At the recent DLD Conference (Digital - Life - Design) in Munich, Germany, Esther Dyson moderated a panel on the Internet of Things. The subject of the discussion was giving identity to things, just as people have an identity. In essence, creating social networks for things.
On the panel were Ulla-Maaria Engeström (Thinglink), Doug Krugman (Personal Commerce), Michael Silverman (ThingD). Dyson began by noting that people have always had identities and there are countless services for that, but things don't have that yet. So, she asked, will there be networks for things?
Ulla-Maaria Engeström explained that her company Thinglink is about defining the relationships people have with things - who made them, who designed them, who manufactured them, who sells them, who owns them, who likes them. She said it is the "social graph of things" and that "every thing has their own social network."
Engeström said that Thinglink began in 2005 by giving things identities via their product codes, a.k.a. Unique Identifiers. "People and things, they're not too different," said Engeström, "they all connect." Thinglink is in private beta, it currently has 4000 beta users and launches later this Spring.
ThingD is creating a registry of things, according to Esther Dyson. Michael Silverman from ThingD explained that his company is building "a database around all of the things in the world." Things like consumer products, horticulture, even pets.
ThingD also has a platform built on top of the database, which connects people to the things in their lives. What interests you, what you like, own, or want to sell. It's about how people identify themselves with things. Silverman said that the database currently has about 50 million things, maybe "north of 60 million." There are a few thousand early adopter users right now.
Dyson then introduced the company REZZ.IT as "what eBay did for selling, [REZZ.IT does] for renting." Doug Krugman from REZZ.IT explained that "things have a network and their own audience." His company is about managing stuff: scheduling, classifying, content management, pricing, and more. Seeing what other people have, sharing things.
Business Models for Networks of Things
Dyson asked how REZZ.IT makes money off this. He responded that vacation rentals is their biggest market right now. REZZ.IT wants to provide people with the tools to manage those vacation rental assets, plus add a "transactional engine" to them. Other 'things' coming soon to REZZ.IT include apartment rentals, boats, planes.
ThingD's business model is linking people to things. They have signed up product retailers to beta test this.
Thinglink's business models are twofold. Firstly affiliates, for example people purchasing objects in photos. Their second business model is lifestyle brand communities - connecting people who like a company's products, already own them, etc.
Overall, a very interesting discussion about the evolving networks for things. If web 2.0 was largely about social networks for people (which you can certainly argue it was), then the new generation of the web will add things to those networks and create new networks.
Monday, March 29
Social Networks for Things