BERLIN—I felt as if I were part of a John le Carré novel as I approached the old East German power station in what was once a dismal part of this city. The feeling grew stronger as I climbed the metal stairs in the cold drizzle. Everything around me was gray, cold and dripping. The fictional spy master George Smiley would have fit right in.
But it's nearly 28 years since the Berlin Wall fell and this isn't a story about Cold War espionage and intrigue. Konica-Minolta had organized a press conference here to introduce a new office automation product for small-and-midsize businesses called the Workplace Hub.
Konica Minolta has long been known for producing copiers, scanners and laser printers for businesses of all sizes. But this new product shows that the company wants to market systems that deliver a wider range of IT services to SMBs.
After attempting to explain the future of work, the folks at Konica Minolta got to the point of the press conference, describing a device that looked vaguely like a server, but was in fact a great deal more. Wreathed in artificial fog for dramatic effect, was Konica-Minolta's Workplace Hub.
On first look the Workplace Hub is kind of an odd device. On top it has a paper-handling system, but under that is the heart of a server. But what makes this device more than just a copier on steroids is everything else that’s in the box.
This device is actually designed to support the operations of an entire company, blending familiar functions with a software platform that can provide an integration base your company’s smart devices, access to storage, network and office management and IT services.
Dennis Curry is Konica Minolta’s Director of Business Innovation and R&D, was responsible for developing the Workplace Hub. The device, he said, is intended to replace the one square meter of office space that currently supports the office copier, printer and scanner.
Those functions have to be retained in that space, which is the reason for the paper handling gear on the display units. But he said the company will introduce additional products that will eliminate that part and be available in a rack mount system with their functions and controls in a cloud-only system.
“Let’s say you’ve been rendering graphics all day before you have to go to London,” he said. The Workplace hub would know because of entries in your Microsoft Office Outlook calendar about your travel plans.
So the system would transfer those rendered files to your company’s London Workplace Hub, where they’d be ready for you the next day. The key here is that you wouldn’t have to explicitly order the system to perform the transfer, but it would simply know to do it.