Have you been hankering for a holster for your tablet and your smartphone? At this year’s International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Tech Slinger, a company out of Grand Rapids, Mich., was pitching just such a tool. The sling puts your electronic devices where you need them: under your arms.
Or perhaps you’ve been waiting for a Segway-like scooter that you can ride hands free? At CES, another techno-gadget company, Montebello was advertising a scooter that does this. Standing on the auto-balancing board, you just curl your toes to make it go. Maybe the bicycle is your preferred mode of transport. CES had something for you as well. Volvo, in partnership with Ericsson and sports gear maker POC, displayed a car that gets a GPS signal from bicyclists that come too close, while at the same time alerting the bicyclist, via a series of vibrating lights on a connected bike helmet, when a car comes too close.
This year’s CES show demonstrated just how the “Internet of things” is expanding. Typically, the phrase “Internet of things” refers to a household in which most, if not all, electronic devices are connected and easily monitored. However, the Internet of things now includes devices outside the home. We won’t just be connected to our things in the house, but also to the things that surround us outside, as we travel from home to work, and back again.
For some, this is going too far. Do we really need to be connected everywhere, at every time, to every device? We’ve all seen, in any number of science fiction novels and films, the dark side of the development of the Internet of things. Whether we’re talking about the insane computer Hal 2000, the Terminator, or the Matrix, having humans connected to machines doesn’t always work out for the best in movie-land.
The thing is to make sure our electronic things serve us, and not the other way around. We need to remember that the Internet of things is intended to benefit the Internet of people. We should certainly find ways to connect our devices, but only insofar as that helps humans connect better with one another.
I’m not suggesting that we go to war with our machines, but that we configure (or reconfigure) them for human use. Instead of creating devices only for the purpose of propitiating the technology gods, we could invent things that make human lives more livable and enjoyable, and connect people in more profound ways.
The development, marketing and sales of the wondrous devices at this year’s CES will impact the work of ISOs and merchant level salespeople. These inventions will likely drive sales and profits for merchants and their acquiring partners, but we need to be careful about the kind of business culture we are helping to create.
If it is a culture that prioritizes gadgets over people – the Internet of things over the Internet of people – we will eventually find ourselves in a world where our services, and the idea that what we do is service, is lost. Even the coolest, stickiest hyper-networked toys at CES can’t replace the value of personal service in a sales-focused industry like merchant acquiring.
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