1968 Mustang, Father’s Day & iPhone
As part of my yearly Father’s Day celebrations, I take my dad to a baseball game in Detroit. I got some excellent seats to the Tigers–Red Sox game the weekend after Father’s Day, and this year we decided to drive to the game in my vintage ’68 Mustang convertible.
Now this car is a baby of mine and a relatively new hobby. After spending most the winter searching, I picked one up this spring and have been enjoying my new found hobby since then. The thing I’ve learned after doing numerous small fixes in the car is that the mechanics are simple and the technology is very low tech…with maybe five wires to the dashboard for lighting and fan control. Most of the technology in my car has been added with more recent add-ons like a modern stereo system.
At any rate, on our way to the ball park, we got detoured by construction and I passed my phone to my father and asked him to get directions. Now he doesn’t have a cell phone and never really used a smartphone before, so it was risky to put him in charge of this, but through my simple instruction of “open the maps app, type in Comerica Park and press the little car icon for directions,” - in less than a minute my father was repeating the iPhone®’s turn-by-turn directions to me. After we sat down at the game, my dad said to me, “You know, these smartphone apps are pretty easy to use…it’s a weird feeling to use such technology in the Mustang…because back in those days we had to pull over, open the map, and argue for 10 minutes about the best way to get to places. It’s ironic that my first real experience with a smartphone was in a 45-year-old car.”
This made me think about how “classic” or old things can be augmented and work with today’s technology. My dad is a classic guy himself who is now retired after working 35 years in a plant as a laborer. His lack of experience and interest in technology is a good example of where much of technology sits with workers today in plants. Many folks view IT and controls systems as hard to use and operators/technicians always have told me although they’ve been trained on them, they don’t really use them in their daily routines. After this experience with my father and my surprise on how he could pick up my iPhone and learn how to use the app within a minute reinforces my belief that industrial systems need to be simplified and made smarter so information finds users easily and little to no training is required to get information from them. If industry actually had industrial-level “apps” that are as easy and intuitive to use as the Apple® Maps app my father used in the Mustang, all workers—from operators to forklift drivers to engineering to managers—would get value from their existing IT and controls systems that run these existing/old machines.
What’s also great about this story is that I could finally describe to my father what our group at GE does in words he understands. He’s always just told people I work for GE doing “controls marketing stuff.” He now knows that we make software and apps for machines that do the same thing that the iPhone did for my beloved ‘68 Mustang. The iPhone is new technology that helped us get to the ball game in an old carbureted vehicle that gets five mpg. I remember saying to him, “Dad, imagine a world where when you were working in the plant, you have an iPhone with an app to understand machines on the line. Some of those lines have been there for 15+ years and are being controlled by systems equal in age. Imagine a maps app to understand your line – that’s what we do in my group at GE.” It’s called Real-time Operational Intelligence (RtOI) and it’s sparked by mobile. View the video here.
It was a great day—my father and I were both enlightened even though the Tigers lost
P.S. Cabrera could very well be the first ever triple crown in consecutive seasons…don’t mean to jinx it but he’s a machine! Go Tigers!