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Is there a business of Sense? You tell me. But I'd pay a buck ninety-nine if I could wave my phone next to my kid's ear and pediatrician McCoy could diagnose her ear infection without having to bundle her up and take her to the office and then the pharmacy. I bet my insurance company would even spot me the dough. Field MRI? Traffic de-congestion? Food freshness? The consumer market may be ready to buy as much as we can deliver. And the enterprise, too. We talk about crowdsourcing — now think crowd-sensing. What could it mean for our comfort, convenience, medical care, food safety? What if the organization as organism grows literal eyes and ears as the workforce forms its nervous system? How will we tumble apace with this cascade of possibility? How will markets, organizations and humans change?
The market will absorb lots of new tech for a while — the field is wide open. But how quickly will we generate meaning? The social media frontier may be tamed (or taming), but the sensing frontier is just beginning.
How will organizations take advantage? Ahead of the game right now are the UPS-type guys in the field with scanners and the Starbucks folks who know what coffee beverage I chose (and probably who I drank it with) this morning. Look for hints there. Tricky issues of price/cost and bandwidth I leave for others to tackle. But while I hold off spending US$ 75 a month for my 12-year-old to have the world in his pocket, I'm not sure I'll be able to say no when my 7-year-old hits middle school. Must it cost that much? The carriers will play a pivotal role here.
The Real McCoy?
So as I walk down the street, now able to sense if the street vendors have the flu, the only thing missing from my tricorder will the ee-ooowooo sound, I hope to channel some of Dr. McCoy's folksy intuition and wisdom ("Dammit, Jim, he's just a boy!"). I wonder, though, will my innate senses atrophy? Will my ability to read a map, never particularly acute to begin with, wither entirely away? Progress is change, change is a tradeoff. Tom Wujec's TED talk gives a flavor of this kind of tradeoff by looking at how we told time 500 years ago. In the 16th century, the 1% checked time on an an Astrolabe — an insanely complex device that requires a good bit of training, astronomy and agility. Now its a trivial matter. We've learned a lot as a society, but we've forgotten a lot as individuals. Will the "Watson"-enabled doctor (or CEO, or mom, for that matter) retain the ability to research and ask important questions and question their results?
Our society has always had a deep and evergrowing pool of wisdom — though it spent a few years out of fashion, it's definitely the new black. Art, design and philosophy are resurging as essential tools of society and business. Are they building new wisdom as we trade some older wisdoms for our new techno-senses?
The best is yet to come.
Editor's Note: You may also be interested in reading:
- David Coleman's 2011 Collaboration Predictions: How Did He Do?
- The Digital Workplace: From Vision to Reality
- Enterprise CMS 2012: Massive Disruption or Same Old, Same Old?
About the Author
Deb Lavoy has been studying the dynamics, culture and technology of collaborative teams and knowledge transfer for 12 years, while working in product marketing and strategy for companies as diverse as AOL and Adobe. She is currently Director of Product Marketing for Social Media at OpenText.