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Who’s Creating “The Social Network of Things”?

I’m willing to bet that in the future Facebook will be nothing compared to a social network platform that is dedicated to Things.  Internet of Things (IoT) has been a buzz in the IT industry and the manufacturing community for some time.  The struggle with IoT is that it is trying to find a great marketing message about how it will directly improve human lives.  The primary focus in magazine articles, blog posts, and IT water cooler conversations has been about how to make IoT matter for people.

No matter how evolved we as humans have become, our fundamental instinct is to measure what is good as it relates to human benefit.  Self-admittedly I have been thinking about IoT in terms of personal benefit as well.  And for that reason I’m finding myself a bit reluctant to be super excited about the Internet of Things.

I’ve been wondering though if there is a possibility of benefit greater than that of the human. What if, machines just want to talk with other machines?  In the same way as someone who I have never met might be reading this and we are in some way connecting through thought and sharing of ideas.  Could the machine want the same thing as it relates to information?

I know the immediate response might be to think about SkyNet from the Terminator movies, but that’s really not where I am trying to travel with this line of thinking.

For instance imagine a sprinkler system that today uses its own weather sensor to determine if it should turn off the sprinklers for the day due to rain.  Today that is a self-contained smart home device.  But if that same device was part of a social network and is listening to a local weather tower outfitted with sensors and also part of that social network, than it could make a decision based on a much more sophisticated rain detector.  Suddenly the sprinkler is making decisions based on information from a social network service for the Internet of Things.

When ZipCar came to the market everyone started to really understand the concept of the “Collaborative Consumption” business model.  Again focused on a human’s ability to find benefit from a community based service. So now take the same idea, and imagine a world where machines could be better, based on a collaborative consumption of information from other Things.

The argument here is that device intelligence could be extremely limited if contained to the domain of a single manufacturer’s IoT cloud intelligence.  If sensor information is shared by all Things, than the level of intelligence within the device or the device manufacturer’s network does not need to be as sophisticated and therefore that expensive.  By leveraging information from various sources in a collaborative social network, this will create tremendous product capabilities beyond what any one manufacturer could create on their own.

This would result in a reduction in the overhead for any one manufacturer when creating intelligent devices. So where is the competitive advantage? It’s all about user experience, customer service, and the ability of the manufacturer to intelligently take advantage of the social network.

IoT Social Network.jpg

Devices would send their sensor data to their manufacturer’s cloud and the IoT social network.  The manufacturer would be constantly analyzing data from the social network and from its device, resulting in intelligent instruction updates to the device.  OK I will give you this is highly simplified, but the idea is that a manufacturer will improve the device experience through a combination of information from the device as well as IoT social network.

Big data and analytics will be the centerpiece of this social network.  One might automatically assume the tech companies are going to be the best suited to provide this infrastructure and service, but I wonder if the manufacturing community in partnership can help create a platform. Whether a manufacturing consortium creates this or a tech company creates the IoT social network, it is clear that social networks will rule the future of IoT.

So I will end this post the same way it started by asking one simple question. Who is going to create the Social Network of Things?

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