The internet is a representation of our virtual world. We used to shop, bank, celebrate birthdays, buy cars, get medical advice, and enjoy music in the physical world. We all recognize, for better or worse, many of our old physical world interaction are now moving to the virtual world. Today, people are comfortable making purchases and moving their social interactions to the web.
Social media changed the way we interact with each other and companies we use. We have an unprecedented number of channels to interact socially. This has dramatically changed our expectations on interactions. We understand that a “Happy Birthday” message on Facebook is meaningless. However, a Twitter interaction with a company you’re having problems with is very valuable. LinkedIn is usefully for finding jobs. Pinterest is good to find new products and ideas.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is how we will take the next step towards connecting our physical world to the virtual world. IoT is the idea that physical devices will be connected to the internet to publish all sorts of sensor data. Your smartphone already publishes location data. Your TV publishes what shows you watch and record. Your interactions will smartphone apps and website are tracked and measured in amazing detail. Even your health information, through activity tracking devices, is collected and stored on-line.
This isn’t just limited to consumer devices. Industrial machinery publishes how well it’s operating. Many cash registers send information about which items were just sold. Government sensors already collect massive amounts of data for on pollution data, traffic, public transportation times, and others.
Just like social media changed the way we interact, IoT needs a social component. IoT social participation will enable the collection of massive amounts of physical data. All sorts of data needs to be collected; noise, movement, pollution, crowds, vibrations, etc. This will enable a new social participation analytics economy. To name a few, we could:
- Better predict earthquakes
- Track noise pollution
- Find which restaurants have the shortest wait times
- See which hiking trails are blocked
Social participation in data collection will have a transformative effect on social efforts for change. Social media allows people to promote change with their voices. Social participation will allow people to enforce change with data. We will be able to show what is actually happening in the real world. It’s hard to argue with actual data compared to the aggregate voice of customer sentiment. Sentiment is important, but data is reality. For example, a neighborhood might be complaining about a wind turbine making noise. The sentiment is easy to measure. They’re unhappy. However, by measuring noise levels over time throughout the area, we could have actual data on noise levels. We may (or may not!) find there is no additional noise compared to baseline. This would give definitive data on which to take action.
The social participation of the data collection is critical. There are no interested parties. Everyone is collecting and sending in raw data. Just like the internet and social media, the Internet of Things and social participation could become truly transformative.