To Infinity, and the Back of Beyond

Sat Navs.  We probably all have a story involving them – from sending us the wrong way down a one way street, to declaring that an abandoned field is the final destination for the theme park you were trying to get to.

One of the worst stories I’ve come across concerned some British tourists in Australia who, upon ignoring road closure signs that had been erected due to the atrocious weather conditions (the Sat Nav had told them to go that way), ended up being stranded in mud for four days in the Outback wilderness before they could be rescued. have even created a user populated map of Sat Nav hotspots in the UK – basically areas where Sat Navs notoriously lead you astray.  At the moment there are 42 – predominantly in the South of England – which have been entered by those who have learnt things the hard way.

Sat Navs have evolved over time – from ‘intelligent’ traffic reporting systems that detect jams and calculate a different route as a result (often taking you on a more ‘scenic path’), to the recent news that Pioneer have developed a concept that takes the Sat Nav information from your smart phone, and projects it onto the scene in front of you – it’s augmented reality, but for traffic information.

Pioneer claims that eye movement, compared to the normal Sat Nav where you have to glance sideways, is reduced by half.  Time to refocus is reduced by two thirds – and this is what will make driving with Sat Navs safer according to Pioneer.

This video shows the technology being tested at Berlin’s IFA Trade Show.

However much safer this approach may be, for me a fundamental problem remains in the faith, often blind faith, that we put in this technology that will take us from A to, well, G, if we’re not careful. 

Map reading is a long lost skill for many, and if we start a journey without any idea of the general route to take, all your hope and trust is placed in satellites floating thousands of miles above the earth. 

I’m not saying that everybody does do this, but it is always a danger that leads you into having no choice but to drive where the Sat Nav is telling you.  You must listen to it intensely (I say it – that’s no way to talk about John Cleese), and this could see you ignoring warning signs, and potentially ending up in a similar situation to the Outback Britons.

Something that we’re passionate about at TSG is making sure that we are talking to our customers about where they want to go as a business.   If both sides are clear about the direction that they want to take, that’s when we’re best placed to advise on a technology solution that will help them get there. 

If companies buy the technology first and then try and mould it into the way their business runs, it’s very difficult for them to work in harmony and you will often find systems and processes chasing each other’s tails.

Knowing the general route of where you’re heading will benefit you in the long term, and help you deal with curve balls – whether that’s an unexpected road closure, or a shift in the market that your business needs to adapt to. 

Equally, it’s important that you don’t simply try to replicate your existing processes in your new technology. You should take the opportunity to improve the way you work.

After all that’s what technology should be about – creating efficiencies, increasing productivity and providing better information so you get where you need to be.