Future of cities: The view from the Microsoft Technology Center
- 3:50 – Connectivity will be key: “I think we’re really starting to see the end of the office as we know it. In place of that we’re going to see more people permanently working from home. So, the question then becomes: how can you have the same experience at home that you would in the office? It’s happening now but by 2030, it will be a major trend."
- 10:05 – Infrastructure and the internet as a universal human right: “when it’s commoditized, can really go a long way to levelling the playing field. So, I think a lot of the investments in infrastructure are really designed to help start closing some of these income and performance gaps that we currently see.”
- 21:12 – So close and yet so far: “You’re going to see this idea of community, emoji and technology merging in a way that even if we are remote, we’re going to be closer than ever. In the future, you’re going to see a stronger sense of community, but also more virtualization coming together in some unexpected ways."
In this video, Kathie Topel, a Director with Protiviti’s Business Performance Improvement practice, interviews Charles Drayton, the Chief Technical Architect and Healthcare and Life Sciences Lead at the Microsoft Technology Center in Chicago where he helps customers transform the way they engage their patients, employees and partners. Charles shares his views on healthcare, real estate and demographic shifts spurred by COVID, and introduces his special guest Pria, a healthcare robot. Watch above.
Joe Kornik: [Music] Welcome to the Vision by Protiviti interview. I’m Joe Kornik, Director of Brand Publishing and Editor-in-Chief of VISION by Protiviti, our new quarterly content initiative where we put megatrends under the microscope and look far into the future to examine the strategic implications of big topics that will impact the C-suite and executive boardrooms worldwide. In this, our first topic, The Futures of Cities, we’re exploring the evolution urban areas are undergoing post-COVID and how those changes will alter cities over the next decade and beyond. Today, I’m joined by Kathie Topel, a Director in Protiviti’s Business Performance Improvement Practice, and Charles Drayton, the Chief Technical Architect and Healthcare and Life Sciences Lead at the Microsoft Technology Center in Chicago where he helps customers transform the way they engage their patients, employees, and partners. Kathie is going to be doing the interviewing today, so I’m going to turn it over to her to begin. Kathie, it’s all yours.
Kathie Topel: Thanks, Joe. Welcome, Charles. I’m so glad that you could join us here today. I will just start off by saying if you could tell us a little bit about the Microsoft Technology Center and what your actual role is there.
Charles Drayton: Yes. At the Microsoft Technology Center, I am the Chief Technical Architect in the Chicago Office. I’m also the Worldwide Healthcare Experience Lead for all of the MTCs. So, what the MTC is, as a Microsoft Technology Center, think of it as a people, place, and process. So, when it comes to people, we have an entire team of technical architects who cover the entire breadth of Microsoft technology. When it comes to places, there are places like the MTCs, and we have about 40 of them, or more than 40 of them, worldwide. In each place, we have a number of replica facilities. In Chicago, for example, we have a replica healthcare space that looks just like a hospital and that is designed to showcase not just the future of technology, but some of the technology innovations that we’re doing today that customers can take advantage of. When it comes to process, we can help organizations with a wide variety of subjects. We manage hackathons. We can do architecture design sessions. We can do strategy briefings. We can give you demonstrations of brand-new technology or existing technology. So, there’s quite a bit that we do at the MTCs.
Kathie Topel: Charles, when you hear the topic “Future of Cities in 2030 and Beyond,” what’s the first thing that comes to mind for you?
Charles Drayton: I think there are probably two things that come to mind to me. First is sustainability and the second is connectiveness. So, sustainability, I think anyone who’s been following the news, you understand that one of the big challenges of our time is on sustainability, green energy, the environmental crisis that we have right now. I think we’ve taken our eye off the ball a little bit with what’s happening with the pandemic, but I think very soon, it’s coming back to the forefront. So, in 2030, I think there’s going to be the end result of a significant push towards building the future city in a way that can be energy efficient, that can be self-sustaining. Things that can be green in nature that not only are designed to be zero emissions but to be negative emissions, and it’s actually one of the things that we’ve committed to doing at Microsoft with our Microsoft campus in many of the offices that we own.
Kathie Topel: We all know that the pandemic has impacted our thoughts of the future. What pandemic outcomes do you believe have altered the current view of the future of cities and beyond versus, let’s say, a pre-pandemic view?
Charles Drayton: Yes. I hinted at this with my previous answer a little bit, and I’m not going to say the office concept is fatally wounded. I think the office is never going to go away, but I think there’s going to be a significant shift in how people work. We’re going to see more of a shift towards a hybrid workplace where you have some people who are working in the office and some people who are working from home. That’s definitely going to be something that has proven to be successful during the pandemic when people were forced to do it that I think it’s here to stay. The other thing you’re going to see is as a result of that, you're going to see a fundamental shift in urbanization.
