Written by Rick Mans

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The commoditization of The Internet of Things

Yesterday Dreamforce ’11 started and to be honest overall there wasn’t that much new. Though the thing that was most interesting for me was the commoditization of The Internet of Things by Salesforce. By introducing a Toyota Friend and a social Coke machine Salesforce and Marc Benioff in particular showed what could be done with a) their platform (nice) b) with social as a design principle (awesome!).

Everything that can be social, will be social

Everything in the end that can be social, will be social (similar to the words of Jeff Daches when he was still at Razorfish: everything that can be digital will be digital). Though the hard part is to make it work in a meaningful way. It is easy to hook up a Coke machine to Facebook and make it like your beverage every time you order one, or to use your iPhone and Social Graph to connect with the machine and earn loyalty points. Though, is the Internet of Things something we want? Yes, this is something we want. Though we don’t want the machine to be social, we want the experience to be social.

The Internet of Things and Social objects

Too many times people think that putting up a like button on a website (or in this case: a thing) makes it social. It isn’t, it is the interaction, the social experience, that makes things social. As Benioff introduced the Toyota friend, it shows that the car is not only providing data, it provides a way to interact. And especially with these hybrid cars, why not provide them with a voice, it doesn’t mean they have to become KITT from Knightrider (even though there are benefits in that), though why not let the car share the experience, instead of asking the owner to tweet about it.

In the end The Internet of Things is about building a great experience throughout all channels and all Things. It is pervasive and ubiquitous, it is something we will expect that is there and in 10 years a whole new generation is there that things expect to interact and to be social. Instead of manuals there will be conversations, instead of transactions there will be interactions and instead of you having to think what would be worth sharing with your friends about the things you interact with, the Thing will help you to do so. It might even make you a better person.

Skynet?

This might sound scary and some of you might think we end up with Skynet instead of the internet of things, however why would a social object become evil, what is in it for them to be evil? I think this can be a great time, since I truly believe that social as a design principle not only makes things different it does makes things better, more usable and overall it will improve everybody’s experience. As long as there is enough transparency and free will for the person  it will be a good experience, otherwise you might end up with a  HAL 9000 ( “I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that”) and not  a social object that is helping you providing you a great experience..