Cyborgs at work part 2: The technology

This is a follow up to Cyborgs at work part 1: Are you for real? If you haven’t read it already you might want to start there first.

So if we are going to see cyborgs in the workplace, what are the technologies that are going to provide a competitive advantage in the future workplace?

Personal computing devices

I think that perhaps the most important technology will be our ‘personal computing device’. Although this sounds remarkably like a personal computer or PC, the best example of this currently is a tablet or smartphone. The primary purpose of these devices is to provide

  • A platform for supporting our work tasks
  • Digital storage to augment our memory
  • Connectivity to online resources
  • Digital communication channels

Although tablets and smartphones are considered intuitive relative to our current desktop operating systems, they will be crude compared to what we will see in the future. Services such as Google Now are  starting to take a more predictive approach to delivering the information that we need when we need it. This will become more commonplace and greatly increase the usefulness of these types of devices.

Heads up displays

The next important technology will be heads up displays that allow us to receive information in more natural ways. Currently to access  information through our personal computing devices we need to get it out of our pocket or bag, enter a pin, open the relevant app, and search for relevant information. Although this is a vast improvement over conventional PCs, it still requires a very intentional decision to be made before we access information. Technologies such as Google Glass will go a long way to removing this barrier and I have no doubt that future technologies will include the ability for this type of information to be projected directly into your thoughts.

New input interfaces

Whereas personal computing devices and heads up displays are already with us, wearable technologies that deal effectively with information capture are still a little way off. Currently the best method we have for information capture, for almost any computing device, is the keyboard. Although there is a move towards voice recognition as an alternative the lack of multitasking ability with voice (ie holding a conversation and taking notes at the same time) means that this will probably not become a keyboard replacement.

Instead we are going to see more gesture based interfaces emerging (such as the Leap Motion controller) and this will ultimately give way to thought controlled interfaces. Some thought controlled interfaces have already been commercialised but the current generation of the technology is difficult to use and cumbersome to wear. In the pipeline are devices no bigger than a 10c coin that will read our thoughts and send them over Bluetooth to be deciphered by our personal computing devices and then projected back to our heads up display.

In addition to these general technologies there will be a number of more specific technologies to enhance our ability in specific tasks or roles. These might include powered exoskeletons to both enhance and protect construction workers or Watson like artificial intelligence systems to help doctors diagnose and treat cancer patients.

Much of the technology required to create cyborg office workers is already in existence. Although this technology will continue to improve over time I believe there is little apart from social norms to stop this occurring right now.

In the final chapter on cyborgs in the workplace we will look at how this future might play out and what might be different in a cyborg friendly workplace.

Cyborgs At Work Part 1: Are you for real?

For many cyborgism is the realm of science-fiction. It’s Arnie as the Terminator or reruns of the Six Million Dollar Man. In reality cyborgs are already amongst us and soon there is a very good chance that they will be interviewing for your job.

OK, the above paragraph may be a little alarmist but it is not entirely untrue. Firstly the cyborgs ARE amongst us. Do you know someone with a cochlear implant or a pacemaker? They are a cyborg, a person whose abilities have been enhanced by technology. Although neither of these technologies would offer a distinct advantage if they were interviewing for your job there is a new wave of human centric technologies that certainly are.

Before we go further, it is worth clarifying the definition of cyborgism. Personally I don’t see that cyborgism requires technology to be built into our bodies. Personally I think that this is a very crude form of cyborgism that will fail to get a lot of traction (except in quality of life situations as above). In the words of Ben Hammersley at the recent Wired for Wonder conference  ‘When computing power doubles every two years, no one is going to want last year’s plug embedded in their heads’.

Instead I think cyborgism in the near future will consist mainly of technology that more seamlessly integrates with our bodies such as wearable computing. Taking this broader view of cyborgism it is arguable that we have had cyborgs in the workplace for as long as we care to remember. Individuals have used calculators to improve their maths, pens and papers to augment their memories and mobile phones to enhance their communication. In each case I would argue that these technologies, although basic, have allowed a new generation of office worker to out-compete the last one.

In each of the examples above the office worker uses a ‘personal-scale technology’ ie one that is easily worn or carried upon the person. Up until recently changes in personal scale technology have been relatively slow but this is now changing quite dramatically. The exponential growth in computing power has lead to smaller and smaller devices. The result of this is that most office workers now carry around with them enough computing power to put a man on the moon, and this is just in their smartphone.

Cyborgism is not on possible, I would argue that in the new world of work it is highly desirable. Although there are very few (if any) jobs that can be undertaken in a completely digital environment there is a greater proportion of every job that is now conducted online. This means the more seamlessly we can integrate the activities we undertake in the physical world with the information available in the digital world the more effective we can be at work.

Stay Tuned for Cyborgs at Work Part 2: The technology

Mobial to present to the Law Society of WA

Law Society WA

Simon Waller from Mobial will be presenting a two hour seminar to the Law Society of WA on the effective use of mobile technology in the legal profession. The seminar is on 29 August from 8:30am to 10:30am. If you are interested in attending you can download the attached flyer.

Law Society WA flyer

Does my organisation need iPad training?

Has your organisation deployed tablets yet no one seems to be really sure what they are meant to use them for? I have had two recent clients that have undertaken quite large scale tablet deployments and more than 12 months after deploying the majority of the devices are just sitting on their staff’s desks.

