In his 1940 science fiction short story, The Roads Must Roll, Robert Heinlein described a personal transporter tool called the Tumblebug. It was a motorized and gyroscopically-stabilized unicycle, similar to the Ninebot One personal transportation vehicle. Like how tablet computers mirror the pad computers in Star Trek, real-world personal transportation is also catching up to fiction. Since IT departments like using the latest technologies, perhaps it is time for them to take a look at the viability of personal transporters for their operations.
Since 2001, Segway has produced several models and generations of personal transporters for the general public, business, and law enforcement. It was initially lauded as the future of personal green travel and even Steve Jobs praised its potential. Ninebot entered the personal transportation market in 2012, with a transporter similar to Segway’s offerings. Ninebot then released the Ninebot One, a device that nearly matches Heinlein’s Tumblebug to a tee. Then in April, Ninebot and several other Chinese investors acquired Segway for an undisclosed sum.
Around the world, police and private security forces utilize Segway PTs as part of their vehicle fleets, deploying them in high-traffic urban areas. Case studies of personal transporters used by law enforcement agencies show they provide several benefits.
Faster response – Compared to foot patrols, officers equipped with personal transporters responded more quickly and less physically strained. Not as fatigued, officers were more ready for situations requiring physical force.
Larger coverage area – Due to faster response times, agencies could increase their patrol areas. In one case study, a campus security force took advantage of the increased range to include not only their entire campus but another location a block away.
High visibility and improved public relations – Personal transporters also helped make officers more visible and approachable as people had questions about the devices, law enforcement officers at USC Medical Center noted. In addition, morale for the police station was boosted because of improved public relations.
Logistics operations have also reported success with personal transporters such as the Segway and Ninebot. They can be fitted with bags and compartments to carry tools, packages, and charge mobile devices. In a warehouse, employees can track and move inventory quicker on transporter than on foot.
So what about IT departments? Those that need to service large areas or multiple locations can also benefit from deploying personal transporters. IT technicians on large campuses sometimes need to troubleshoot computers and network issues across multiple facilities on campus. The benefits personal transporters give to logistics and warehousing employees also apply to IT professionals—those additional bags and carry compartments come in handy for tools, computer parts, and other small items.
For IT departments with vehicles or carts, personal transporters can supplement those fleets. In a case study with Georgia Power, their Operations department reported routine inspection routes were completed quicker and in a more environmentally friendly way with personal transporters than with gas-powered vehicles.
While personal transporters haven’t caught on with individual buyers as quickly as Segway would have liked, businesses can still benefit from them. For large IT operations, a Ninebot or Segway saves time, allows for a greater coverage area, and allows for more carry capacity. So is personal transporter technology going to be a future purchase for your IT department?