Coming of the Real-Time Economy (and Pizza Delivery Supply Chains)

The other day I was indulging in one of my favorite ways to waste time online. I was exploring in Google Maps with the satellite view turned on. I found myself cruising up the Ohio River heading east from Cincinnati, and I came upon a little river town named Gallipolis, Ohio (population 3,641).

Towns like this with their orderly grid pattern of streets, and their quaint downtowns and storefronts, and their Victorian houses and tree lined streets just fascinate me. I zoomed in, switched over to street view, and started cruising along a road called 1st Avenue running parallel to the river. I turned left on a street called State Street, and there in the middle of the block, as I looked to the right, I saw an image of the past and an image of the future caught in a moment of time as they overlapped.

Gallipolis OH
(Courtesy of Google Maps)

That Victorian house and lamplight on the sidewalk are icons of life in America from the turn of the last century; like a scene out of a Mark Twain novel. And in the same picture is an icon of the future, the shadow of a Google camera car with its street view cameras mounted on top as it drives by.

At that point I exited from street view and pulled back to a helicopter perspective above the town. I switched over to map view to reconnoiter the situation. I saw the house was across from the Gallipolis City Park. And at the end of the block, State St. intersects with 2nd Avenue which runs along the length of the park.

Going west along 2nd Avenue bordering the park I could see the names of businesses such as the Parkfront Diner & Bakery, Brittany’s Fashions and a block past the park is Lorobi’s Pizza. It occurred to me that some customers at the Parkfront Diner or Brittany’s Fashions may not be using smartphones and mobile apps and real-time data, but I bet all their customers under 30 are. And lots of customers in their 40s and 50s and 60s, and probably more and more customers in their 70s and beyond are using them too.

It seems the days are coming to an end when small towns in Ohio or anywhere else could drift along at a slower pace in some alternate world from an earlier time. As I pondered what this might mean, I zoomed out from Gallipolis to take in a satellite view of the whole Eastern United States.

My mind boggled at the thought of all those little Google camera cars driving up and down just about every street in every town and city in North America and Europe, collecting all those street views. And they are covering more and more of the rest of the world as well. And they keep doing it every day, every year, collecting more and more images and putting them online.

What is happening here may or may not be a good thing according to who you ask, but it is definitely what is happening. That’s for sure.

I zoomed back in again, switched over to map, and turned on the live traffic view. As I did this, I saw that for some reason, traffic downtown had suddenly gotten pretty heavy. Red lines appeared up and down the length of 2nd Avenue.

Suppose I was a delivery driver at that particular moment delivering pizzas from Lorobi’s Pizza (arrow #1) to bring lunch for a project team working at the Gallia County Economic Development office (arrow #2). I’d better have my mobile maps app up on my smartphone if I want to make a decent tip. I’d see immediately that my best route would be to go in the opposite direction on 2nd Avenue, away from my final destination, then turn left on Grape St. and take another left on 1st Avenue and follow it to the Economic Development office. This would actually be faster than taking the shorter, more direct route down 2nd Avenue.

Gallipolis Map
(Courtesy of Google Maps)

Assuming people want their pizzas delivered while still hot, then I wouldn’t want to get stuck in the traffic jam that just happened on 2nd Avenue. Delivering hot pizzas will earn me bigger tips than delivering cold pizzas.

In other words, if I’m going to make money at my job in Gallipolis, I have to be as hip to using new technology as they are in New York or London or Shanghai or Mumbai. It means the pace of change in this small river town is almost as fast as it is in the world’s biggest cities (yikes…).

We are all getting pulled into whatever is happening. Hello real-time economy. How do you steer this thing?


Written by: Michael Hugos

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