Examining IoT: An Inevitable Impact on UC&C
With the Internet of Things will come an important ability to fuel contextual-based collaborative exchanges among people.
The basic notion of networking today is that services exist to respond to people's needs for connections. Perhaps the largest mistake we've made with the Internet of Things (IoT) is the "anthropic" error; we view machine communications as a replication of human communications.
IoT demonstrates that future communications connections will be implied within a context in which users/workers absorb information, rather than being explicitly demanded by either users or machine agents. Once this is understood, it's easy to step further and see how such communications change even basic calling, messaging, and collaboration.
In-game chatting and WebRTC are examples of our predisposition for contextual communications. Users and workers have ample text/voice tools available to them today without either of these two new developments, but a more facile way to communicate in context is valuable in itself. We can provide more facility by developing explicit contextual links to our regular communications and collaborative activities. You can start with "status" or "presence."
Suppose my status/presence is "Tom is helping Bill shop for cameras." This level of detail might be made available to friends of either Bill or me, and those who see the status and the goal of our contextual collaboration might then ask to contribute. If Bill and I agree (or either of us agrees, depending on context-sharing policies), then a third-party could send a request, perhaps based on his or her own recent camera shopping. That could then admit the third party to the contextual collaboration.
Suppose our third party, who we'll call "Carol," has just looked at one of the cameras Bill and I were discussing. Or suppose she was within a block of a shop where it could be seen. The context collaboration could note Carol's position relative to a camera candidate and suggest that Carol go check it out. Carol could also provide Bill with reasons she either considered or rejected the camera.
Of course all of this depends on being able to frame the context of the camera shopping quickly for new participants, and you can see in this need the beginning of the value proposition for an old Google notion, Google Wave. Wave was all about providing a contextual record. Well, suppose we took the notion of contextual records and added in modern Bitcoin-like blockchain technology, saying that each context was a blockchain? We could then "share" it with Carol, and she'd be able to get up to date quickly.
We could also simply reflect the special situations that Carol brings (like the fact that she's a block from one of the prime candidate cameras) into the core context and let the personal agent interpret this as an event. Suppose Bill and I had had no convenient way to see the camera, and so had rejected that as impractical based on our travel policies. But then Carol comes along with a local physical presence, and the agent could now open the notion of viewing the candidate.
Context sharing could be "pushed" from inside as well. Workers collaborating on an international sales question could push a contextual inquiry for knowledge about a particular country to a targeted group of other contexts. In each, the personal agent process could either gather information from the records of the person it represents (Charlie was just in Bolivia) or, where no such information is available, send Charlie an inquiry or a "conditional join" opportunity.
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We can view even simple communications as contextual collaboration. If we were walking down the street and saw a friend coming the other way, we'd say something. If our virtual presence is traveling along, dragging its context with it, then it might brush against the context of others we knew. That brushing could exchange a basic contextual state (like the camera-shopping state) that could initiate either a simple nod (virtually, of course) or an invitation to chat or join the process.
This is the kind of thing many IoT advocates love, and the thing most privacy advocates hate. Brushing into people's contexts exposes all the parties to stalking or intrusion, but those risks are greater if we presume that unfettered sensor networks are squawking out their details of what's happening and who's passing. If every piece of contextual information is policy-filtered, then we have manageable risks.
That takes us full circle on IoT and the "agent process" model I've proposed in this series. We should never think of IoT and machine to machine as a process that human-empowers devices, because devices themselves are not accountable to public policy or efficiency goals. We don't need to connect sensors except in a framework that exploits them in an efficient, secure, and scalable way. Those ways are, and have always been, dependent on understanding uses and missions before we worry about standards and technologies.
IoT will inevitability impact communications and collaboration, to the point where optimizing contextual-based exchanges among people/workers will likely be more important than the technology used to connect them. This could open a whole new set of issues for UC&C, and generate the kind of market shift that would define a new set of winners... and losers.
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