By Daniel Hunter

Technology will help turn modern cities into flexible working environments, influencing design and planning, and transforming urban spaces into Anywhere Working Cities, according to a new whitepaper published by Microsoft today (Tuesday).

Technology is often viewed as a short-term solution to problems, rather than a longer-term driver of social and societal change. However as the world’s cities struggle from over-crowding issues, environmental concerns, travel congestion and economic pressures, technology has emerged as the front-runner in the battle to facilitate a sustainable city for the 21st century.

Existing transport architecture cannot cope with infinite expansion and the development of third spaces in cities is desperately needed to allow people to work anytime, anywhere. These new urban areas will be located in places such as train stations and public buildings, and will bridge the gap between home and office to increase the flexibility and productivity of working people.

Any number of third spaces will be located in a new breed of Anywhere Working Cities, highly liveable, polycentric metropolises driven by societal expectation of a different way of working, shopping and living, and enabled by new architectures of buildings, technology and transport.

The paper has been co-authored by Linda Chandler, Enterprise Services Architect at Microsoft, and Philip Ross, CEO at It draws on interviews and work from a wide variety of experts and thought leaders, including Sir Terry Farrell, Master Architect famous for his regeneration projects across the UK; Steven Norris, ex-Transport Minister and board member at TfL; Norman Baker MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport; and Fiona Fletcher Smith, Executive Director of Development and Environment at the GLA.

London is under the Olympic spotlight, and the paper highlights how smarter travel combined with alternative working practices, as supported by Government-backed projects such as the Anywhere Working Consortium, will guide the city through the Games and beyond.

“Anywhere Working Cities and smarter working concepts are no longer just theories,” Norman Baker, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport, said.

“They are now realities. Examples throughout this paper demonstrate how technology infrastructure and new ways of working are having a real and beneficial impact today in cities around the world. However, for cities to continue to evolve and the UK to remain competitive, modern technology that cuts costs, improves efficiency and cuts carbon must be embraced.”

Key points from the paper include:

· Future cities must have a strong, strategic transport architecture policy that will also have to be more inventive within the current transport framework to encourage a shift in attitude and behaviour

· Third spaces around railway stations and other transport hubs can be used to stagger commuting times, which could help companies encourage a more flexible working day model, where employees come into the office for a set period anytime within an extended time window

· Enabling technologies, such as the growth of the cloud computing, ubiquitous wireless, the consumerisation of technology and BYOD (bring your own device) extends the ‘place’ where you can work to numerous out of office settings helping boost productivity of staff

· Investment in technology infrastructure can enable the multitude of modern centres within a metropolis, which are often semi-deserted during the day, to be workspaces or workclusters in their own right, linked by networks or corridors of connectivity

“The evolution to an Anywhere Working City is driven by over-crowding, environmental concerns, economic factors and society’s desire to work and live in a more balanced way,” Linda Chandler, Enterprise Services Architect at Microsoft, said.

“Technology is the facilitator of the Anywhere Working City and although IT is the biggest achievement of our generation, it is also the expectation of the next generation.”

Philip Ross, CEO of future work strategists, said: “Anywhere working is the logical alternative to the dumb container for work — the office — that dominates most people’s working lives. Rather than commute into city centres or be stuck at home, anywhere working predicts a polycentric approach where new third workspaces create a more ‘permeable’ and liveable city.”

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