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The Internet of Things can potentially transform the South African job market

According to the Adcorp Employment Index job availability rose a mere 1.86% in 2015 and, coupled with the skills shortage and economic crisis, the situation can be fairly described as bleak for both business and employee. When it comes to the long-term impact and short-term need there is little that any one solution can do to resolve the skills dilemma, but there is technology which has the potential to positively impact both productivity and profitability while driving skills and careers. The much talked about and often hyped Internet of Things (IoT) has the capability to transform the skills shortage and change the face of business.

IoT is, in its purest form, interconnected technology which allows for communication between devices, people and things. It is the internet. Of things. The idea is to make tasks easier and simpler. To shift the complex into the simple and the seamless. If done right, an IoT installation won’t need highly technical staff to maintain it or use it. Instead it provides people of all skill levels with the tools they need to work more intelligently and thereby improve their productivity.

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We recently implemented a solution in a mining environment that saw machinery operators and controllers use smartphones with a specific app installed. The app provided real-time data to employees and allowed them to see how their roles impacted on the business as a whole. It gave them the information they needed to become insight-driven employees who understand what part they played in the corporate ecosystem. The app made everyone management and used IoT to gather and collate the information into one data-rich stream.

Solutions such as these not only improve productivity and employee engagement, but have the positive knock-on effect of business growth which again then impacts job opportunities. A healthy company is a hiring company.

Another aspect to consider is how IoT can create new roles in and of itself. As automated processes powered by IoT become more common, new skill sets are needed to manage and maintain the systems. People who were traditionally involved in plant maintenance from a mechanical point of view can now move to roles which are more electronic or networking focused. And this isn’t exclusive of the lower-entry positions – IoT is not going to step in and start taking over where humans are sitting today.

A great analogy is the steam train. When it first came out, it needed a fairly complex skill set to run it and manage its trajectory, now compare that with the train of today and the differences are vast. Today, the locomotives are interlinked and automated, capable of detecting collisions and warning drivers and are a lot easier to control. In mining environments, IoT has been rolled out to promote collision avoidance and to find improved ways of operating. These solutions haven’t changed the jobs which people do, they’ve merely augmented them.

This technology has the ability to make things easier and more accessible. It can interact with people and support business and drive growth through improvements in productivity and engagement. And with productivity comes a growth in employment and opportunity and that is precisely what South Africans need right now.

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