Last year, soon after Phase 1 of the nationwide lockdown was lifted, tech hub Bangalore saw an exodus of professionals heading back to their hometowns as most organisations shifted to remote work. As we move ahead from the pandemic, it is clear that hybrid working models are here to stay. With this evolution of the workplace, it is now more critical than ever for businesses to go where the talent is and enable them with the tools needed to seamlessly collaborate, contribute, and learn. In India, organisations need the flexibility and the infrastructure to digitally empower talent based in smaller towns outside of the large metro cities to unleash the true potential of the country’s working population.
Personal computers remain at the heart of this shift and are being built for business – with features and capabilities that can drive the emergence of a new era of work. Business laptops of the future will increasingly leverage the power of AI to drive improved performance and reliability, security, and manageability.
The scale of last year’s move to remote working was as sudden as it was unprecedented, and for the most part technology helped professionals stay connected. Microsoft Teams recorded a massive 75 million daily active users with more than two thirds of its users also accessing and sharing files within the app. Video conferencing went up by 50 percent. But the shift to virtual collaboration and meetings was not without some challenges.
Over 50 percent of professionals felt video and audio quality was unsatisfactory and even more were disturbed by background noises from other participants. And as people connected on multiple video calls per day, their device batteries drained out faster. Poor home internet connections were also a concern as most people worked from home.
PC innovators must now focus on harnessing the right technologies to deliver high performing devices that can ensure a seamless user experience. While powerful multi-core processors in thin and light laptops are already a reality, we are now seeing a deeper integration of new technologies into the processor for a better work-from-anywhere experience.
AI-based virtual assistants have been around for a while, but now, AI acceleration has been integrated within the processor to ensure faster speeds, instant wake, better responsiveness, better graphical processing, and enhanced video and audio quality. These modern devices can also facilitate faster, high quality content generation. In fact, AI-powered laptops can even offer innovative features like background blurring, or background noise filtering, making for an enhanced video calling experience.
AI is also powering a new generation of devices that can analyse user behaviour and detect their presence to offer better security and personalised experiences. As business laptops leverage AI to deliver faster and better quality of experiences, they will also consume less power to ensure longer battery life. And built in wireless technology capabilities will deliver faster speeds, making it easy for employees to connect and work from anywhere.
A highly distributed IT infrastructure with multiple unsecured devices working on unsecured home networks, all accessing enterprise apps and data is a cybercriminal’s dream. Predictably, the number of cyberattacks in the form of phishing, ransomware and malware went up significantly especially in the initial months of the pandemic.
Some Indian companies saw a 100 percent increase in attempted cyberattacks. Relying on VPNs and software security is good, but as work from anywhere becomes the norm, enterprises need to weave security into every layer. Hardware-based security will be a key focus area for business laptops. In fact, this market is expected to grow to $43.6 billion by 2024 from $26.7 billion in 2020.
Software security solutions must remain a part of every organisation’s cyber defense strategy. But it is important to note cyber criminals are now turning to increasingly sophisticated attacks on the OS itself. Embedding security into the hardware will ensure that it cannot be targeted or altered by advanced malware. And by hardwiring AI capabilities into the processing core, intelligent PCs can ensure advanced real time threat detection and protection.
AI-powered security drivers can identify and neutralise hidden malware and crypto mining attempts and can act quickly and effectively against attacks targeting the OS and applications. AI-powered hardware-based security can also effectively protect the BIOS and completely encrypt computer memory.
With workers dispersed across the country, the IT organisation is hard pressed to troubleshoot issues, fix problems and ensure timely upgrades. Remote manageability can be built into computing platforms to deliver a smart business device that can be accessed by IT managers remotely. Increasing use of AI has also opened up the possibility of using advanced telemetry to diagnose and pre-empt problems. For example, if the system detects a problem with the storage drive, or with battery life, the IT department can remotely troubleshoot the issue before it interrupts work.
The remote working trend had been witnessing some traction even before the pandemic. But the events of 2020 made it clear that a shift to large-scale remote working models was feasible and even highly productive with the right tools. The right technologies must be leveraged to ensure that this shift can happen seamlessly and efficiently. The current wave of AI acceleration has the potential to completely transform the way we use and interact with our personal computing devices.
Prakash Mallya is Vice President and Managing Director – Sales, Marketing and Communications Group, Intel India