Danielle Applestone: This is a story about two stories and how at just the right time, they intersected. The first story begins here in a residential neighborhood, the sort of place where so many of us carve out our personal space, just as people have done for generations. But this is 2020, a time when long held ideas of home have changed, maybe forever. And that house there, a piano teacher is providing a lesson by video conference with a fourth grader. Next door, a marketing research analyst is presenting a report to a client in Copenhagen. Across the streets, the VP of a power tool manufacturer tracks a shipping container steaming towards the port of San Francisco. Meanwhile, in a casita, just outside that house, the founder of a scrappy start-up focused on the future of work, sits at a makeshift desk, a piece of wood, a top a keyboard stand. She’s making a mental list of all the things she misses about her office. The comfort, the speed, connecting with her team, getting things done fast and seamlessly. I know her pretty well. She’s me.
My name’s Danielle Applestone. My company: Daughters of Rosie. As an engineer, hardware entrepreneur, and co-founder of an online job center for hands on careers, I know that tools are power. That idea is at the heart of this new six part series where we’ll explore the unexpected intersections between innovative tech and everyday life. This is Technology Powers X, an original podcast from Dell Technologies. In this episode, technology powers productivity anywhere.
Remember when I said this story is about two stories? For the second story, you need to travel back a few years, to here, to a Dell Technologies lab, where a team is unraveling the industry’s most enduring puzzle. What specific features will the remote working professional need in 2020? At the moment they’re discussing the need for better audio and video. Check. Stronger connectivity. Check. Add to that an AI platform that learns from the user. Anticipating and optimizing everyday functions. Sure they’re in tech, but they’re also in the anticipate the future business and as luck would have it, they’re pretty darn good.
Now let’s find out how these worlds came together. Before my home office became my home office, it was a music studio, which is why it has that in between look, with a desk comprised of a piece of wood on a keyboard stand. Over there and amp is an end table for all my normal desk stuff. Call it a work in progress. The office I came from was a comfortable space with my seven person team. Our desks were arranged in a horseshoe. Messaging meant calling, “Hey, you,” across the room. Team meetings were in person. Information changed hands by hand. Like countless other businesses in the new economic environment, we felt the jolt of sudden dependence on devices to do so many of the things we had done face to face.
Bob O’Donnell: When some of these situations first happened, of course a lot of companies were completely caught off guard.
Danielle Applestone: That’s Bob O’Donnell, President of TECHnalysis Research. The new economic reality caused a lightning fast evolution in thinking around work from home technology.
Bob O’Donnell: And they had to just react quickly and speed outweighed everything. The speed of the response was much more important than the depth of the response. So, we saw a lot of companies like, okay, let’s just get whatever the cheapest, fastest things we can do. They sort of took it the light approach like we’re just going to do the basics to get it out there. As time has gone on, people recognize, well that really isn’t going to work long term because while it helped us get through that initial hump, as we’ve seen how people have adjusted their work styles, as we’ve seen how we’re adjusting our type of software and the type of tools we’re making available, there’s this recognition that we actually might need more powerful capabilities.
Danielle Applestone: No kidding. Almost overnight, thousands of businesses like mine and yours, learned that good was no longer good enough.
Bob O’Donnell: So in order to go from doing it light to doing it right, they’re going to have to invest a bit more but that investment is going to last longer term because again, people recognize that these situations are likely to be coming and going for quite some time and so they have to be prepared to do that and the implications for not just the infrastructure and the applications, but the client devices that connect to that infrastructure, are profound.
Danielle Applestone: Years before in that lab, the Dell experience team imagined that very need for high performance devices for a work from anywhere world. They didn’t anticipate the transformation of 2020, but they did read the trends. Research had told them that a quarter of the workforce worked remotely and most of the workforce worked for more than three locations.
Rahul Tikoo: We were thinking about the modern worker and that someone that doesn’t normally just work between the hours of nine to five.
Danielle Applestone: Rahul Tikoo, is Senior Vice President for Commercial Client PCs at Dell.
Rahul Tikoo: They might work from multiple locations. They may be on the road quite a bit and also uses the PC as their primary productivity tool. We were also thinking about the worker base being much younger now. People that are born and brought up with great technology in their personal lives.
Danielle Applestone: On the many scenes that capture the essence of doing business in 2020, this one is bound to make the top three. Me and my team, like you and your team, meeting by video conference. And like so many of you, we quickly learned this. Any problem with sound, resolution and connectivity in a video conference, is a lot like a bad haircut the day before senior prom, it becomes a thing. Bob O’Donnell.
