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Archive for the ‘reverse logistics’ Category

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.

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Written by ishak

February 3, 2009 at 11:28 pm

Netbooks are Spimes

I was speaking with my friend Jez yesterday about our past adventures in hardware.  We discussed one company’s past attempt at productizing a pc much like a carrier-subsidized mobile phone.  Well, that sure sounds like a spime to me.  Bruce Sterling coined this term to describe the next class of gadget.  It has a unique identifier (epc) and thus has an identity.  It exists in space and time, networked, and ultimately enhanceable.  It fundamentally comprises the Internet of Things, perhaps our most drastic paradigm shift of the Information Age.  It builds upon all of the innovations that have come before… cloud computing, social networks, semantic web, software-as-a-service.  Actually, I like to characterize spimes as “hardware as a service.”

Netbooks are selling well.  The fact that Asus defined this market with their 7 inch screen, linux-based $299 eeePC and now has 18 models to choose from demonstrates that consumers didn’t care much about the consumer brand.  Asus may have the worst PR/marketing departments I’ve ever had the pleasure of approaching.  It doesn’t matter.  Lots of people wanted something cheap that surfed the web and didn’t require shoulders of steel to sherpa the thing around town.

This year at CES, new deals were announced that can ensure a tethered network connection back to the mothership.  A carrier-subsidized Netbook. Why is this significant?  As Jez described to me earlier, Americans are used to the free phone with 2 year service contract concept.  And, of course, all companies are looking for that Trojan Horse platform in order to sell you extra services, like a silly ringtone.  What will change is proprietary lock-in.  People always seemed psyched to dump their existing cell provider once their 2 years is up.  What a squandered opportunity to build customer loyalty.

Web 1.0 was you, Web 2.0 is us, and Web 3.0 will be me.

Doesn’t it make sense to bundle Internet with the device?  Sure, but will we only be able to choose from within the oligopoly?  Will the Obama-led government support a level playing field for the Internet?  Since I don’t get out much, I found it interesting how something as basic as electricity is sold and managed in England.  After Thatcher deregulated and privatized the grid, your “utility” could be the supermarket or the hardware store.  Electrons are the ultimate commodity and the brand synergies were the drivers.  We’ll “sell” you your power and you can save $20 on your grocery bill when you shop with us.  Does this translate to the Internet access market in the US?  Of course it does.   I remember

Let’s bring back the local ISP.

No, it doesn’t have to be a bunch of slovenly 20-somethings operating out of an abandoned retail store.  But, what if every spime that you purchased found its way back to the manufacturer in order to be enhanced in some way.  And, if you didn’t want it any longer, it would be nice if that manufacturer offered you a shiny replacement while folding your old spime back into their production stream.  That’s sustainable, and its why Mr. Sterling can be so hopeful about a near-Orwellian future.  We have our futurists to thank.  By authoring these cautionary tales, we have the ability to steer our techno-social future in positive ways for our planet.

So, the local ISP can be the brand that you trust.  The ones that will help you when the big boys can’t be bothered.  Its a tech-concierge future, and if you don’t like how you’re being served, fire them.  The ability to fire your service provider is a tremendously healthy aspect to this future.  Your digital life is not stored in your netbook.  Its just your user interface to the Internet of Things.  Why rent space on Facebook or Twitter when you can own your personal cache of data, relationships, media, health records, etc.  You’re using your hardware-as-a-service and you can hire whatever company or individual that can help you connect with people or things in a manner you want.  I’m cool with that future. How about you?

Written by ishak

January 23, 2009 at 8:52 pm

New technologies come and go, your user interface should stay with you

In my observations, there is always going to be a new technology, device, killer app, whatever next year.   Companies have an increasingly hard time convincing people to buy them, limiting sales to the early adopters.  With dot UI, people won’t have to learn how to use that shiny new gadget.  It will have to seamlessly fit into their lifestyle and budget.

Recently, Twitter finally announced that they were no longer going to support XMPP, the open-standard protocol that Jabber uses for IM.  This decision also negates the vaunted “track” feature that automatically copied you on a message that contained a key word you were tracking.  Are they moving in a more proprietary direction?

How quickly have derivative services started up?  Jaiku, Pownce, Plurk, FriendFeed, Tumblr, and most recently, the open-source Identi.ca.  Now the evangelists @samharrelson and @karoli are trying to get social media personalities to move discussions over to Identi.ca, at least they were the ones that got me to finally notice.  However, since I like to link all my status updates together, namely, Plaxo, Twitter, Pownce, LinkedIn, Facebook and FriendFeed AND I don’t like visit their webpages very often, I rely on 3rd party user interfaces to this Social Web.  This has replaced my Googling, because each network provides me a different window into the buzz.  This is the first example that I heard John Chambers, CEO of Cisco say at the Member Appreciation dinner at CES 2008, content will not only follow you, it will find you.  Later, at @sunstartup, I heard a similar thing.  That if my network isn’t talking about it, its probably not that important.

So, its my network, not the service or platform that matters right?  Well, how come VCs are investing in platforms then?  They should be investing in networks.  But, they can’t do that right?  Now, in order to efficiently monitor, engage, and update my status, I’ve come to rely on many different tools based on where I am and what device I have near me.  For a whole 2 months, I’ve been happy with Twhirl.  coincidentally, one of the first AIR apps available.  But, the dilemna is that I want to use Identi.ca now.  And, I’ve stopped using IM except for Skype.  Enter, a new shareware app, Posty.  Rougher, but has a single window for more services than anything else I know of.  The point is, the average shelf life for a UI app is about 3 months until something better comes along.  And, platforms have maybe a year or three if they’re successful.  For the moment, they are indispensible.  But tomorrow, they are expendable.  I’ve made no investment locking me in.

So, early adopters are changing their habits faster and faster.  What about the rest of us?  What is the average age of new Facebook members these days?  I would guess that they are trending up.  Something clicked in each new member that prompted them to learn a new user interface and become a newbie at something again.  They simply want to join the crowd.  No one wants to be left out.  But, CE manufacturers have to spend a lot of money to get their product mass acceptance.  They can avoid this by adopting a standard to make their products easier to use.  My mission is to convince the world that they need their own personal user interface to the Internet of Things.

Written by ishak

September 11, 2008 at 8:45 pm