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Microsoft Places app will manage ‘fusion of digital and physical space’ for hybrid work


Microsoft Places has one of its features: it alerts people when other employees are in the office. (Microsoft Image)

Microsoft showed off an app designed to aid workers, companies and property managers in dealing with the new hybrid work era.

Among them: showing up in the office to find that everyone else on the team is working from home; conducting a virtual meeting with a colleague who turns out to be just down the hall; or realizing too late that the conference room you’ve reserved is too small for the number of people who showed up in the office that day.

These are just a few of the situations that Microsoft Places is intended to address for managers and workers. Announced today at the Microsoft Ignite conference, it’s due to be released next year after a preview period.

Microsoft claims the app is part of a new category it calls “the connected workplace”. The company was motivated by feedback from customers who are grappling with new issues due to the rise of hybrid work, said Jared Spataro, Microsoft 365 corporate vice president, in an interview this week.

“One of the big categories that we’ve had them point us to, that we just weren’t previously really engaged in, is this idea of the fusion of the digital and physical space,” Spataro said.

He offered some examples to illustrate the abilities:

  • To let employees know when it is smarter for them to go home early, monitor traffic patterns, or analyze the locations of upcoming meetings.
  • Companies understand how to Flexibility can be utilized on any given day based upon meeting patterns or employee locations. This could mean that an area is made available to individual work.
  • Informing operations and facilities managers when particular buildings or floors will be mostly vacant, allowing them to adjust lighting for energy conservation, or make sure that a cafeteria doesn’t prepare too much food.
  • In another example, Spataro said, the app will say, effectively, “Hey, you’re not planning to be in the office on Wednesday, but 80% of your team will be, and they’re going to be in Building 3. Could you book some space? Would you like to go in?”

Microsoft Places will now be part of Microsoft 365. The app leverages and expands upon some of Microsoft’s existing technologies, including Azure Active Directory and Microsoft Outlook calendars.

Microsoft claims that it is not only catering to the traditional corporate customer base, but will also announce partnerships with property and real estate management companies in order to implement the technology.

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