Kathie Topel: I know infrastructure has been in the news a lot lately. Multiple bills are being debated around making investments in infrastructure and modernizing large parts of our country. What do you see as a relationship between the future of infrastructure and the impact it will have on cities of the future?
Charles Drayton: Yes. I think there’s going to be kind of three things that we’re looking at. The first one is going to be, as I mentioned before, sustainability, connectiveness, so I talked a bit about that initially, but I think those are going to be key pillars of infrastructure. I think any investment in infrastructure, regardless of what happens with the bill currently being debated right now, it’s all going to come back to how it is that we’re able to narrow the gap between urban areas and rural areas. I think for a long time, the development in technology and development in the infrastructure in these urban [areas] has caused the development of that to outstrip the development of rural areas. I think in many respects, they’ve been left behind, but I think if this infrastructure thing works out, you're going to see a lot of investments in rural areas to really bring them more in line with what urban areas developed or with what urban areas have to offer now.
Kathie Topel: Charles, you shared at the beginning with us that the healthcare exhibit at the MTC is an amazing view into what can be possible. What influence will the possibilities for healthcare organizations have on the future of our cities?
Charles Drayton: Yes. I think we’ve already started seeing this. It’s funny, I’ve been in healthcare for a long time, and for many years, we had telehealth technology that we would try and sell to hospitals, and they will always, “No, it’s not really necessary. We don’t see ourselves as people who would ever really see patients outside the hospital or outside of the doctor’s office.” Obviously, that all changed with the pandemic, and similar to how people who had previously never really done online shopping, who are sort of resistant to it, suddenly discovers the joys of amazon.com for the first time, and they never go back because they’ve realized how easy it is. Sort of like my mother. My mother was sort of a person who would always go to the store no matter what. I’d say, “Amazon Prime.” She’s like, “But you can’t look at your groceries. Why would you do something like that?” Then, she realized she had no choice. She realized how convenient it is, and now, she can go back to the store anytime she wants; she’s not doing it.
Kathie Topel: With the virtualization of collaboration, it’s changed the way we socialize, work, and live our lives. The ability to collaborate and share from anywhere allows each of us to make different choices now. How will these different choices impact real estate and what role might technology play a new trend to emerge for cities?
Charles Drayton: [Laughter] So, I’m glad you… it’s a very timely question you asked. I’ve been looking for some income property for a while. I believe, to diversify a little bit, and so I’ve been looking for these sort of multi-unit places and I’ve been consistently outbid anywhere in the south. Like, I cannot buy a home in Dallas. I cannot buy a home anywhere in Georgia. Every time I try, I’m sort of outbid by these all cash offers that are like 10% over asking, and I say that to say, from a real estate standpoint, people understand the fact there are some significant demographic shifts that are going on in terms of where people are moving and how people are living. I think some of the things that you’re seeing now are being manifested in this kind of rush for purchasing real estate in warmer climates or in more suburban areas and rural areas, and I’m definitely feeling the results of that. I think it’s going to lead to more demand for better infrastructure. Similar to some things I have been talking about throughout our conversation here, the demand for high-speed internet everywhere. So, not just in downtown Chicago do we get gig internet, but how do we get it everywhere and where does it show up everywhere because you’re going to see more of these virtual calls. So, I think you’re going to see increased support and demand for investment in infrastructure as we start seeing, from a real estate standpoint, more and more families moving to areas where, traditionally, they haven’t been. Those are some of the things from a residential standpoint that you’re going to see as a change or a shift when it comes to real estate. From a commercial standpoint, I think one of the things that you’re going to see is, I’m going to call it an urbanization of the suburbs.
Kathie Topel: Charles, if you can leave our viewers with just one thought of “The Future of Cities for 2030 and Beyond,” what would that be?
Charles Drayton: I want to show you a little something here. I like to introduce you to Pria. Pria is a robot and Pria is something that was initially designed by a company that was acquired by Stanley Black & Decker. What Pria does is she’s a pill dispensing robot, and a pill-dispensing robot can do everything from having virtual meetings with the physician to dispensing pills, to monitoring your vitals. So, if there is a spike in something, if you have AFib, she’s able to give you an early intervention and say, “Hey, this might be something that is potentially a medical emergency.” I think Pria, and things like Pria, are going to be increasingly key components of the future, and that’s from the healthcare standpoint. I did something recently that talked about this idea of senior isolation. The fact that senior homes couldn’t get visitors for a full year, I mean that lead to a mental health crisis within senior homes, and one of the ways that we talked about addressing that was through senior gaming.
Kathie Topel: Thanks so much, Charles, for your insights here today and your participation. We truly appreciate it, and you brough us so many ideas for the future and we’re very, very excited for it. Thank you.
Joe Kornik: Thanks, Kathie, and thanks, Charles. Charles, a real rock star, brings his own visual aids with him, some real estate advice, and a little couple of jokes thrown in there for good measures. So, we always appreciate that levity, Charles. Thank you so much for your time today. We appreciate it.