Video conferencing

Wheel meet again…by video link

To call the invention of the wheel a significant innovation is of course a massive understatement. The wheel is up there with humankinds control of  fire, farming and the invention of the Post-It note.

Ever since the days of the Romans, having a set of cool wheels has been a passport to a better life. Today, nearly everything we do has a wheel involved somewhere along the line, even it’s just the trolley we’re desperately trying to control in the aisle of the local supermarket.

But ironically it looks like our love affair with the wheel may be slowly coming to an end. Yes, it’s unthinkable in a car-loving country like ours. But the days of carefree motoring and cheap fuel are long gone, and the hunt for alternatives is well and truly on.

Such as … unbeatable incentives to dump the car?

In Murcia, Spain, they have come up with the novel idea of offering free transport for life. The catch? To get the free transport, locals have to give up their car. Forever. Ouch.

Anyone with a working car can enter, and in a positive reversal of the old tradition of being put in the village stocks for bad behaviour, the reformed volunteer’s car is put on display as an incentive to others, before – of course – being taken apart and recycled.

Over the pond in San Diego, a firm have launched the world’s first electric car share scheme. It operates pretty much like Boris’s bikes in London. Customers pick cars up the nearest rank, make their journeys and drop them off at whichever rank is most convenient afterwards. The hope is that it will further reduce the need for personal car ownership.

I wonder what other similar schemes are out there? Does anyone know of any? I’d be interested to hear so it would be great if you could leave your comments in the box below.

Like other such schemes, this one relies heavily on IT – for booking, security and management, for example.

And this isn’t the only way that IT is reducing the need for travel.

Only around half of all communications need to be face-to-face. The rest can be via video and audio-conferencing, blogs, instant messaging, bulletin boards, landing pages, RSS, on-line videos, document sharing sites, knowledge exchanges, webinars … well, the list goes on.

The endgame is not, of course, to put the wheel out of action, but to make people more productive. In general, time spent behind the wheel is time that goes to waste.

So, while the wheel is one of the ultimate innovations, we’ll be looking more to other technologies to achieve the levels of flexibility and productivity needed in the future.

The search for a solution for a wobbly supermarket trolley? Well, that could go on quite a bit longer.

Guest blogger: Steve Gillies, Head of Agile Working, BT

To see the rest of our articles in this ‘Top 10 Greatest Innovation’ series, click here.

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