During the oil boom of the 1970’s, West Texas oil production companies and gas processors depended on telecommunications equipment to monitor remote pump stations. If a unit lost power in the wee hours of the morning, an auto dialer called an operator at a 24-hour answering service. The operator then called someone to trek out to the field and correct the problem. As technology improved and live operators were replaced by automated systems with alarming speed, telephone lines were used to page repair technicians and send digital notes to doctors after hours. With the stunning speed of technology and innovative new products today, people are scarcely needed to facilitate machine-to-machine conversation or repairs—however, humans may rely more on machines to speak to other humans.
With the upcoming election in November, U.S. residents are probably seeing an uptake in the number of prerecorded voice mail messages they receive from political survey takers and pollsters. Hurricane season means remote communities are more likely to receive automated calls to cellphones and mobile emails containing weather warnings. The growth rate in the number of machines that are talking to each other is startling. In the near future, machine conversations are expected to surpass the number of conversations between two or more humans. Some experts are predicting a queue style delivery platform that will determine who goes first—man or machine.
Business owners around the globe are investing in research and development in an effort to position themselves in the forefront of the wireless communication tsunami on the horizon. Everyone knows about OnStar and GPS mapping in cars. New technology is taking these familiar applications and expanding them to include medical applications and fleet management tools. According to New York Times Business Day Technology writer Kevin J. O’Brien, approximately one third of the current machine-to-machine conversations today involve fleet management and other automotive applications, like OnStar and GPS tracking devices that monitor fuel consumption.
Business owners and utility providers are already using this technology to make billing and delivery more efficient and profitable. Utility companies are using smart chips, sometimes called smart utility meters, to retrieve data from residential dwellings that provide a variety of consumption variables. Electricity providers can customize their grid to respond to consumer volume and peak operating times. The Orlando Sentinel reported in May 2012, that Florida Power and Light (FPL) is converting all residential customers to smart meters. They expect the conversion to save money for both the company and customers. By eliminating moving parts through computer technology (reducing repair costs) and giving customers real-time information about their energy use, FPL sees this as a win-win for everyone.
For technology companies that specialize in delivering fleet management tools for businesses that want to take a more proactive approach to cost containment, the expansion is welcome. Responding to customer needs while looking ahead to the future gives them an opportunity to develop and release devices and applications that work together to monitor trailer temperature, fuel consumption and driving patterns. Utilizing machine-to-machine wireless conversations is efficient, safe and cost effective for consumers. The technology reduces the margin of error substantially over written records and managers have better control over scheduling and routing.
Expect to see a flood of technological developments in the near future capitalizing on robotic and machine-to-machine “talkie technology.” As the tsunami approaches, be prepared to stand in line for a signal—it could be coming faster than you think. We may have to resort to having our machines hold our place in line to call home.