Driving innovation in vehicles of the future

From the temporary portacabins and laptop hot-desking of today, the smart vans of tomorrow are bringing a whole new meaning to the phrase "mobile office".

Quite literally, an office on wheels, the vehicles of the future are poised and ready to evolve so workers need never be stuck behind a traditional desk again.

But what should a mobile office look like?

At Northumbrian Water's 2019 Innovation Festival this summer, a team of some of the most innovative minds from across the country will come together in a ‘sprint', led by Ford, to design the vehicles of the future.

During the week, they will be opening the doors on the kinds of features smart vans would need to turn them into an office, and explore new and clever ways of cabin layout, designed correctly for workers who need them.

They will also discuss the benefits of having the vehicles connected to the Internet of Things, transforming the conventional idea of driving, and what that could mean for drivers.

Northumbrian Water's Fleet Manager, Kate Wilson, said: "We live in an exciting world where technology is smarter than ever before and we'll be exploring how we tap into these emerging trends and technologies at the Innovation Festival.

"We'll need to do a bit of out-of-the-box thinking to design an office on wheels - maybe we need laptop tables and excellent connectivity. Or maybe we go a step further and transform the walls into a touchscreen display!

"We're always looking to improve and innovate our fleet and this is less about how the vehicles look and feel, but more how our people spend their time in these vehicles and how they're all connected. I'm very excited to see what the future fleet looks like and the impact it could have on our lives and our industry."

Paul Larrad, Head of Partnerships and Alliances at Ford of Europe, said: "The automotive industry is changing at a rapid pace - the possibilities for the future are really exciting, but what it teaches us is that now, more than ever, we need a really deep understanding of our customers and what they really need and expect from their vehicles."

The Northumbrian Water Innovation Festival 2019 takes place from 8 to 12 July at Newcastle Racecourse and organisers are expecting more than 3,000 people from the most innovative and influential organisations from right across the globe.

They will work together across a series of sprints, challenges and quests, to come up with a year's worth of work in one week, searching for solutions to major social and environmental challenges.

To find out what the ‘Designing vehicles of the future today' team comes up with during the Innovation Festival, you can follow the action on social media by following @NorthumbrianH2O on Twitter and Facebook, or by visiting www.innovationfestival.org.

Janine Rillands