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article originally appeared in the August 2018 edition of Mobility Magazine.
Bill put his coffee down on his
desk, reached up, and answered the phone by touching the base of his jaw.
“Relocation Management, Bill Jacobsen,” he said.
“Hey Bill, Peter George here
with Global Moving and Storage. I am at the Smith residence, and we have a
delay. Our moverbot is stuck at the top of the stairs flashing a ‘refuse’ code.
Looks like the armoire is too much for it to handle on the stairs. I’ve called
central, and they’re sending someone over with a powered exoskeleton. We’ll
just have to get it downstairs the old-fashioned way.”
Bill chuckled. “The
old-fashioned way,” he thought. Bill was well into his second century and still
going strong—one of those lucky enough to still be healthy when rejuv
treatments were made widely available. He could remember when “the
old-fashioned way” meant you put the furniture on your back and hoofed it down
the stairs. The powered exoskeleton was just coming into vogue when he was well
into his first career as an owner-operator.
Bill was not overly worried.
Peter and his wife, Molly, did not trust the bots with the breakables, so they
still packed all the dishes, glassware, and expensive stuff by hand. They
rarely had a claim. They’d get everything wrapped and loaded, and then send the
truck off to Scottsdale. Peter and Molly would sleep at home tonight, and a new
crew would handle the unload at the destination. Bill would wait to notify the
crew in Arizona. It should not take the truck more than 20 hours to travel
1,700 miles, so it should still be able to make the scheduled unload the
morning of the second day.
Bill enjoyed being in the
relocation business. After his first “retirement,” Bill started RM Inc. to stay
busy. He loved talking to new people, and there was never a dull day in the
world of relocation. Many people thought relocation would go away over the
years, with virtual presence and most work done by bots.
While the need to relocate
people decreased to some extent, the rise of a truly global economy and the
explosive growth of off-planet colonies and industry fueled demand. Differences
in culture and language meant business was still conducted face-to-face, and
physical presence was much in demand. And of course, virtual presence was still
subject to the speed-of-light limit, so workers needed to be physically near
the work they did whether it was around the globe or off-planet. Even a
two-second transmission delay could spell disaster in critical industries such
as energy, construction, or medicine.
Related: Real Estate Perspectives on AR & VR
Bill’s phone buzzed again:
“This is Jim Eyberg. I can’t seem to get hold of Alicia.” Jim was the spouse of
Karen Eyberg, CEO of Space Mining Inc., one of Bill’s biggest clients. They
were preparing for a two-year assignment to the U.S. colony on Mars.
“What can I do for you, Mr.
Eyberg?” asked Bill.
“Alicia sent me a note that we
need passports for Mars, and mine is expired. I don’t understand—Mars is a U.S.
colony!” Jim protested.
“Yes, it is, Mr. Eyberg,”
replied Bill. “And you will be traveling through the lunar station at Tycho,
which is a Chinese colony. The Chinese will want to see your passport, and then
U.S. customs will want it again on Mars, since you went through Chinese
jurisdiction. It’s the best routing we can get you to meet your schedule. I can
send a car to take you to the passport office.”
“I don’t understand why I have
to go in person,” complained Jim.
“The passport folks are just
like that, sir—they want to see that it’s really you,” said Bill. “Should I
arrange for a car?”
“Oh, no, I’ll have Karen send
our car back from downtown to get me. Thank you, Bill; we appreciate everything
you and Alicia are doing. Karen and I have moved three times with this job, and
I still can’t quite believe we are going to live on Mars!” he exclaimed.
Bill said goodbye and smiled
again. Yes, never a dull day in relocation.
Seem far-fetched? Far from it.
Self-driving trucks, powered exoskeletons, off-planet relocations—all are
technically feasible today. In some cases, the technologies to support these
activities already exist. All that is required to make this future a reality is
a little money, a little work, and some early adopters.
Related: A Future Must-Have: Integration of
Mobility, Service Provider and HR Databases
Adoption is often the
difference between “just a good idea” and “mass-market presence.” The first
mobile phone call was made 45 years ago, in 1973. It took another 10 years
before Motorola released the first commercially available mobile phone, at a
retail price of $3,995. Texting was introduced in the ’90s, and phones that
combined voice, text, email, music, and internet came into popularity with
Apple’s iPhone 3G in 2008.
Mass adoption of mobile phone
and smartphone technologies has dramatically changed the way we live, work, and
socialize. The future is not built on wild fantasies, but on the popular
adoption and implementation of current technologies and concepts. If we look at
the world today, there are several ideas that are just starting to take off and
will easily be the way we work a few years down the road.
No single technology will have
more impact on how we work than fully autonomous vehicles. Envision a world
where going to work means getting into your car and telling it where to go, and
then you get to focus on something else. The car will also have Wi-Fi, allowing
you to connect to the internet and work email, review data, and edit documents
and spreadsheets. You can arrive at your workplace having already tackled a
variety of tasks from the car.
Autonomous vehicles will also
significantly reduce congestion and accidents, while allowing for increased
highway speeds. Commutes of 100 miles or more one-way will become commonplace,
as such a trip could take less than 60 minutes, most of it productive
As a direct impact on the
relocation industry, we will likely see an end to the driver shortage in
household goods moving. Autonomous moving vans will show up at the departure
location, be loaded by a local team, and then make their own way to the
destination to be unloaded by another local crew. Autonomous vans will be able
to operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, making more efficient use of a
single vehicle and allowing for shorter transit windows.
Related: Forward Thinking: Mobility Leaders Discuss
Industry Trends at Americas Mobility Conference
How far in the future is this?
Much of the technology required already exists; it simply requires additional
investment and development to be market-ready. Legal hurdles and consumer
acceptance will take longer. Experts suggest that fully autonomous vehicles could
easily be available by 2025, but they will probably first see use in private,
contained settings, such as gated communities and airports, or in limited-use
geographies, such as urban centers. These initial applications will allow for
further testing of technology and user acceptance.
Jeremy Carlson, an autonomy and
mobility analyst with industry research firm IHS Markit, sees private vehicles
with significant autonomy closer to 2025, and the possibility of no driver
participation whatsoever within a few years after that:
“Even then, both
[public and private segments] will remain at relatively low volumes, with
significant growth expected about five years after the initial deployment in
the segment—meaning increased growth in the latter half of next decade and
through the 2030s.”
In the future, will we even go
to work? Or will various forms of virtual presence and virtual reality allow us
to do all our work from home? As with most things, the answer is a little bit
Read the rest
of this article in the August 2018 edition of Mobility