The Internet of Things (IoT) consists of edge devices (“things”) with network connectivity, enabling the exchange of data from sensors, electronics, and software. The IoT matters for three reasons. First, it changes the generation of data, replacing people in key workflows. Second, adopters find that IoT devices can increase collaboration between employees and between customers and organizations. Finally, the IoT can indicate a need for changes in workflows based on the data generated, and drive changes to business models and ultimately to the kinds of jobs that are available.

All of these are changing the nature of our work in the field of learning and development, including training. The changes come from the impact of the IoT on workplace learning (informal learning, performance support, and the shift of tasks from people to the IoT) and on the content and technology of formal instruction.

In eLearning, we are more accustomed to the Internet of People (IoP). Methods in the IoP that we use for identifying and assessing learning and performance needs include everything from safety data to focus groups to production figures. The information may be scattered, it may be subjective, and we analyze it long after the fact. IoP technology is made for people.

The Age of Convergent Technologies has caught up with us. The IoT and the IoP are very different. The IoT produces unending mountains of objective data, 24 hours a day, and the information is available to us as soon as we know how to ask for it. There are many types of this data and because the same data will always get presented the same way, reporting and analyzing the data is much easier.

We are also in the New Normal. As the internet itself did, the Internet of Things changes the way that work gets done. Much of what IoT devices do, they do without people—they talk to each other. Analysis of the data these devices generate is done automatically “at the edges” by algorithms, not by humans, and the data itself is consumed mostly by things. And there is more.

Much of the work done by the connected devices is work formerly done by humans. Let’s look at the New Normal.

How the IoT disrupts the world of work

The IoT at this point largely functions unseen by workers and management. Many of the devices and apps control the operation of systems in buildings and production facilities, in the way that previous generations of automatic controls regulated environmental conditions and machinery operations. The difference is that the devices and apps increasingly communicate and interoperate with each other to drive operational and energy efficiency. The data they generate, and reports of their operation and the results, can provide management with insights that support further improvements. However, there are two ways in which the IoT mainly and visibly affects the workplace.

Transforming business

As systems assume tasks that people once performed, job duties, work locations and assignments, as well as staffing needs, change. Automation of supply chains and smart warehousing is a major example of this. Smart systems, using connected devices to track inventory levels, make real-time inventory management possible. Because these devices, which would include various sensors and controllers, communicate with each other directly, they can facilitate much greater operational efficiency in smart warehouses, while requiring fewer workers. These sensors can also indicate when system efficiency drops below an acceptable level and communicate a need for repairs. These improvements apply to manufacturing, retail, and automotive enterprises.

Interventions that improve workplace health and safety also become possible with the application of artificial intelligence and related technologies to the data generated. Many workplace accidents take place because of worker distraction, inattention, or lack of information. One way that the IoT helps with this is through HUDs—head-up displays—and better performance aids built into software driven by sensor data. Related IoT-derived and supported technology includes Unified Communications (UC), predictive AI, and sensors that provide constant monitoring. Another way is through sensor-driven immersive training and performance support: augmented reality and virtual reality ensure that workers are better prepared through training that eliminates the risk of injury during training and practice.

Human-machine collaboration

Because the IoT supports human-machine interactions, human-to-machine collaboration has become practical. Unified Communications plays a role in this, along with the elimination of data silos through data aggregation. Telepresence is key to successful remote assistance to field technicians in system and machine repair, as well as in applications in health care, by facilitating teleconferencing. In the case of health care, remote consultations involving doctor-to-patient conversations are much more common. Even the ubiquitous tablet computer can now communicate with medical monitoring devices such as heart monitors, insulin pumps, a myriad range of consumer-level fitness trackers and, with HIPAA-compliant software, access patient records. Finally, the availability of digital assistants changes both the work itself and the places from which people can work.

How do we deal with this “Knowledge Tsumami”?

The Internet of Things and L&D at the Emerging Tech Online Conference

To help answer that question, Anthony Altieri will present “Learning and Development in the Internet of Things” at The eLearning Guild’s Emerging Tech Online Conference on July 17, 2019. Anthony is the IDIoT in Chief (Instructional Developer for the Internet of Things) and founder of Omnes Solutions. In this session, he will navigate the IoT minefield. He will look at how to assess the business needs that trainers and eLearning designers must consider, the emerging technology options, the disruptive effects that the IoT is having on the workplace, and the security concerns your C-Suite executives will worry about.

In the process, you will learn:

• What the “Internet of Things” is and how it will affect the “Internet of People”;

• About the IoT options that are available today and the ones that are on the way; and

• How the IoT can indirectly or directly impact organizational learning needs.