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The talking screwdriver and other tales from the Internet


Kenny Fraser talks L&D applications of the fast-proliferating Internet of Things.

Have you heard the one about the talking screwdriver? No - it’s not the start of a joke, but it could be the future in the Internet of Things (IoT) – the connection of physical devices via the internet. According to Gartner there will be nearly 26bn devices on the IoT by 2020 and ABI Research estimates that there will be more than 30bn IoT devices by 2020.

One of the key areas for IoT applications will be training and education. Tools and machines can be designed in a way that they give instant feedback to the teacher and student on how they are being used. For example, a person operating a machine tool can receive feedback from the device on how they are performing the task. This can enable the instructor to set a series of practical exercises on how their performance can be developed and improved.

Which brings us back to the talking screwdriver. A number of sensors can be incorporated into the tool, which tells the user if they are using it at the right angle, is the head aligned properly with the screw and so forth. On more complex tools a whole range of parameters can be monitored and this can be done remotely so that an instructor does not physically have to be on site with the apprentice. There is also the potential to negate any safety issues by automating cut-outs on drills if the drill goes beyond a certain depth and so on.

Ultimately the IoT is giving a voice to our tools and equipment. There will be another level of training which depends on accumulating this feedback and enabling better realtime education around complex processes and systems. For management in industries like oil and gas, construction and manufacturing, learning how to interpret and act on IoT-generated data - often in conjunction with human communication - will become an essential skill.

The IoT will also come into its own in training for developing countries. Traditional distance learning methods are pretty widespread but these will be enhanced in future through the IoT. Teaching vocational skills such as how to use tools properly or administer the correct dosage of drugs to patients are all skills which will benefit from IoT. Manufacturing will be revolutionised by IoT: being able to identify performance issues and correct in real time can lead to massive productivity gains. I know of one German machine tool manufacturer, which supplies equipment to Chinese factories. By receiving feedback from the machines in real time the equipment can be adapted to the local working practices thereby optimising performance.

So if you thought IoT was just about your fridge being able to order fresh tomatoes, think again...

Sunstone Communication is a Glasgow-based management consultancy advising and mentoring companies in the digital and mobile space. It is led by Kenny Fraser who has over 20 years of experience working at the highest levels in the Telecoms, Media and Technology (TMT) sectors. A chartered accountant (ICAS) by training, Kenny was until recently an equity partner with PwC directing and advising on major UK and international mobile telecoms and digital projects. 

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