Impact of Disruptive Tech on Business and the Workforce

Is Working Hard Good Enough?

We all have a tendency to keep our head down and live in our own discipline, or trade, ignoring the impact of related technologies and/or related industries. After all, most of us were taught focus = results. Here is the rub: what if while we are focusing on succeeding with the business at hand, our technology becomes outdated, or another industry finds a way to deliver the same product/service more efficiently? Whole industries have disappeared almost overnight, because of a failure to keep our heads up and look at the marketplace around us. I can think of many examples: typewriters, roll photographic film, rotary phones, etc. The Information Technology space likes to call these emerging product/solution categories – “disruptive technologies”. Have you stopped to consider the impact of disruptive technologies on your industry?

Service businesses aside, manufacturing, distribution and supply/installation models are being heavily impacted by disruptive technologies. The most evident example is the effect of web-connected cloud & mobile IP data communication on virtually every electro-mechanical product made today. As little as 20 years ago automation was very expensive. Automating processes required numerous relays and/or logic circuits… occupied too much space and could not offer inexpensive remote management. Today, virtually any device can easily connect to a data network via IP solutions. You can incorporate a NIC (network interface card) an Ethernet Jack or WiFi Antenna in almost any product/device today. Some simple examples that are very real today:

  • I met a diabetic recently that uses a bar code scanner installed in his refrigerator connected to his home network to keep track of dietary requirements and create shopping lists. Could you imagine your fridge connected to your home network? What if the average person used a similar solution to automate ordering groceries over the internet? How would that change the retail grocery industry?
  • The devices connected to just my personal home network that can be remotely controlled by my smart phone/tablet are: cable TV box, thermostat, door entry lock, light fixtures… How do you think that functionality is changing those industries?

Internet of Things (IoT) & Change

This tech discussed above is part of a broader category called the Internet of Things (IoT). It is estimated that 3 billion new IP addresses will be required by the general public by 2020 to accommodate consumer demand for this automation. Have you taken a moment to think about how this emerging trend/technology is affecting the company you work for? Your chosen industry? Will your career training effectively enable you to weather these changes?

Maintaining a Successful Career in the New Paradigm

I had to re-train myself twice in my career. Once in the mid 1990’s to move from mechanical to electronic security and again in the mid 2000’s when analog data and serial network solutions were superseded by digital data, HD video and IP networks. IOT has the potential to cause another such disruptive age for technology. In the physical security systems industry our next challenge will be to learn encryption strategies and hardening of infrastructure. This change will affect more than just one product category. How do career professionals face such a challenging landscape? The new needed attribute will be a focus on life-long learning and the flexibility to change. Certainly, universities are testing too much on knowledge and not enough on skill-sets that can enable nimble, flexible workers in a future labor force. Knowledge-based testing should be the role of trade organizations offering industry specific certifications, NOT institutions of higher learning.

Welcome to a new age, when the criteria for hiring in tech based fields has to change. I just hope we can all keep up…

About Doug Levin

Doug is a certified (PSP, AHC, LEED AP), experienced business development professional with a focus on the physical security industry. With a diverse background that includes delivering products & services through multiple channels (manufacturing, distribution, specialty & general contracting), he brings a broad industry perspective that adds greater value for his clients. Having decades of experience with sales engineering and design-build of low-voltage automated systems, he also offers a strong emphasis on technical knowledge and consulting services. His career has included responsibility for: profit & loss, operations and sales management with front-line experience in estimating, sales/marketing, project management and developing security design documents & spec writing.
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