Bob O’Donnell: For a huge percentage of workers, what they quickly recognized is, wait a minute, we need a really solid performing machine because people are going to be doing these audio and video conferences and if it doesn’t have the kind of horsepower from a computing perspective and from a graphics perspective and from an audio visual quality perspective, then they’re really going to suffer and we need to make sure people can effectively communicate in any location.
Danielle Applestone: Turns out effectively communicate is a complex proposition. Imagine you’re just crushing a presentation and just as you reached the crescendo, life happens and though you can’t do this. At least you can mitigate background noise with Intelligent Audio, part of Dell’s Optimizer AI software1. Rahul Tikoo.
Rahul Tikoo: We’ve built in noise canceling microphones into your Latitude and Precision machines. We’ve built in top firing speakers. So the baseline foundational hardware elements that exist in your PC, have been transformed to give you a stellar experience. Then what we’re doing is, we worked with one of the best in the industry, Waves, and we have optimized the microphone and the speaker phones so you get the best experience while you’re on conference calls. We can take out noise that you know is created on your PCs, like you might get ping noises through people trying to bring you through IMs, or you might be running multiple windows and you’re trying to run a YouTube video on a window while you’re also on a conference call. How do we take out those background noises from the environment and so we built in that intelligence in our AI engine to remove those background noises from your conferencing experience and giving you a really stellar conferencing experience as a result.
Danielle Applestone: In the past, your average device needed external cameras, speakers, and microphones, to make video conferencing more office like. That didn’t sit well with that experience team back in the Dell lab all those years ago. They wondered why can’t we pack a first rate, AV experience inside a single device. Rahul Tikoo.
Rahul Tikoo: In Latitude 9000 Series, the 9510 as an example, that device is a PC as a conferencing device experience. Everything is built in. Everything is ready to go for a small conferencing experience, whether it’s personal one-to-one or if you have a small meeting room with six people in it, you don’t need any other external peripherals or devices to have a really stellar conferencing experience on that device.
Danielle Applestone: It seems like yesterday that the phrase, work from home, had an irresistible Pollyanna attraction to it. Who’d say no to a 20 second commute and slippers as work boots. Yet it wasn’t long before the little voice that said, “Wouldn’t it be great to work from home,” gave way to the one that said, “I miss my team,” and my company now spread across seven households, I noticed we’re more sensitive about reading each other’s moods. When one of us is having a bad day, we all feel it segue to the Dell lab, a few years back. As the Dell Experience Team developed Optimizer AI technology and idea took shape. If workplace teammates can anticipate and react to a person’s needs, why can’t their technology do the same? For example, the daily startup ritual. Rahul Tikoo.
Rahul Tikoo: You have to hit the power button, wait for 10 seconds for the PC to boot up to the window screen, then you put in your log in name, your password. If you’re like me, you’re probably forget it. You go get coffee. You come back. You eventually get into your PC and then you have to go figure out what application do I need to run. Double click that application. Open the file that you need in that application and then you are sort of connected, right? You’ve really wasted 15 to 20 minutes of your morning or any time you’re trying to connect to your PC just to get to work. So we wanted to remove that friction from the equation. So we have features built into Dell Optimizer like ExpressSign-In2 in where you can walk up to your machine. It senses your presence, automatically turns on facial recognition and you can get into your machine touchlessly within seconds. If you walk away, you don’t need to do anything. The machine will auto log, sensing that you’re walking away.
Danielle Applestone: Packed inside the average work device is an O’Hare airport of apps. Trouble is they don’t always work and play nice. So suppose your device included sophisticated AI to serve as an air traffic controller, ensuring the apps you use most, have the resources they need when they’re needed.
Rahul Tikoo: If you’re on a conference call, should we give you more bandwidth for that conference call, knowing that you’re on a conference call, versus the 50 other tasks that you have open in the background? If you’re in a busy location or a network that is not secure, should we provide you better security based on our knowledge of your current context? There are things that we can really do where you can treat your PC truly as a companion device. It knows you. It can make decisions on your behalf.
Danielle Applestone: The task of training PCs to do that, fell to the Dell Experience Team back in the lab. No easy gig.
