Chronicles of a Future Foretold: How M2M can make the rest of Mobility redundant?
“… Skynet begins to learn at a geometric rate. It becomes self-aware at 2:14 a.m. Eastern time, August 29th...”
- The Terminator 2: Judgment Day, 1991
As we bustle around in today’s world, busily evangelizing the benefits of Mobility to the Enterprise, confidently touting how transformational a technology it is and quoting all the Analysts, who basically say the same thing, my curious mind can’t help fast-forwarding to a few decades in the future and wondering how things will be then.
Today’s beginner discussions for mEnterprise (the mobile Enterprise) is invariably about identifying the scenarios where Mobility can transform business or add significant value. Almost equally invariably, we start off with the ‘lightweight’ scenarios focused on productivity gains (e.g. workflow approvals, etc.) and gradually move on to the more ‘heavyweight’ ones that implement NWOW (new ways of working).
Let’s take the reverse order. Consider the two typical functional areas that come up for Mobilization – Sales and Service. In the former, the typical scenario involves providing the Salesperson the ability to perform Sales Transactions on a mobile device – from displaying product details (including specifications, prices, availability etc.) to getting the order and registering it in the ERP system. The latter is about executing Service Operations (e.g. Viewing, Modifying and Closing Service Orders) on a device.
Now, how is this going to work in an M2M-enabled future? First of all, why would a Salesperson need to do the sales transaction on his device? Product information, availability and prices are any available to customers today itself, in any online store. In the future, it would be reasonable to expect that this expands to cover all B2B scenarios, as well, to the point that customers really don’t need to interact with Salespersons – except, maybe, in the most extreme cases of intangible goods & services, where a Sales App is not going to help anyway.
Customers place the order themselves, which is transmitted via M2M to the Warehouse systems of the supplier. The Warehouse systems check for stock availability and if available, activate the auto-picking and loading machines that pick the goods, pack them and load them for transport (if stock is not available, the automatic assembly lines are the ones that get activated), without human intervention. The transport – obviously an automated vehicle, connected to the traffic management system via M2M, which now allows all vehicles to be driver-less – moves the goods to the customer site, where auto-unloading machines unload them and move them to wherever they’re required.
Self-monitoring machines detect when repair and maintenance is required, triggering automatic service order creations in the service management system, via M2M. The automatic scheduling system schedules the maintenance activity, and when due, triggers the auto repair-bots that travel to the machine location to carry out repair. When completed, the repair-bots trigger the service order closure in the system, again via M2M.
Now, let’s move on to the lightweight use cases. Targeted, as they are, to the mobile workforce, it’s pretty obvious that these are no longer relevant, as the mobile workforce itself, doesn't exist (do auto repair-bots need leave?).
Take this a step further. The “customer” ordering the goods from a supplier, in all probability, is not a human but just another instance of a M2M interaction!
So what do we hardworking guys do then? I read a SciFi story, a long time back (can’t remember and too lazy to Google it) which spoke about a future where work, as we know it, had become extinct, leaving humans free to pursue pursuits of a purely intellectual nature. How would we keep ourselves busy? Maybe by writing blogs about the future! A few decades? Maybe less …