In charge, and in control

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I’ve noted before that I’m a big proponent of pairing technology with tools. The more control I have, the better I work. It’s as simple as that.

I spoke last summer about DeWalt’s “Tool Connect” system that links tool batteries to a phone-based app giving users a means of monitoring tool performance, helping to discourage theft, or even disabling a stolen tool. I noted at the time that we would see a lot more of this kind of tool technology sooner rather than later. I was right.

Milwaukee has just introduced the company’s “One-Key” system that takes the idea several steps further. Like Tool Connect, One-Key monitors and reports on tools equipped with the system, but adds map-based tracking capabilities and a host of other features. You can, for example, control a tool’s characteristics for specific jobs.

One-Key interface

One-Key interface

Let’s say you want an impact driver to have a specific torque and speed for a job featuring hundreds of similar driving tasks – such as a deck – just call it up on the app and set what you want. Now, start driving deck screws. The driver uses the ramp-up speed you set, drives at the speed you want, and cuts out automatically at the exact moment the correct torque tells it the screw is set flush while you’re still holding the trigger. Load up another screw, press it to the work, and it powers up and repeats the process as many times as you want. You could conceivably do an entire deck by pulling the trigger just once, not unlike bump-shooting a nailer. And if you like how it worked, just save that setting for similar jobs.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. You can tell a One-Key equipped recip saw how to cut to maximize battery life and minimize heat build up. Instruct a job-site light how bright you want it, how long to shine and when to turn off. Can’t find a tool? Call it up on the app and see who it was assigned to, and then find it on a map.

Even when not using the tool, One-Key management functions allow you to create a complete rap sheet on every tool in your inventory – description, serial number, when/where you bought it and for how much, etc. You know how financial apps like Quicken completely manage all aspects of your finances? Think of this as Quicken for tools.

There’s even more the Milwaukee system can do (and more on the drawing board for additional tools and features), and you’ll likely be reading about it in Woodshop News in the weeks ahead. I’ve only skimmed the surface here.

I’m amazed at how fast technology like this is developing, but what’s most exciting is that the speed of development seems to be exponential: The faster these things are created, the faster they keep coming. I love technology, and welcome it in any aspect of how I work and play.

But here’s the thing. If you don’t like it, you can still keep working the way you always have, as there will always be low-tech versions of all your tools. Woodworkers are being given a choice here.

I, for one, choose the future.

A.J.

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