You've Heard of TeleHeath...But TelePumbing?

Teleconsulting isn't new, but it is breaking ground in new industries. The innovative ways people are using the internet to communicate are's a level of connection and interaction most of us couldn't have imagined 30 years ago. Except Gene Roddenberry, maybe. He was way ahead of his time.

Today, all kinds of companies are using telecommunications in weird and wonderful ways. James Vincent used an iPad robot to work in an office 3,500 miles away. Great story. Very Sheldonesque.

Here are some other innovative ways companies are telecommuting.

Ridgeway Mechanical

Most of us think of plumbing as a manual (and often messy) job. But Ridgeway Mechanical in Atlanta is not your typical plumbing outfit. They've gone hi-tech in some pretty darn interesting ways.

Don't get me wrong, plumbing is always going to involve manual labor. An iPad can't put in a new toilet or replace a broken drainpipe under your house. However, what if you could save that plumbing trip - and the fee involved - with a teleconsult? When you call the company, you get a personal consult with a plumbing expert via Facetime who will diagnose your problem, run through some simple DIY troubleshooting, tell you how to shut off your water, and schedule an appointment if necessary.

The plumbers in the field also use iPads to figure estimates and issue invoices, help with leak detection, underground visuals, measurements, and help complete their work in half a dozen other ways.

Medical Consultations

The field of health is crowded with teleconsulting, and it's been a boon to doctors and patients alike. Teleradiology, for example, makes it possible for a specialist to assess a patient's condition from any location. Making it possible for an American doctor to get a second opinion consult from a specialist in Sweden. In the near future, we may even see telerobotic surgeries performed by remote doctors.

In the Classroom

This year, Apple rolled out Classroom, a program that gives teachers control over all the apps in the classroom to keep students focused and on track. The app allows teachers to open books, videos, or other learning aids on student iPads, to see what the students are browsing when they are supposed to be working, and to lock their screens if Candy Crush is more interesting than the lesson.

As this technology becomes more prevalent, future students might go to school part time, and attend from home part time, an idea that would save the education system money by halving the necessary space and bus services needed, and it would also relieve the teacher shortage, but it could put a terrible strain on working parents.

On the other hand, teleschool would solve the problems for kids with social anxiety or long-term illness, and allow a kid with an injury to attend without having to navigate crowded hallways on crutches.

Our world expands as more businesses adopt remote technology, offering more opportunities and services, often at a much cheaper cost. The challenge will be to keep employment where we need it to be for a robust economy as telecommunication capabilities cut down on the number of experts needed to manage more clients. Moving to an increasingly more technological society means added convenience, but usually at the expense of jobs.