Rahul Tikoo: So we have five machine learning models in Dell Optimizer. Conflicting policy recommendations was a real challenge where a traditional rules based engine was not sufficient. Let me give you an example what that means. You really have to understand your customer’s personas to really know what the customer wants to do. So for example, one of the features ExpressResponse3 can optimize for application performance. But if your customer is a mobile warrior, they probably want better battery life. If you’re optimizing for performance, you’re probably draining battery life. So there’s a conflict in user scenarios where the express response feature might be trying to optimize your applications wise the ExpressCharge4 features trying to optimize your battery life. So how do we have the right machine learning models to sort of resolve that conflict? So that was one of the biggest challenges as we embarked down this path was truly understanding what our customers care about? What were those use cases? What were those types of customers? And then building an intelligence model that had a decision tree that helped us make the right decisions on behalf of that customer.
Danielle Applestone: When my team at Daughters of Rosie shifted to working from home, we discovered very quickly the value of making sure everyone had the tools they needed. Did they have the right chair? Do they need Wi-Fi extenders? Do they have the devices that could best help them bring the office experience home? The questions we’re asking in 2020 are the same ones Dell’s Experience Team has been asking and answering all along. Years of hemming, hawing and what if’s, conspired to produce small light, intelligent Latitude PCs, and 2-in-1s. Combining mobility, productivity, and innovation, these PCs keep users connected with Intel Wi-Fi 6 and 5G ready design5. Dell’s new Precision mobile workstations match the power of a traditional desktop workstation built to handle demanding workloads. Tasks, such as intensive graphics processing, data analysis, and CAD modeling, but in new sleeker and smaller designs that will help customers get the job done from anywhere. For industries such as healthcare and education that depend on desktop devices, Dell launched redesigned OptiPlex towers. Dell also expanded all in ones with flexible configurations in space saving designs. Dell had designed a just in time response to the new reality before it was reality, equipping our workforce for the fast changes to workplace culture. Bob O’Donnell.
Bob O’Donnell: So all of a sudden, things that in the past people would say, “Oh, we can’t do that because you know, we have all this existing legacy, this or that.” All of that goes away and now what you have is profoundly new ways of thinking, fresh ways of thinking, what’s going on in the world around them. So they are trying to build an environment that allows people to have that flexibility and the shackles are off so that they can in fact build exactly the kind of flexible environment and infrastructure that allows people to use a variety of different devices and yet still be effective at their work.
Danielle Applestone: Wherever that work takes them because if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s the value of nimble.
Bob O’Donnell: Even if, and when things do change, knowing that you have the capability to shift back if we have to, is worth something as well. It’s kind of like an insurance policy, right? It’s something you want to have the technical insurance as it were, to ensure your workers, of being able to get their jobs done efficiently and effectively,
Danielle Applestone: Who knew that almost overnight for companies like mine, face to face would become screen to screen, or that years ago, some forward thinking engineers would imagine and build the workplace devices to meet extraordinary circumstances. Or that those two worlds would intersect at exactly the right time.
I’m Danielle Applestone and this is Technology Powers X, an original podcast from Dell Technologies. For more information on Dell Optimizer, the AI based optimization software designed to help you work more efficiently, go to DellTechnologies.com/TechnologyPowersX. You can read the transcript, learn more about our speakers and check out some great links. Next episode, we’ll explore PowerStore, a scalable storage solution that’s improving the quality of life for people with heart disease. Thank you for listening.
1Dell Optimizer available in 2020 devices, not available in OptiPlex 3000 series. Latitude 3310 2-in-1 and Latitude Chromebook Enterprise. Feature availability and functionality varies by model.
2ExpressSign-In is available on Latitude 9000 and select 7000 series; Precision mobile workstations 7000 and select 5000 series. See product details for availability.
3Dell Optimizer ExpressResponse must be enabled in the Applications feature. DO learns how user uses the selected application(s) over several hours. Based on Dell testing using Sysmark 2018 benchmark on a Latitude system running productivity applications; and using performance evaluation benchmarks on Precision mobile workstations running ISV applications, March 2020. Improvement will vary based on product configuration, use, application and other factors.
4ExpressCharge with Dell Optimizer (DO) requires 14 days to learn the user’s behavior, then dynamically applies appropriate battery settings. DO Adaptive Battery setting must be enabled in the Power feature settings labeled “Adaptive Battery Performance”. Improvement will vary based on product configuration, use, software, operating conditions, power management settings and other factors. Improvements may decrease over time. System performance may be impacted.
55G LTE option on 2-in-1 coming in fall of 2020. Mobile Broadband/LTE: Subject to service provider’s broadband subscription and coverage area; speeds may vary. Additional charges will apply. Contact your service provider for details.