July 2009

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Social Networking & M2M

 Harbor Research [currents@harborresearch.com]

The two major technological trends of the 21st Century—“The Internet of Things” and “Web 2.0”—are on the cusp of coming together. The unification of M2M technologies with social networking in the form of “Collaborative Device Communities” will revolutionize the way companies interact with their products and their customers.

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>>>Download Harbor's White Paper on Collaborative Device Communities

As the popularity of collaboration and social networking technologies has grown, it has attracted a great deal of attention in the enterprise realm.  Many business organizations are aggressively embracing Enterprise 2.0 by using social networks for business development.  However, many executives in the B2B world still view open collaboration and social networking as all flash and little value—not real business.  Futurists have been describing such collaboration in B2B technology markets for years with little real progress.  That is, until now. 

While the consumer world is still wrestling with how to turn Twitter and Facebook into a profitable enterprise, we’re beginning to see businesses turn to social networks in order to interact with their customers on an unprecedented level. Companies like P&G and Peugeot are drawing customers directly into their product and service definition and development processes.  Even heavy equipment manufacturers such as ABB are finding these new tools more than just useful methods for communication between and among employees and customers. New forms of mass collaboration suggest that companies are making real headway with a more self-organized approach to teaming and collaboration. 

Meanwhile, intelligent device networking, sometimes referred to as “Pervasive Computing” or the “The Internet of Things” is upon us. But beyond machine-to-machine communication, however, lies the real revolution. The next phase of connectivity and integration of content will be one of placing communities of humans in context with objects and devices and visa versa. Devices need to be better able to understand where they are and the role they play, and adjust themselves accordingly based on human needs and desires.

Enter Collaborative Device Communities (CDC’S).

Reliable Controls What are CDC’s? Collaborative device communities connects devices to a social networking system. In a collaborative device community, devices themselves can blog, send & receive messages, report status, share files and interact on a peer-to-peer basis along with humans.

An example device integration package for such a community includes the ability to “chat” with the device to request status and execute commands, the ability to share files, the ability for the device to “blog” to its community home page or send updates to a feed, and the ability to establish a direct peer-to-peer (P2P) connection to a device for remote desktop or more specialized diagnostics.

This collaboration can come in many forms, from an end user and call center operator working together to solve a problem with a piece of equipment, to a service engineer devising shortcuts to streamline repetitive tasks, or a customer working with a service or product design engineer to design a new and improved piece of equipment. These collaborative efforts often lead to new innovative solutions that create long-term value for the OEM, the user and all the value adders involved in its use. Relational capital, that which grows from customer intimacy and collaboration will define new rules of competition.

Even Google, with its recent announcement of Google Wave, shows a keen understanding of how the network services “cloud” changes how we work together and how this next generation of platforms will “seep and creep” into the lives of workers.

Harbor Research’s latest white paper, “Shared Destinies” elaborates on the enormous value that will be created by Collaborative Device Communities. It was inspired by by a recently introduced platform from Palantiri Systems which points to the fact that next generation systems are not light years away. Companies must understand the implication of social networks on their products or services or else will risk being surpassed by the competition.

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