MER: To Boldly Go

Press Review

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In the second instalment in their series of articles on the interaction between humans and technology, Dr. Eva Savelsberg and Matthew Wittemeier of INFORM’s Logistics Division argue that technology willgive the post and parcel industry the freedom to explore new ideas and ways of working.

The world is moving forward quickly. What was once science fiction (the internet, robots, artificial intelligence, etc.), is increasing commonplace. Underlying these innovations are challenges around both technology and how humans interact with new technology. Understanding both is crucial to addressing why users are resistant to technological innovations. Equally, it is paramount in fostering a path forward so that new technology solutions can drive value instead of floundering in the hands of sceptical users.

Technology is Here to Stay

“Come here. I want to see you,” were the first words communicated over the telephone by Alexander Graham Bell to his assistant in 1876. After that first call, Bell penned a letter to his father where he noted: “The day is coming when [telephone cables] will be laid on to houses just like water or gas - and friends converse with each other without leaving home.” Despite its revolutionary ability to connect people anywhere, anytime, it took approximately 75 years for the telephone to reach 50 million users. A lack of infrastructure and technological constraints are generally the two factors noted when discussing the very slow adoption of the technology.

Fast forward to the 1950’s and the TV was introduced; it took TV about 13 years to reach 50 million users. Fast forward again to the late 80’s and the first commercially available internet hit the market - it took approximately 4 years to reach 50 million users. In 2016 Pokemon Go was launched and the app reached 50 million users in 19 days! The pace of technological adoption is quickening. The challenges that hindered the adoption of the telephone are all but non-existent today.

Today, the internet serves as a common backbone for almost all technological innovation. While not perfect, its common use architecture allows anyone, anywhere to develop and distribute new technologies with ease. Further, since the mid 1900’s Moore’s law has seen the steady doubling of technological capability every two years or so. Today, most of us carry a mini-supercomputer in our pocket. Ironically, these supercomputers take us back to the beginning of the story; our smartphones are designed to supersede the now-outdated telephone system.

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