Does using IoT solutions hurt your “Spidey-sense”?

 Like many parents/husbands, I often get "dragged" to the mall to walk around, especially in the winter months.  The amazing part is that we often don't even bother to buy anything, but that is for a different rant... 

One of the ways I occupy my time is to assess the viability of some of the businesses, especially the ones that are not chain stores. I wonder what kind of money they make, how much it cost to open it, how much it costs to operate it, stuff like that…I guess this just comes natural to me as I am a bit of a serial entrepreneur. 

One of the main reasons why any entrepreneur is successful is actually their "gut".  I don't mean if they have a six-pack under their dress shirt, but rather do they have the ability to see things that most people do not, or at least before most people do.  This is why analyzing businesses comes easy to me, as analyzing different opportunities is what I do for a living.  I am able to do this by using my experience (or "gut"), and I have managed to be relatively successful because of it. 

However, you don't have to be an entrepreneur to have a "gut" instinct about things, such as your job.  Experienced nurses seem to know when patients are about to take a turn for the worse before anyone else does....pilots often seem to know when there will be turbulence even before the radar shows....and, detectives often know to investigate a particular person/theory even when the evidence may say otherwise. 

I call this "Spidey-sense" after the popular comic book character.  Some people also call it the ability to "look around corners" and being able to predict what may happen accurately, even without having the full list of information.  

This got me to wonder...is moving to an extreme data-driven business world going to hurt our ability to sense things as we have in the past? 

Sometimes, the data is wrong

I have referenced Top Gun a few times in the past.  There is a famous line about how pilots have stop using their "Dog-fighting" skills (skills that pilots formed before all of the modern day telematics/electronics on board), lessening their skill level.  To a certain extent, I think the same things have started to happen with airport security.  As we rely strictly on machines/data, we've reduced our use of experience and wisdom. In my opinion, an experienced screener may be just as effective asking people questions about the contents of their luggage versus putting it through a screening machine. 

As we move further into the world of M2M, I do fear that not just pilots/airport screeners will be losing their Spidey-sense, but perhaps others as well.  Will auto mechanics stop using their intuitions completely and just rely on data from the on-board computers?  How about doctors....are they just going to read levels from machines or are they going to continue to use their guts when it comes to diagnosis? 

So, are we going to balance the use of IoT with experience?  

The Bottom Line

It is tempting for companies to move strictly towards a data-driven model as they implement IoT.  The theory is that it would allow companies to do more with less, while also allowing them to reduce the cost of each resource (by using less experienced people).  However, we need to start to think of IoT as a tool and not a replacement of good people.  Like any tool, the goal is to make your valued resources more valuable.  We need to continue allowing skilled people to use their Spidey-sense while using IoT as a method of verifying their beliefs.

Pokemon Go: Using GPS technology to get your lazy butt off of the couch

Ok, I am not a huge Facebook user.  Unlike many people, I don't have every person that I have ever met since I was 4 as a friend.  As well, I am not nearly as active on it as most users.  However, even I saw at least 15 updates on my Facebook feed this morning with some sort of reference to Pokemon Go. 

It is hard to watch the news or read any kind of technology posting without seeing a reference to this new phenomenon.  For those who have no idea what it is, you are not alone....I don't particularly have a strong grasp other than the fact that I watched someone walk into a digital display because of it yesterday... 

So, what does this have to do with IoT, you may ask? 

GPS technology is one of the first IoT initiatives, even before we had the "I"

Think about it....GPS really is one of the most common IoT apps, it really is.  Basically, it is a method of grasping information from a remote entity, making some calculations and providing a go-to action plan (in the form of a dot on a map or turn-by-turn directions).  It was an IoT solution even before the Internet.  It is also the most commonly used IoT solution on the market....we use it to track packages, cars, people, pets, containers and apparently, weird creatures that aren't even there. 

It's not the first time that GPS has been used for games like this.  How many of us remember the Geocaching craze where people searched out containers all over the world? 

The positive side to this

Let's face it....as a society, we aren't the most active bunch.  Most of us aren't even close to getting the required amount of exercise to keep us healthy....and this is trend is not even going in the right direction.  So, anything that can get people's butts off of the couch is a great thing. 

How do we know it is working?  Well, one way to see this is the incredible spike in Google searches for "miles in 5K", meaning that many Americans are playing the game.  As well, if it helps to teach many Americans a bit about the metric system, there's also an added benefit. 

The Bottom Line

With climbing rates in diabetes and many other health issues, I applaud anything that gets people up and moving.  Walking is a great form of exercise and it is more than enough to keep people healthy.  If this games does that, then I think it is great....even if it does mean that people walk into signs once in a while...

When low cost workers get “outsourced” by technology, times have really changed…

I have mentioned in previous blogs that I grew up in Toronto, having only moved out west about a decade ago.  I never really spoke much about the area that I grew up in. It was a little bit east of downtown and it has been an area that has welcomed many of the new ethnic groups during their early years in Canada.  Starting with the Irish and the Italians, it has welcomed groups ranging from countries in Europe, Asia and now, a strong African population.  It was always quite the "melting pot".

When a new group makes its way into a new country, they often lack many of the skills that are required to obtain higher level, white-collared jobs, so it is quite common to see many of these people perform more physically intensive, mainly blue-collared jobs.  Among these jobs, especially a few decades back, were those working in assembly and manufacturing plants.  So, it goes without saying that these groups were hardest hit when many factory jobs starting be sent overseas to lower cost jurisdictions.

With their lower cost base, combined with strong work ethics, many companies were happy with the lower cost base versus what having a factory in Mexico or China brought.  However, as the standard of living rose in these countries, some manufacturers went into even lower cost areas, mainly in Asia and Africa.

Well, apparently, even that is not low enough in cost for some. Enter Foxconn...

foxconn banner

FoxConn's recent announcement was bigger than just lost jobs

In late May, FoxConn announced the elimination of tens of thousands of jobs at one of their facilities in China.  While the elimination of jobs at factories in North America is still tough, it tends not to be as newsworthy.  However, this one is different.

Sure, not all assembly work in a Chinese factory was done by a human hand, there was obviously some automation.  However, the interesting part is that the company found enough cost savings / ROI to justify such a move in a jurisdiction that pays its workers a small percentage of what a similar employee in the West may make.

What does that say for the rest of us?
 

The Bottom Line

Donald Trump has seen a strong level of support among wide swathes of voters.  One of the main ways that he has done this is to complain heavily about how trade deals have affected American workers.  I think that an announcement like this does not help his case.  All of the tariffs in the world won't help his case if even some of the lowest cost places in the world are moving towards automation in a bigger way.  While there definitely are some benefits to building things in the US, if the ever-increasing cost gap grows too large, it will be tough to ignore.