How Technology is Humanizing Office, Retail and Healthcare Design

05/20/2019 By Cheryl S. Durst

In the past 20 years, commercial interiors, workplaces and even our own homes have been enhanced and augmented by a variety of technologies. Whether it’s charging stations in your organization’s conference room or a robot in your living room that tells you the weather (and maybe listens to all of your conversations), there’s no question that the fully integrated tech realm we fantasized for the future has become a reality.

But despite a growing fear that technology is making us less empathetic, more impatient, less polite and, overall, less human, technology in our interior spaces can actually help us instead enhance our humanity in surprising ways.

The Office of the Future, Today

By assisting with our needs, wants and work patterns, successful tech integration within workplace interiors means happier, healthier and more productive employees. These interventions can be as small as including accessibility-configured outlets at every workstation, or as big-picture as virtual meetings or artificial intelligence (AI)  automated lighting, temperature and window-tinting systems.

Smart workplace technology means customization, whether through equipping offices with reliable video conferencing and real-time communication platforms for remote employees or adding adjustable furniture or nutrition-sensitive kitchen models to offices.

Putting AI in Retail

Today’s consumers are uninspired by traditional brick-and-mortar storefront models. With online shopping abundant and convenient, retailers have to come up with inventive solutions to get customers back inside a physical space. Creating memorable in-store experiences ultimately has more to do with understanding a shopper’s humanity — his or her needs, concerns and desires — and smart technology plays a critical role in that process.

Tech-driven store models allow consumers the power to create personalized shopping experiences and make their lives a little easier. Take for example Nike’s latest location in West L.A., which links its interior to the new Nike app. Using a shopper’s browsing and purchase history, the app designs the shopping experience, with personalized suggestions, on-the-spot checkout and product scanning features.

Last year, U.S. grocery chain Kroger unveiled the “Kroger Edge” digital price tag technology displaying pricing and nutrition information for products, making it easy for customers to select and understand the food they are buying. This digitization of price tags also uses renewable energy and allows for Kroger to use less in-store electricity, making it a green solution to an age-old retail feature.

Touch Screen Healthcare

Hospitals and clinics can be intimidating places, but technology is helping us create more intuitive, empathetic and dynamic healthcare environments. Rather than diminish the human touch, technology within healthcare design may actually help improve patient and provider experience. 

The Cedars-Sinai, Playa Vista Physician Office and Urgent Care in Playa Vista, CA, for example, was designed by ZGF Architects to provide high-quality, patient-centered services to the community in Silicon Valley by seamlessly integrating smart technology, planning and aesthetics. The location offers patients and staff advanced audiovisual systems, digital signage, kiosks and nurse call systems, all within one three-story interior whose design allows for adaption to future tech upgrades without putting the architecture in jeopardy.

Other healthcare providers have begun utilizing tech advancements like smartphone apps and virtual visits to enhance patient experience and access to appointments. Telemedicine services like evisit let patients contact their doctors remotely on smartphones or other devices to discuss health concerns, making it easier and less stressful to schedule one-off appointments or conversations.

Technology continues to change the way we shop, work, play and live. When effectively and thoughtfully used, it allows us to inventively integrate the human touch back into systems and networks dictating daily life.


Cheryl S. Durst, Hon. FIIDA, is the executive vice president and CEO of IIDA. She’s committed to achieving broad recognition for the value of design and its
significant role in our society.

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