The factories of the industrial age were known for many things – the long hours, the sometimes sketchy work conditions – but they were best known for the advances in technology they spawned, laying the road map that's taken us all the way to modern day business automation.
And, while we’ve come along way from steam locomotion and the electric telegraph, the same spirit of innovation and ingenuity is driving us onwards to keep finding new efficiencies and ways to make our working lives easier.
The Challenges of Automation
Ever heard of a hall boy, or a bematist? They’re just two examples of the countless number of obsolete occupations people once occupied. There’s no telling what roles automation will render moot, but there’s bound to be growing pains as we transition to a more efficient way of doing things. According to the World Economic Forum, in their Future of Jobs report, up to seven million jobs will be lost in the world’s 15 largest economies by 2020 as a result of business automation.
The Future Potential
If automation is going to cost jobs, why are we pursuing it? Well, we kept producing the car, even when it was clear it would put stagecoach drivers out of a job. The economic benefits and the potential to revolutionize our lives are too good to pass up. With this in mind, we’ve dusted off our crystal ball to take a look at some of the upcoming advances in business automation:
The Internet of Things
We’re used to accessing the internet on our computers, tablets and cellphones, but pretty soon we’ll be accessing it on a whole new array of items. The internet of things is defined as:
“A network of physical devices, vehicles, home appliances, and other items embedded with electronics, software and connectivity that enables them to connect and exchange data, create opportunities for more direct integration of the physical world into computer-based systems”.
Examples of this integration can already be seen with Amazon’s Alexa in the home, and the future possibilities are tantalizingly close. In the healthcare realm, there’ll soon be no need for regular check-ups at the doctor. Instead, exercise levels, heart rate, activity and other essential data will be gathered by a smart watch or phone and transmitted directly to your doctor. The internet of things has natural uses in the manufacturing realm, where real time sales data can be used to ensure the rapid manufacture of new products and insertion of them into the supply chain.
A few months ago, Uber CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, commented that he wanted to have self-driving cars picking up passengers by 2019, and 20% of Uber’s fleet could soon be driverless. While these targets are aggressive, driverless cars are coming soon to a road near you, once some kinks are worked out first. Google, Apple, Tesla and many more companies are busily testing their fleet of driverless cars. In California alone, there are currently over 200 automated cars in regular use. Powered by AI and advanced radar, these cars use 360-degree cameras as their “eyes”, while the computer learns how to navigate safely. Of potential concern is the possibility the on-board computers could be hacked. However, these problems will be solved, and industries that involve transporting people or products will be quickly revolutionized.
If you’ve spent any time on Twitter of late the prevalence of bots is hard to ignore. These AI-powered accounts will respond to certain key words with pre-programmed phrases. In mischievous hands, this power can be used to sow discord and division but it has the potential to be used in much more useful ways. These same bots can be programmed in a customer service capacity to act as front line customer service representatives. Instead of having to manually chat with customers online, bots can be programmed to deal with most queries and only refer more complex questions to a real human. If you’ve used Amazon’s online chat support and felt like the person on the other end of the chat was a little wooden – it’s likely you were conversing with a machine. This technology exists already in a basic form, but the next few years will see it leap to the fore.
Still considered a niche attraction in entertainment and video games, interest in virtual reality is set to explode in the coming years thanks to several advancements in the tech. Simply put, virtual reality has the potential to revolutionize how we work, watch sports and consume media. Can’t afford courtside seats for a basketball game? Soon you’ll be able to put on a virtual reality headset and enjoy the courtside experience in the comfort of your own home. Don’t believe me? The technology has already been trialed. Elsewhere, the tech can be used to provide a virtual shop floor for shopping, and pretty much any other venue can be digitized and displayed through a headset.
Find Out More
Looking for ways to find efficiencies in your business? At GD Commerce, we’re experts in helping you succeed at business. Contact us, and we’ll be happy to help!