The Internet of Things is creeping closer, or so we’re told.
The idea reminds me of a cartoon in one of the Molesworth books, that satirise and celebrate the awfulness of British boarding school life in the 1950s and 1960s.
Nearer and nearer crept the ghastly THING.
School certainly contained its horrors. Unimaginably ghastly THINGS might creep up on us in the classroom, the boot-room, or the tuck shop, or lurk on the playing-fields, or in the subterranean corridors where we spent our lives queuing for a spoonful of cough mixture. It might be the headmaster’s dog, Spongebag, or Matron, or even an errant dumpling or prune.
(On one occasion at Molesworth’s St Custard’s the prunes (a staple component of school food at the time) revolted.)
But the Internet of Things holds no such horrors. We’re encouraged to welcome the possibility that everything we own will be connected to the internet and to us. We’ll be able to control our homes remotely, turning the heating up or down, and letting the plumber in, or the postman. We’ll water the plants, feed the cat, and even empty the cat tray, from the other side of the world. We’ll tell our driverless car to come and get us.We’ll even be able to watch our house being burgled through the webcams we’ve installed in every room. We’ll be able to remonstrate with them as they do their nasty work.
Control will be complete, and we’ll spend even more time crouched over our PCs or Macs, controlling THINGS. No more getting up to switch a light off, no more wands to wave and click at the TV, the Skybox or to fire up the microwave. Everything will be at the click of a mouse. The browser will be omniscient and omnipotent.
Initially these THINGS, I suppose, will just do what we tell them. But perhaps in time they’ll become autonomous, able to answer back, and converse. The fridge and the cooker will together conspire to cook our dinner, optimising the leftovers into a stylish, healthy and eco-friendly rissole. And then they’ll switch off our pacemakers if we’re insufficiently appreciative. Our bodies, too, will be made of THINGS all wired up and controlled by other THINGS.
But, as it happens, the Internet of Things will solve a challenge we’ve always faced with timesheets. For the last ten years, when presenting and extolling the virtues of our professional services software, time@work, I’ve been asked repeatedly how we can make people submit their timesheets on time. Late timesheets are the bane of every service director’s life.
Submit me, or else (but, sadly, something our system doesn’t do).
I would tell them about our Workflow Status reporting tool that can produce a list of overdue timesheets for every manager in the company. I would talk about the reminder emails that can be sent as often as required, both to employees who are late with submission and to managers who are late with authorisation.
‘But I can’t actually MAKE people do things,’ I usually say.
‘OK, but can’t you prevent employees from doing other things until they’ve submitted their timesheets?’
Yes, I say, we can prevent submission of expense forms, and so on, until all outstanding timesheets have been submitted, but we can’t interfere with Word or Excel or Google or Facebook to disable an employee’s PC or Mac. Microsoft and Apple won’t let us. Nor can we deliver electric shocks, however much they’re deserved.
Well, the Internet of Things is creeping closer, and times are changing. One of our latest customers, ConnecTec, makers of the devices, and developers of the software, that render THINGS animate (at least in the Internet of Things sense) has asked us to link our timesheet reminder module to their employees’ domestic devices. (They encourage their employees to link their devices to the internet for free, but only in return for indemnity from the consequences.)
So, just as you can link a scanner and a barcode reader to our expense management system, we can now link time@work to any compliant domestic device using a standard communications protocol.
ConnecTec are adopting a somewhat ruthless policy on overdue timesheets:
- One day: set the fridge to defrost.
- Two days: disable the TV and other entertainment devices.
- Three days: activate the burglar alarm every hour from three o’clock in the morning.
- Four days: disable the garage door.
- Five days: electrocute the domestic pets.
- Six days: shut the whole house down and lock everyone out.
- A week: Activate a black hole and consume everything in the vicinity.
If you’re interested in putting time@work at the heart of the Internet of Things, contact your support desk.
But be warned!