Published on: March 14, 2017by Michael Sansolo
None of us every really know the future. Sure, sometimes we have a sense of where things are going, but minus an extremely lucky guess things usually develop in ways we could never imagine.
For instance, Kevin and I have talked a lot lately about the 10th anniversary of a fairly recent technological revolution; it was in January 2007 that Steve Jobs first introduced the prototype iPhone. We were all excited about it then, but frankly, none of us could have imagined the impact of that new device.
The one statistic on the iPhone that I love is this: when it was finally made available in June 2007 there were slightly more than 500 apps available. Today, that number has blossomed to 2 million apps for the iPhone and 2.2 million for Android. (No doubt, it’s gone higher since you started reading this article.)
To think: in 2007 we never knew we needed a smartphone. Today, we’d be lost without the countless apps, the built-in camera and calculator, and literally lost without Waze.
Where smartphones take us in the future is anyone’s guess, but here the thing: it never was nor never will be the last breakthrough technology. So we have to keep looking and wondering, “What comes next?”
NPR recently shone a light on that very question by hosting a discussion with experts from MIT on the future direction of technology. MIT publishes a regular technology review and annually selects 10 “breakthrough” technologies the institute sees as both feasible and having enormous implications for society at large.
This year's edition features one with incredible implications for the retail industry - self-driving trucks. They are coming and apparently pretty quickly.
MIT expects them to be a part of the nation’s logistics system inside the next decade. Logistics rarely is the sexiest topic to discuss, but almost nothing works without it. So sexy or not, this really matters.
By sheer serendipity, I happened to hear the NPR discussion while on my way to speak at the annual Food Shippers of America conference, where trucking issues are front and center. And if you had any doubts on the importance of this technological issue, put them aside quickly.
At FSA, we heard about countless issues impacting the world of logistics especially the potential for a staggering shortage of drivers in just a few years. There are many reasons from regulations to demographics, but the message is simple. The gap threatens to make a largely invisible part of the industry more important than ever.
Unless, of course, self-driving trucks lessen the load by making each driver stunningly more efficient by extending the hours they can be on the road, allowing a new form of tandem trucking or eliminating dwell time to drop loads at distribution centers. As with smartphones, the applications for this technology may go well beyond what we can imagine today.
The technology isn’t perfected yet, but I figure the folks at MIT have a much better handle than I do on where technology is going. This sounds like a problem and solution coming together at the same time.
As Yogi Berra warned us, “it’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” But we know this, it will always be very different than today.
Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available on Amazon by clicking here. And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon by clicking here.
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