A Facebook for Things – Turning Physical Products into Digital Information Services

“If you think there’s already a lot of communication on the Internet today, just wait until things start talking,” Andy Hobsbawm comments. His company, Evythng, developed a software engine that provides physical objects with a social life on the web.

At NEXT Service Design he drew a picture of tomorrow’s über-connectivity and predicted that every single thing – be it an oven, washing powder, bike or medication – will get its own identity on the web, and will therefore become a channel. Hobsbawm’s favourite example is his guitar. By checking into the guitar’s online persona it becomes a unique object that may trigger geosocial services, such as searching for other instruments/musicians in its region in order to form a band. Or imagine your clothes communicating with you, checking fashion blogs, analysing your wardrobe’s content and suggesting which matching accessories to buy.

For service design this is a huge playground. Digital marketing and services will become personalised. Hobsbawm thinks that we are now ready for this step and tells sceptics: “Privacy is gone, you can’t argue against it. But you can argue about the laws and rules about it.” For Hobsbawm, the detail is in the service design; it’s about how you get somebody’s permission regarding data exchange and collection – and how you earn their trust and use that wisely.