Several months ago, when we launched The Washington Post’s “On I.T.” Web channel, I argued that there was no more disruptive force in business today than technology. Shouldn’t we be writing more about what is happening to re-engineer the workplace?
It seems everywhere I turn comes another example.
My wife showed me screen shots from a demo the other week of software that will marry your building’s architectural schematics to data on the time it takes to clean an office or bathroom and plot the most efficient route for a custodial crew to take as it makes its rounds.
You can do the same thing with landscaping, layering aerial photography over a time analysis study to calculate the optimal approach to cutting the grass and trimming the brushes.
Whoa. Impressive, I marveled as she pinched and swiped through screens on her iPad.
Then it occurred to me: The biggest threat from technology is not that some robot is going to replace us. It’s that technology will manage us.
Perhaps I shouldn’t be so cynical.
This week’s cover story offers an example of how technology and data can be harnessed to restore a homey service once thought obsolete — the delivery of farm-fresh milk right to your doorstep.
I still remember the experience of finding cold glass bottles from Green Spring Dairy waiting each week in the metal milk box in my family carport, as near direct from the cow as our suburban living would allow. We clung to that service for years, until my four siblings and I grew too big and drank so much it required my poor mom to virtually make a trip a day to the local 7-Eleven to restock.
Quantity trumped quaintness. Who needs to wait for a delivery when you can pick up a gallon of 1 percent just about anywhere, whether at your neighborhood grocer, gas station or big-box retail emporium?
Of course, some would argue there is much missing from the efficiency of mass production, which explains why farm-to-table is back in vogue.
And thanks to a little robotics and a dab of data analysis, what’s old can be new again.