We now live in a world where we have almost every tool required to do our work, all located in one place: at our PC. And that’s fine, if you have one where you work.
Although a boon for office workers, the huge technological advances that have been made are lost on those unable to get PC access while they are on the job. In the last 20 years the technological impact on the daily grind of those officebound has been huge; the blue collar impact, however, has been minimal. Is this group the final frontier for the historical IT growth where PC replaces pencil?
There have been major advances recently in taking what we now have (and are no longer amazed by) on our PC and making this available in mobile or miniature form at the ‘point of activity’ (where the job gets done). Devices now cheaply include high-speed network access, full-colour displays, functional keyboards, cameras, GPS and bar code scanners. Add the ‘sex appeal’ of an accelerometer and a digital compass and you’ve got yourself what is essentially a PC that an office worker can start to get jealous of – all in a package that can fit in your pocket.
The development of applications for these devices is yet to go ‘viral’ but there continues to be an increasing number of new applications arriving to address the specific needs of niche mobile or blue-collar workers. In the same way that iPhone applications seem to be fulfilling needs we didn’t even know we had, mobility applications are targeting a more specific set of needs of a particular mobile user.
The applications are getting more specific because the hurdle costs and barriers to entry to develop a mobility application have come down. The development environment is not capitalintensive (you just need a couple of the devices to use for testing) and not particularly proprietary now that you can download the bulk of what you need from Microsoft’s website.
New applications can easily be born in a student’s garage, uploaded to a website and made available to the many mobile devices out there via their highspeed network connections. It’s not ideal for corporate customers, but remains an effective route to market for applications servicing the needs of smaller users with specific, previously unaddressed, requirements.
The lowering costs, plus the increasing availability and power of mobile computers, PDAs, mobile phones and even just internet access, are all supporting the unstoppable trend towards every worker being online in some form.
Similarly, the centre of our current technology universe is the PC and our internet connection, usually located in a dedicated space where we would go to get the job done. With the more recent technology, the remaining opportunity to add value is to take the immense power enabled via this portal to the place where people are actually doing their work.
There has been full penetration of personal efficiency technology at the desktop, but the final frontier is bringing this to the blue-collar workforce. Technology that was once the realm of a Star Trek script is here and we are deploying it now.