do have to go into the office of the future, we’ll be faced with a lot less paper. Johnston predicts that we’re finally on the cusp of the near-mythical paperless office: “Tablets are a huge step forward. The ability to annotate on a surface that is much more akin to paper helps.

“A lot of the paper we have to deal with is down to legislation. We still get a lot of paper because we’re required to and we’re really going to work on that. It has to go.”

Johnston does have a soft-spot for some stationery though, although he predicts that’s ripe for disruption too: “There are elements of the office that don’t need to be paperless. Sticky notes are a great example. They’re a really valid way to track things and really tactile. I do think the Internet of Things will mean those products get reimagined though.” Wi-Fi Post-It notes? Sign us up.

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