The Agenda

The Internet of Everything and On-the-Job Training

According to Michael Mandel of the Progressive Policy Institute, App Economy jobs — i.e., mobile app developers, those who support them in the same firm, and (conservatively) those who serve them in the wider local economy — now number 752,000, and they’ve grown at a rate of 40 percent over the last year. One assumes that this growth rate will slow down, and the number of App Economy jobs created since the advent of Apple’s App Store contrasts unfavorably with the 2.8 million “missing” construction jobs identified by Stephen Bronars. But the rise of the App Economy demonstrates that the emergence of new goods and services can fuel job creation.

Elsewhere, Mandel assesses the potential of “Internet of Everything” (IoE) technologies to raise the U.S. growth rate. If apps represent the “ephemeralization” or “software eating the world,” the IoE is about embedding sensors and computing power in real-world objects and leveraging the data that results to improve production processes. For example, Mandel observes that IoE has the potential to radically improve on-the-job training, drawing on the example of a networked basketball designed to improve performance:

The networked basketball may sound like an offbeat example, but it directly addresses a key problem that domestic companies, particularly manufacturers, repeatedly complain about: The lack of enough skilled workers. The solution, of course, is more on-the-job training, but that’s expensive for companies, requiring them to pay an experienced trainer as well as the new worker. If on-the-job training could be made much cheaper and more efficient with the IoE, then it would be easier for companies to justify hiring unskilled and semi-skilled workers. The U.S. would be able to chip away at the pool of unemployed workers and raise the skill level of the workforce. [Emphasis added]

The idea of technologies that can actively guide us to become more productive is an attractive one, and I wonder how well this concept can apply to knowledge-intensive work. 


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