This seems to be a result of the following

  • Enterprise mobility projects being undertaken in and ad-hoc manner without a clear vision of what the tablets are meant to be used for
  • The general assumption that if you know how to use a computer you know how to use an iPad or Android tablet
  • Tablet deployments being undertaken by IT departments that don’t have a mandate (or budget) for training and development
  • Organisational development teams who do have a mandate for training don’t know what training is required and where to source it from

Without focused training the result tends to be an ‘organic’ learning approach that creates unnecessary data security risks (as users play around with different apps) and which delays any potential return on investment from your enterprise mobility project (due to lack of use).

If you want to a valuable and safe tablet deployment you need to provide training for your users on

  • How their various devices are different and what tasks are best suited to what device.
  • The risks of mobile technology and how to mange them effectively
  • The apps that can help them meet their objectives and how they work

Tablet deployments can be expensive exercises and it is right to expect a return on your investment. This is only achieved when users start using their devices. If you are struggling to get engagement with your tablet deployment perhaps it’s time to invest in some training.

Mobial sponsors the Launch48 weekend

Launch48_LargeMobial is proud to sponsor the Melbourne Launch48 weekend. The Launch48 weekend is a unique experience for building web startups with a group of teams from a range of backgrounds and different sets of skills. For each team, the goal is simple: pitch, build and launch a startup in 48 hours.

Mobial works to bring the best in mobile and web technology to business and events such as Launch48 are the breeding ground for the next generation of business focused startups. Mobial will be at Launch48 to provide support and mentoring over the weekend and we are keen to see what new business ideas  emerge.

Mobial is also offering a discount for the Launch48 community. Use the code LAUNCH48 to get a 50% discount on any of our iPad or Android training workshops for August and September. You can use the code as often as you like so please share with colleagues, friends and family.

Mobial presents at the Knowledge Management Leadership Forum

Simon Waller presenting on knowledge management and mobile technology

Photo courtesy of @NickyHW

On Wednesday 26 June, Mobial presented at Melbourne’s Knowledge Management Leadership Forum (KMLF). The KMLF is a face-to-face education and networking forum, run by Knowledge Management practitioners for Knowledge Management practitioners and attracts a diverse audience from across the public and private sectors.

The focus of the presentation was the use of mobile technology as a personal knowledge management tool to compliment an organisations existing knowledge management systems. You can follow some of the conversations on the Mobility in the Workplace Storify by Nicky Hayward-Wright

Thanks to Nicky Hayward-Wright, Luke Grange and the rest of the KMLF team for organising the event.

Do your executives really want Android?

Android has a keen following in enterprise IT circles because of its openness and customisability. But before you embark on an Android deployment ask yourself, is Android usable enough to build engagement amongst your workforce?

Many IT departments prefer Android over iOS because if its openness and customisability. Although this makes IT’s job of managing and supporting devices easier it is actually not something that the end user generally cares about. There is a genuine risk that if IT doesn’t take the end users needs into consideration, they may end up implementing a safe, secure system that people struggle to use effectively.

I find that most executive teams ultimately care about usefulness and usability. They want a suite of apps that helps them do their job more effectively and that are easy to learn and use. Although these tools should also be safe and secure, this is not their primary concern.

It should be pointed out that this isn’t so much about the Android platform as it is about the apps. Although there are plenty of Android apps in the Google Play store there is still only a limited range of tablet optimised apps and many of these are either buggy or have limited features compared to their iOS alternatives.

Although this will close over time I don’t see it happening soon. I have contacted a couple of app developers to see if they were planning to release or update their Android apps and both said they were focusing on the iOS platform at the moment and didn’t see the value in dedicating resources to Android development at the moment. Their reasoning for this was that the Android user base was less willing to pay for apps and the cost of development was higher due to the variety of hardware and screen sizes.

So if you are looking to implement a mobile technology program my advice to organisations is not to rush towards Android without taking into account end user needs. Although it may cost less in terms of hardware and support than an iOS or, even better, a cross platform solution, you may ultimately pay for this in lower levels of engagement and use.

Remember, the value of a system is not what it costs you. Cost is how much you pay for it, value is what it returns to the organisation in terms of greater productivity and effectiveness. And value is only created once the platform is both used and useful.

Mobial presents at West Australian small business events

Digital futures event

Mobial presented two workshops hosted by Business Foundations as part of Western Australia’s state government funded Digital Futures program. The free workshops were aimed at assisting small businesses identify and engage in the opportunities offered by digital technology.

The workshops where held on May 30 in Victoria Park and June 4 in Joondalup and focused on why small businesses need to be engaging with mobile and cloud technology and the tools they can use to be more effective in business.

Mobial presents to the South Australian tourism industry

SATIC Conference

In May Mobial presented at the 2013 South Australian Tourism Council conference. The theme for this years conference was ‘Your business – Our tourism future’ and SATIC wanted to be able to provide participants with cutting edge thinking to support the states tourism operators.

Mobial discussed the advantages that mobile technology offers tourism operators and how to implement a mobile technology program. Mobial also presented a case study of its work with South Australian Tourism’s Hall of Fame nominees Adventure Bay Charters.


Mobial launches new ‘Leaders with Technology’ program

Mobial is proud to launch its new flagship program Leaders with Technology. The one day program is aimed at senior executive teams that want to both harness the benefits of mobile technology and reduce the negative impacts, especially in regard to leadership traits.

Many leaders are concerned about the distractions posed by technology and the negative impact that it has on work-life balance, time for reflection and other aspects of leadership. Given that the use of mobile technology is set to boom in business it is more important than ever to give leaders the skills to use their technology in an effective way.

With Simon’s extensive knowledge of mobile technology and post graduate training in business management and leadership, Mobial is uniquely positioned to help leaders manage technology. To find out more about this program please contact us.