A few year ago, Steve Fulling and I installed a waste gate on our plane. The waste gate allows the turbo charger system to self-regulate by dumping unneeded exhaust gas instead of running it through the turbo charger. It's wasn't cheap, but it makes operating the plane a little nicer.
The other day Steve was contacted by the manufacturer of waste gate for a written testimonial for the product. A year ago Steve had taken some detailed pictures of various things in the plane with his digital camera. Consequently, Steve responded not just with words, but also a picture of the waste gate installed in the plane. The guy who he sent it to, sent back a note warning him that the waste gate had been installed improperly (missing clamp). The result could be early failure of the component due to vibration. Ugh!
What crossed my mind and Steve's is that this is an interesting use of digital media. Why couldn't the airplane mechanic have taken a picture of the as-installed unit, sent it to a field rep, and gotten a check-out on the installation. The answer is that he could have, at least technically.
I had another experience along these lines this week. This time, it wasn't digital pictures, but simple message boards that caught my attention. My iMac G5 started to fail (video problems) and within a few minutes, I'd used Google and message boards to diagnose exactly what was wrong and what had to be done to fix it. Of course, I couldn't...I had to take it to a certified Apple repair facility, they had to diagnose the problem, and makethe repairs--but, they were exactly the repairs I already knew needed to be done. Again, digital media had had a shot at providing customer service but Apple failed to capitalize on it.
There's an interesting interview at TechNation with Alexis Gerard and Bob Goldstein the co-authors of the book Going Visual : Using Images to Enhance Productivity, Decision-Making and Profits that describes other interesting, innovative, and emerging uses of digital media in business. Gerard and Goldstein believe that we ain't seen nothing yet. I'm inclined to agree.