Valentin Sawadski

Before you read this post, please take a look at this guy. He is Al Borland, the Handyman from the the TV Series Home Improvement. Al is just this nice, down to earth person who is good with power tools and fixes things around the house. Unfortunately, his type will soon be extinct.

Internet killed the Handyman

For generations the work of a Handyman was mostly about mechanics and simple physics. Sure they always had to master new technology, however it did not change fundamentally. 50 years ago a broken light could be fixed by replacing the bulb or checking the switch, just like nowadays.

However, we are on the edge of hooking everything up with the Internet. Our heating, our oven, our lights everything will be automated and controlled over internet services we can access using our smartphones. This adds a whole new level of complexity to the "fixing a broken light" problem, because now not only the physics but also the software or the server on the internet can be broken.

As a consequence, the nice handyman from two floors down can not help you anymore, since he does not know anything about 6loWPAN, ZigBee or debugging TCP/IP networks. This puts him in a very difficult spot, because basically he won't be able to do his job anymore.

Long live the Space-Plumber

But even when our fridge will do status updates about my diet on Facebook, some things will not change. As mankind ascends to the stars, we will also need sanitation on Mars. This is a classic job for a hard working Handyman. So how is he going to do his job?

In order to do his job he will need manual skills and a good understanding of the electronics and computer science involved. So if we want nowadays handymen to do the job we basically need to do three things

  1. Keep the technology involved dead simple
  2. Give them "intelligent" tools
  3. Train them on the computer science

And we really need to do all of those three. But 2. and 3. are long term goals. It just takes time to train a generation of space-plumbers and technology that could help them, like augmented reality solutions, is still in it's nascency. Therefore engineers and designers need to work very hard on objective number 1.

However, I've been lately involved with lots of home automation technology, so I know that any technology that will hit the market in the next five years is going to be very complex. And since we can not stop home automation this probably will create demand for a new type of labor: Engineers with a drill!

Sounds like a exciting new job opening?



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