The Social Starts funds have always focused in 4 key areas: media, marketing analytics, social platforms, and mobile commerce. All of these are being disrupted by connection and communication, the ability humans now have, via the emergence of social/mobile technology, to reach out and touch one another, to filter information and experiences through the attitudes and actions of others. We call this shift the Social Construct, and believe it represents one of the more powerful expressions of technology in history. As human behavior changes, business and society change. Over time, we believe the Social Construct will transform every area of culture and commerce. Now, for 2015, we have added a fifth area of focus to our mix: Internet of Things software.
Holy inconsistency, Batman!, you may cry. What can Internet of Things software possibly have to do with the Social Construct and our new human capacity to interact powerfully over distances?
Actually, quite a lot.
Within 5 years, many experts predict, the worldwide network will have between 30 and 50 billion devices connected to it. That's 6 to 8X as many devices connected to the network as people. These devices will cover a diverse array from connected refrigerators and thermostats in the home, to info-capturing athletic wear and network-managed vehicles to direct connected machines that are huge in factories and microscopic within our bodies.
This explosion of connected devices will shatter the way the worldwide network and the software that operates it work. The primary purpose of the worldwide network will shift from connecting people to people directly to connecting devices to devices on behalf of people. Every part of the software stack will need to be reimagined to deal with billions of devices interacting at high speed with each other and control programs in the Cloud and ultimately with the humans they serve. It is a shift in software development deeper than we experienced in the migration from desktop to mobile.
Cool. But what does that have to do with the Social Construct?
The power of social/mobile, at heart, derives from conversation. Humans can now talk with one another, have mutual experiences, and connect across vast distances in ways once only possible at close at hand. That expanded connection drives the changes in how we date, buy, travel, hear the news and experience hundreds of aspects of life. Software has always been fundamental to that conversation, but the focus for the connection is essentially human-to-human.
Now, through the emergence of the IoT, devices are becoming full co-participants in conversation at a distance. Instead of the now-common, person-talks-to-other-person-via-software experience, we will have device-talks-to-device-talks-to-device conversation, where the human gets involved only after the devices have made choices, maybe even decisions amongst themselves. Is the change in outside temperature enough to turn on the heat? Do I need to let Harvey know I'm doing this or not? Has grandma's movement around her apartment slowed in a dramatic way? Dramatic enough to wake Sally from sleep, or maybe just enough to text her to call mom in the morning? Do we seem to have some rough behavior in Factory Module 6? Does it seem temporary or escalating? Do we all agree it is time to alert the foreman or wait to see if it clears on its own?
With the IoT, we will be entering an era where device to device communication will represent machine mediation on our behalf. The devices will decide when to bring humans into the conversation, based on rules we have set for them or norms created by broad human behaviors. With the IoT, humans will have a new cohort of companions in their connections at a distance.
So, the software stack demanded by the IoT is simply the next level in the Social Construct. It is all about conversation, but now humans will not be the only ones having them.