A few years ago when the smartphone began to really gain market share and we found we could do much more with it than something as lame as actually talk to a person, I wrote a blog entry comparing it to Captain Kirk’s Star Trek communicator. Just like Kirk’s small communicator, the smartphone allows you to have computer access in your hand no matter where you are—other than, maybe, rural Saskatchewan where cell phone coverage is less than ideal.
Today, it seems comparisons to the original 1960’s Star Trek series are no longer useful. The advancement of technology is now causing us to see similarities with the much more high-tech Next Generation series. For those 12 people who haven’t seen an episode of that incarnation of the Star Trek TV show, it was the Borg who were the really scary bad guys. They were humans integrated with computer technology. And it was the technology part that wirelessly tethered them to the “Collective”. Immediate access to all that shared knowledge and ability available through the Collective made them an incredibly powerful adversary. As individuals without that connection, though, they were lost, floundering souls.
These days it isn’t uncommon to see a group of people sitting together but ignoring each other as they all concentrate on their smart phones. Heck, even my wife and I sometimes do that. Once, she even sent me a text message when we were sitting in the same room, albeit as a joke. But more and more it seems we, like those groups of people ignoring each other in favour of paying attention to their phones, prefer to communicate directly with the internet, or should we call it the collective, instead of each other. Lose cell coverage and many of us start to feel like a Borg stranded alone.
This week AGCO tweeted a link to a corporate YouTube flick that was meant to show how the company is using advanced technology to pursue its goal of being perceived as a leader in building quality products. To ratchet up its ability to do that, it’s incorporated Google Glass into factory operations at the Jackson, Minnesota, tractor and sprayer assembly plant.
Workers at the plant wearing the special glasses are directly connected to, well, their collective. They are able to use the hands-free features of the glasses to do a variety of things like following instructions on assembly, troubleshooting or coordinating quality control inspections, according to the video.
“Immediate information allows trending of problems with rapid turnkey solutions,” says the video narrator, as the picture shows a worker checking out a machine. I wouldn’t say I could exactly translate that sentence into plain language, but it sounds like Google Glass allows workers to take instant advantage of the knowledge and support of, yes, the collective, making their joint efforts a powerful force for their adversaries at other brands to reckon with.
People taking a tour of the plant now get to wear a Google Glass and see virtual images in a kind of heads-up display at certain points along the route, even they’re getting information channelled directly from the collective instead of the person guiding them through the plant.
Another segment of the video shows a service technician in the field with a sprayer breakdown using Google Glass to communicate voice and images directly to an expert at the factory who helps him solve the problem.
Wearing Google Glass actually makes people look a little like a Borg, whose right eye was covered by a camera lens, the glasses place the technology on the right side too. Coincidence? Is human kind slowly evolving into a kind of Borg collective? Are we slowly being assimilated?
All kidding aside, it does seem to be a case of life imitating art, doesn’t it?
The Borg often cautioned their enemy, saying “resistance is futile”. When it comes to adopting—or adapting to—technology, that saying seems to hold true there as well. For those who don’t grab onto the leading edge of technology, they risk falling so far behind as to become irrelevant. That’s a dangerous thing for a manufacturer. Expect to see more of this kind of digital exploitation from all equipment brands in the near future.