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XBRL and Spimes: How the Internet of Things will come to be

Inevitably, consumer electronics will all be networked, effectively becoming Spimes, objects trackable through space and time.  Coined by Bruce Sterling and comprehensively described in his industrial design manifesto, Shaping Things,

“Spimes are sustainable, enhanceable, uniquely identifiable, and made of substances that can and will be folded back into the production stream of future Spimes.”

Spimes may be our digital future, but today our products and logistics are still represented in analog.  The Universal Product Code, (UPC) better known as the barcode, was able to transform retail by solving the problem of needing to re-key pricing data. It was quickly realized that the standard’s killer application was supply chain management.  30 years after the first barcode was swiped, its successor was named, the Electronic Product Code or EPC based on RFID technology.

Early adoption of the EPC has produced mixed results for its practitioners due to inferior tag quality, inconsistent read rates and equipment incompatibility and functionality.  While most of these technical issues can be re-engineered, the value of that investment will be fully realized only through the standardization of the data between supply chain segments.

XBRL stands for Extensible Business Reporting Language and it is an XML-based global standard maintained by XBRL International Consortium designed to reduce the re-keying of data in financial reporting.  On January 30, 2009, the SEC released a 206 page report making it a requirement for US GAAP organizations to file reports in XBRL format.

Much like the introduction of the barcode, standardization will allow for additional benefits for other business processes. Whether or not XBRL replaces or merely assists with Sarbanes-Oxley compliance, the strategic opportunity for the CIO of an organization to embed XBRL-compliance within the identification of the products is hard to overstate.  Whether or not it is the EPC matures from only providing pallet-based tracking to actually creating an identity to the individual object, traditional networking of the identity of the product will eventually lead us to the Spime era.

Web 1.0 was you, Web 2.0 was us, Web 3.0 is me.

By giving an identity to the objects we create, consumers will be able to interact with them in a variety of personal ways.  What’s more, they will provide valuable feedback to a company to process for future product design and engineering.  The brand experience will be ubiquitous but not inconvenience the customer.  A Web 3.0 customer will be an active participant in the lifecycle of the product.  They will not return the product because they don’t know how to use it.  Because Web 3.0 is also largely considered to consist of the principles of the Semantic Web, the open structured metadata will assist the customer in choosing the right product, supporting its proper usage and assist with its end-of-life logistics.  With a back channel established between the product and the supply chain, a feedback cycle is established and manufacturers will gain the end user customer relationship they desire.

Web 2.0 services like Twitter or Facebook offer a great opportunity to pro-actively enhance this customer relationship.  Large companies have successfully can effectively use only one or two employees to communicate with these early adopters and help solve any issues before they escalate.  Online reputation management for you company is improved organically as search engines reveal the positive brand experience.

Why Reverse Logistics and Forward Logistics are united through the CIO.

The impact of this Web 3.0 technology affects the entire organization.  The Chief Information Officer can bridge the traditional silo structure between Finance, Sales and Marketing, Engineering and Service.  They can mitigate risk for all these departments simultaneously by implementing a system of data transparency and real-time monitoring of the products.  By measuring the ROI of an organizational change so dramatic, the early adopters will not be paying the price for their investments.  The mandate to search for increased profitability in the economic climate we face combined with other political factors can help accelerate the adoption of the Spime era.


Written by ishak

February 3, 2009 at 11:28 pm

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