The most amazing thing about automation is the work it removes. I still remember the original 1984 commercial, the computer for the rest of us. It showed computers as something more than fancy typewriters. Those first computers that began to trick out were the start of the revolution. At the time it was low cost computer versus premium computer. That was quickly over. The low cost computer won. In part because it had relationships and connections with the giants of the services industry at the time (IBM and HP). But a funny thing happened on the way to a PC on every desk.
First was the net computer. A computer with virtually no storage and running everything from the network. It was a device just before its time. Later the emergence of the Chromebook from Google actually achieved that netbook goal but that took years to arrive. I often work on and post my blogs from my Chromebook. They are actually quite useful.
The tasks that computers have automated are amazing. Doctors can quickly see the X-Rays taken of your knee or arm. Except they often use the newest innovation in the process, the non-pc tablet. The 2007 birth of the iPhone changed how people used their personal devices. Prior to the iPhone there was the cheap hardware and expensive software model that Microsoft built for the PocketPC. That market had worked well in the past (it was the original model of PC’s – cheap hardware and expensive software.) Apple changed that. Not full applications anymore. Not expensive applications. The revolution of the iPhone wasn’t the iPhone it was iTunes. It generated the completive solution Google Play. That begat the competitive windows Store and the world moved to small bite-sized cheap applications. It was a brave new world and one that was ready for automation.
The automation was simple at first. For the most part it was the birth of X-10. You could turn on lights and turn off light switches remotely. You could open and close your garage doors. The software ran on a computer so you had to leave your computer on all the time. The big change was the power of the computer and the ability to connect and automate all those new devices. X-10 begat Z-wave and Zigbe. It also began the home automation revolution. But there were other automations happening at the same time. From your car and your handheld, the automations were just beginning.
First it was the appearance of GPS chips in the Cell phone. Then the growth and appearance of Cameras. The camera on the cell phone has done more to change the world in a short time than virtually any other technology ever has. For that matter you could argue that connected cameras do more to change the world than anything ever has. Every event now has a cell phone video of it. Nothing escapes the electronic eye. All is seen and all is shared. This is good if you are a member of law enforcement trying to solv3e a crime. It’s bad if you are someone that has made a public mistake.
The cell phone is so much more now than it was 10 years ago, 5 years ago even. You have your own seismograph in your hands. You have a decibel meter in your hands. You can quickly add a Geiger, UV and barometer to your cell phone. All of these things are automated components. You launch a single application on your phone and you interact with the device you added.
This brings us to the newest tipping point of automation. The great input debate. In 2007 with the launch of the iPhone Steve Jobs said we don’t need a stylus. Your finger is all you need for input. But there is a reason why humans use pencils. So with the new iPad Pro, you get a pencil. Microsoft has improved stylus input with Windows 10, and many Android phones come with a Stylus. The best one I’ve used so far? The Samsung S pen, it automates the use of the Stylus. When you take out the S pen the Stylus menu is turned on. But more than the pencil which is a way to connect with the device we are moving to a new world of automation. Motion and voice activation are so much more powerful than they ever were before. The Amazon FireTV makes your living room a voice control center. Xbox One can also control everything from the voice sensor. Voice is here. Motion as well, the Leap controller is a blast to play with and motion has a lot of value. There are 10 crowd funded campaigns (Kickstarter and Indiegogo) that focus on motion sensors. Tobi has an eye sensor that tracks your eye movement so you can control your computer with your eyes. The automation of what is possible is amazing!
The dream of automation is to remove the need for humans to do things that are reptile and boring. The end game of where we are is that we are on the verge of the next big wave of automation. From the 1980 release of the PC Jr., the 1984 release of the Macintosh the world changed. In 1995 it changed again with an operating system as popular as a Hollywood movie. People lined up overnight to get the first copies of Windows 95. 2007 pushed the world back to the handheld and the innovations that have happened in that market are amazing. The Cloud changed how organizations consider data centers. The Internet of Things and now Cyber Physical Systems connect everything to everything.