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All sorts of computer errors are now turning up. You’d be surprised to know the number of doctors who claim they are treating pregnant men.

Isaac Asimov

Yesterday, the Government of Ontario announced a major lock down of some specific urban populations, including where I live in Toronto. These lock down actions cripple an economy, negatively impact lives, and cause additional healthcare issues beyond COVID. But, these draconian actions are necessary if we are to have any hope of containing the COVID virus and protecting our future economy. And, rebuilding what will be the next normal.

With police enforced restrictions, we are all staying at home again and limiting our personal interactions to just those within our homes – absolutely no outsiders. Period.

Remote IT

As it happened, I also faced a major computer failure this week. I have some limited capabilities to perform basic troubleshooting on hardware and software, but this week’s technical issues were complicated far beyond my humble abilities. I needed real expert help. And, help that could only come from outside of the home.

I reached out to a Calgary company that provides my employer with IT support named Pure IT. The technician who came to my rescue was named Liviu. My impression was that he was smart, well spoken, and energetically helpful in my time of desperation. He was exactly who I needed.

First, we spoke on the telephone. With unlimited, national calling on my cellular, it is nothing to call to Calgary for a prolonged call. Not like in the past whereby you paid by the minute.

Next, I followed his simple instructions and within a few minutes, he was remotely connected to my laptop. I talked to him and showed him all about the Microsoft Outlook issues that had frozen my email services. He immediately understood my problem and went to work.

The issues were not simple. He accessed his Microsoft troubleshooting guides and tried numerous tips and tricks to resolve my problems. He searched and found further guidance on the internet. As I watch his rapid and deliberate control of my cursor racing around my screen, it was clear that Liviu possessed deep skills. As hard as I tried to determine what he was doing and how many steps in sequence he was executing, he was so fast that I could hardly keep up.

After two hours, he finally unfroze my email and the process of restoration to former performance levels returned. I was delighted.

With COVID, this sort of remote teleworking, whereby specialists dial-in to help those of us in desperate need, is a major part of our future. As a remote worker myself, I need technical support so I can continue to function too. With so many of us now working from home, this is a vital aspect to be addressed in this new paradigm.

This was a particularly difficult problem to resolve. I could have never succeeded on my own to remedy these complicated issues. I am still not entirely sure how Liviu did it and I was concentrating on his every step as he worked.

It is absolutely marvelous to be back in action and to receive quality support whenever and wherever we need it.

What’s Next?

So, after this excellent IT experience, I began to ponder, “what else in my new home / work life can be remotely supported, just like my IT needs?”

Remote Smart Technology

With smart appliances evolving, can my refrigerator, dishwasher, or washing machine be fixed remotely too? What about my house’s infrastructure such as the hot water heater, furnace, or air conditioning systems? Well, maybe not my dated current systems, but what about the next generation? And, why can we not expand this concept further to every aspect of life?

With some cars, like from Tesla and others, tele-repairs are now possible. They even come to you and work in a safe manner to execute the hands-on work that cannot be corrected remotely.

I have seen major changes in the way that other support services interact with me too. Canada Post is effecting new social distancing so my postal worker never hands me the mail directly anymore. He puts it down, steps away, and then I pick it up. My FedEx driver does exactly the same. In this new paradigm, we have daily deliveries to the home, so all of these professionals have adopted new ways to work safely too.

When the pandemic first hit ten months ago, getting food deliveries was next to impossible with a four week wait between order placement and food arrival. Now, new food delivery services are readily available for next day delivery. They are getting better and I have been impressed by how well these services have been evolved and the public has adopted them.

Some friends only use delivery services now. They will not risk visiting the grocery store during the raging coronavirus.

So, is this where we are all headed?

Are remote technicians on demand about to be the next great growth industry? Is a holistically connected and remotely repaired smart home the way forward after COVID is extinguished?

What about when repairs cannot be performed online and a technician must remediate in person, will a new generation of mobile workers emerge, just like Tesla has already deployed?

Remote Medicine

For years now, smart folks have been exploring telemedicine. So, is a remote doctor’s visit about to become a next reality too? If computer repairs can be successfully performed remotely, then why not basic health checks?

Yes, I have digital thermometers, heart monitors, blood pressure monitors, and a myriad of other healthcare technologies in my home today. As a diehard science nerd, I do love my toys. Yet, they are all stand alone, disparate technologies often with no connectivity or harmonization. So, stitching the current technology together will be problematic, something new and different is needed.

What if they were all to be coupled and woven into a cohesive secured network fabric? What if my doctor did a Zoom call with me and reviewed the same medical telemetry that he would collect in his office, but now he just captures it remotely? Would the check up be as thorough?

The doctor can email prescriptions to the pharmacist and I can get drug orders filled and delivered right to my door as fast as a pizza now.

I even learned a few years ago how to give a needle injection when my dog, Sam had diabetes, so I can do it to myself now without too much man complaining. My wife may not agree on this point. lol

Remote Cardiac Arrest

I recently read about a woman fitted with a pacemaker that could save her life if her arrhythmia went out of whack. She had one of these smart pacemaker devices implanted in her body. Her pacemaker helped control her abnormal heart rhythms. It uses electrical pulses to prompt the heart to beat at a normal rate.

If something goes really wrong, the built-in defibrillator comes to her rescue automatically. It is interconnected and reports irregularities to her healthcare team. It can even call her an ambulance if warranted.

Remote Everything

This amazing IT experience has me pondering what else is possible for remote services and support.

With the Internet of Things, Big Data, artificial intelligence, and cloud and cloudlet computing arriving now, the era of remote everything is already here. COVID may be the perfect catalyst to push it all past the proverbial tipping point.

Fun stuff. I can hardly wait to embrace it all. It is all very exciting to consider, so what’s next? What is the next normal?

————————–MJM ————————–

About the Author:

Michael Martin is the Vice President of Technology with Metercor Inc., a Smart Meter, IoT, and Smart City systems integrator based in Canada. He has more than 35 years of experience in systems design for applications that use broadband networks, optical fibre, wireless, and digital communications technologies. He is a business and technology consultant. He was senior executive consultant for 15 years with IBM, where he has worked in the GBS Global Center of Competency for Energy and Utilities and the GTS Global Center of Excellence for Energy and Utilities. He is a founding partner and President of MICAN Communications and before that was President of Comlink Systems Limited and Ensat Broadcast Services, Inc., both divisions of Cygnal Technologies Corporation (CYN: TSX). Martin currently serves on the Board of Directors for TeraGo Inc (TGO: TSX) and previously served on the Board of Directors for Avante Logixx Inc. (XX: TSX.V).  He has served as a Member, SCC ISO-IEC JTC 1/SC-41 – Internet of Things and related technologies, ISO – International Organization for Standardization, and as a member of the NIST SP 500-325 Fog Computing Conceptual Model, National Institute of Standards and Technology. He served on the Board of Governors of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) [now OntarioTech University] and on the Board of Advisers of five different Colleges in Ontario.  For 16 years he served on the Board of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), Toronto Section.  He holds three master’s degrees, in business (MBA), communication (MA), and education (MEd). As well, he has three undergraduate diplomas and five certifications in business, computer programming, internetworking, project management, media, photography, and communication technology. He has earned 20 badges in next generation MOOC continuous education in IoT, Cloud, AI and Cognitive systems, Blockchain, Agile, Big Data, Design Thinking, Security, and more.