Tucked away at the edge of the tenth floor at Bloomberg’s headquarters, behind a darkened glass door, sits a very un-Bloomberg-like workspace. Cramped, cluttered, and lined by crowded shelves, there are multi-drawer spare-part bins, an industrial soldering iron, a microscope, and a lot of serious-looking electrical equipment. Just outside sit two hulking 3-D printers. Welcome to the Hardware Technology workshop.
The four-member Hardware Technology team that uses this workshop is building prototypes; this year they’re working on keyboards, monitors, a unique B-unit-slash-mobile phone case, and a super-secret authentication device.
“We’re the hardware group in a software company,” says Adam Goldsmith, who manages the Hardware Technology team. “People don’t generally think about what we’re doing, but the work is crucial to the user experience.”
The Hardware Technology group is tasked with improving user experience through innovative hardware technology, an ambition that has always differentiated Bloomberg from the competition. Including audio, biometrics, and seamless integration with the terminal’s software into new keyboards rolling out this year is a prime example of that effort.
Bloomberg is currently shipping “Starboard” – the project name for what is officially known as Bloomberg Keyboard No. 4. In addition to tweaking the look and feel, the Starboard introduces integrated speakers and a microphone, and a new fingerprint scanner. Also included is a charging dock for the B-unit, so a client doesn’t have to swap for a new one when the battery runs out. The dock also allows Bloomberg to conduct diagnostics or deliver software changes remotely to the B-unit and keyboard.
“The keyboard almost has the firepower of a PC: it can run biometrics and audio, and it’s a secure computing device that uses encryption technology,” Goldsmith says. Despite the upgrades, the new keyboard costs the company $8 per unit less than its predecessor.
Sophisticated design doesn’t have to come at a high environmental cost. The new 23-inch flat panel monitors being installed for clients worldwide, for example, was recently named the most energy efficient monitor of its size by the U.S. government. As for the keyboards, the built-in charging dock means saving on batteries, plastics, packaging, and shipping that otherwise would be needed to replace waning B-units.
In projects as complicated as a keyboard redesign, challenges are bound to arise. At the back of the new keyboard, for example, the location of the audio and microphone jacks and the B-unit charger meant that when the originally-designed shell came together, the seamless back panel was disrupted. “Bloomberg hardware and design teams worked alongside contractors to solve that problem,” says Goldsmith. “We never lost site of the fact that we wanted to keep the uniformity of a clean aesthetic, so we pushed and pushed until we found a design that maintained a seamless façade.” It’s that kind of attention to detail that keeps our company’s innovative edges sharp.
The Bloomberg Professional service can be delivered today over any powerful PC, but nobody knew the term “PC” when the service launched in 1982. Many people still refer to “the Bloomberg” as if it were a standalone computer – because it used to be. Although software rules the roost, Goldsmith and his team remind us that Bloomberg has always been in the hardware business.
Contributed by On Bloomberg, Bloomberg LP’s internal newswire.