Chapter 2

A Social Internet of Things

Social machines” is a framework for recontextualizing and reevaluating the business benefits of Internet-connected devices (the “Internet of Things”) by integrating everything we’ve learned from social networks. It is a way to reframe the value of the Internet of Things to make it more approachable and meaningful to everyone, not just the world’s geeks. This approach provides a new conceptual architecture for product developers that helps move the discussion from the purely hypothetical to the concrete—providing them a distinct and easy to understand point of view.

The social machines concept resulted directly from the client work my colleagues and I did at Bug Labs. We had been working to help our customers connect all kinds of things to the Internet—automobiles, postage kiosks, medical devices, vending machines, and stuffed animals . . . yes, stuffed animals (more on this later). All of this activity fell under the umbrella acronym M2M, which stands for machine-to-machine, a type of system that has been around for decades. In essence, this means that network-connected devices autonomously communicate with corporate data systems like inventory control, repair/maintenance, accounting, or operations. The typical example is the photocopier machine that detects its toner is low or printing drum needs replacing and consequently “calls home” to an online service operations database and automatically schedules a maintenance call for the following ...

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