Xerox has announced the winner of its Creating Your New Workplace University Challenge, an initiative to inspire the next generation of visionaries born since 1980 the Millennials to produce concepts and applications for the multifunction device (MFP) in the modern workplace.
Four groups of students from UK-based Sheffield Hallam University were challenged to develop ideas and software applications on Xeroxs Extensible Interface Platform (EIP), the user interface that provides access to all of Xeroxs MFP functions and enables the deployment of HTML web-based applications and services. The team judged to have the most outstanding and immediately marketable application was led by Ching Hui Wang, Jackie Leaver and James Tuck.
Sheffield Hallam University was chosen because it has an outstanding track record of producing innovations for industry. In recent years its Faculty of Arts, Computing, Engineering and Sciences has been responsible for such inventions as the world's first non-tarnish silver and the world's most realistic flowing water in computer gaming.
Teams of students from design, business and IT were asked to find ways that workflows could be adapted to better fit the working methods of tomorrow's educational and commercial environments. The teams were mentored by Professor Simeon Yates, director of the University's Cultural Communications and Computing Research Institute. The panel of judges consisted of IT market research and strategic consulting firm InfoTrends, Xerox and the Faculty of Arts, Computing, Engineering and Sciences at Sheffield Hallam University.
The winning team design students Ching Hui Wang and Jackie Leaver, and IT student James Tuck created workflow solutions that would extend the use of MFPs as an interface to networked applications in areas of security (with User ID and Plagiarism checking applications) and communications (with a language translation and primary school learning system).
The primary application Plagiarism Alert helps students to check the veracity of their work before they submit it. A student scans their assignment on the MFP, which links to web applications, like Turn It In, which then marks up passages that need to be either revised or accredited to the original author. The student has the opportunity to revise their work before submitting it for marking.
Another concept revolves around making the MFP an interactive learning interface that gives learners of all ages access to networked educational applications. Children, for example, might first learn to use an MFP as they take part in an interactive quiz, using the device panel, and collecting stars for correct answers.
Ching Hui, Jackie and James came up with a variety of working solutions and concepts for improving workflow and making it easier, especially for students, to learn and work, explained Professor Yates, But there is one unifying theme that ties them together: Verification. In todays networked world, where information is instantly available everywhere, the web-enabled MFP can help as an on and off ramp to verify any information.
The quality of the concepts raised by students surprised the judges. Some of the students should definitely be working in research departments for major corporations, said Jon Reardon, Group Director of InfoTrends, a global IT market research firm. You expect a fresh, out of the box approach from students, but I was amazed at the ingenuity of their thinking.
The challenge to create new workplaces is a response to a shifting demographic in the modern workforce. Last year, Xerox sponsored a Forrester Consulting survey which looked into how the Millennials view the workplace of their future1. The report found that Millennials are most productive when given the conditions of perfect collaboration, but current IT structures don't cater for this need.
Xerox and Sheffield University aim to help build the workplace of the future by making the availability of information, and the tools to process it, easier. Organisations need to embrace the Millennial way of working in order to keep up with the way their customers and partners want to do business, said Darren Cassidy, Director and General Manager, Office Group, Xerox UK. At Xerox we have opened up our MFP architecture to new web-based services and solutions, and we want to take a collective and collaborative approach to designing and developing these applications. We believe this drives the transition to a working environment that is richer in its diversity than anything before.
In return for winning the Creating Your New Workplace University Challenge, Ching Hui Wang, Jackie Leaver and James Tuck will have the opportunity to visit Xeroxs European R&D facilities in Grenoble, the Xerox Research Centre Europe, where they will meet members of the research lab as well as ten members of Xeroxs EIP development consortium to discuss their ideas with the commercial industry.
 The Forrester Consulting study, Is Europe Ready for the Millennials? has identified The Millennials as those employees born since 1980; they have grown up with digital technology, use it to overcome lack of experience in the workplace, and apply it to problems and situations they find themselves in.
Xerox markets a comprehensive range of Xerox products, solutions and services, as well as associated supplies and software. Its offerings are focused on three main areas: offices from small to large, production print and graphic arts environments, and services that include consulting, systems design and management, and document outsourcing. Xerox also has manufacturing and logistics operations in Ireland, the UK and Holland, and a research and development facility (Xerox Research Centre Europe) in Grenoble, France.