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Social Machines: How to Develop Connected Products That Change Customers' Lives

ISBN: 978-1-118-47168-5
245 pages
April 2013
Social Machines: How to Develop Connected Products That Change Customers


Companies like Facebook and Twitter have redefined social interaction. But what if “machines” like automobiles, bicycles, health monitors, appliances, instruments, and anything else you can connect to the Internet, could all become members of your social network, collect data you care about, and feed it back to you at just the right time? Nike+ is already doing this for your body, but every major industry, from healthcare to cars to home construction, is now building sensors and digital connectivity into their next generation of products. Companies like Ford, Pepsi, Verizon, and Procter and Gamble are also using “social machines” to reach new markets, improve brand/market awareness, and increase revenues. Social Machines is the first book for business people, marketers, product developers, and technologists, explaining how this trend will change our world, how your business will benefit, and how to create connected products that customers love.

  • Explains how smart phones and tablets enable Social Machines
  • Describes how digital technology is being “baked in” to the most unlikely new products—even wheelchairs.
  • Articulates how the “Internet of Things” is becoming social—and why that’s the foundation for powerful new business models

In the very near future, every great new product will be social. The next stage of interaction between people and our environment is upon us.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Part I Social Machines: An Overview 1

Chapter 1 Introduction 3

Chapter 2 A Social Internet of Things 11

Chapter 3 Why Social Networks Must Evolve 21

Everything Will Get Connected 23

Everything Will Get Smarter 29

Everything Will Get Social 30

We’re Running Out of Humans! 33

Chapter 4 Social Machines and the Future of Humankind 35

Part II Every Product Is a Platform: Rethinking Product Design in the Age of Connectedness 47

Chapter 5 Overview 49

Chapter 6 A Brief History of Abstraction 53

Chapter 7 Social Product Design 65

Connected versus Social 68

Example 1—The Weather Station 73

Example 2—Wheelchairs and Hand Sanitizers 80

Example 3—The Social Bicycle 84

Chapter 8 Avatars and the Social Seven: Unique Characteristics of Social Machines 99

The Social Seven—Overview 102

The Social Seven—Details 105

Chapter 9 Spheres of Use, or Why Your New Product Should Do Things You Never Envisioned 117

Part III The Business of Social Machines 121

Chapter 10 Introduction 123

People Sharing Things 125

Things Sharing Data 130

Chapter 11 How to Build a Business Using Social Machines 137

Retrofit Model 139

Built-in Model 142

Chapter 12 My Customer’s Customer Is My Customer: The Beauty of a Social Value Chain 149

Chapter 13 The Art of Social Pricing 153

Part IV Getting Started 157

Chapter 14 Design Requirements: What Does It Take to Design and Build a Social Machine? 159

But First, a Quick Story. . . 161

How Do I Make My Product Social? 167

Retrofi t Model 183

Built-in Model 185

Chapter 15 Getting There from Here 189

Part V Scenarios 195

Chapter 16 Smart Home 197

Chapter 17 Retail 203

Chapter 18 Transportation 211

Chapter 19 Finance 217

Chapter 20 Health and Wellness 223

Part VI Resources 229

Index 235

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Author Information

Peter Semmelhack is the founder and CEO of Bug Labs, developer of an award-winning open source consumer electronics and web services platform, recently featured in MoMA's "Talk to Me" exhibit. As a founding member of the rapidly growing open hardware movement, Peter is a frequent speaker at events around the world. He is also founder, board member, and former CEO of Antenna Software, one of the country's largest mobile enterprise software companies. His work has been covered and discussed by the international media includingthe New York Times,the Economist, the Hindu, Fortune, CNN, Nikkei Business, and Forbes. Peter holds a BA in economics from Brown University.

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Press Release

April 01, 2013
Social Machines: How to Develop Connected Products that Change Customers’ Lives

Social Machines

How to Develop Connected Products that Change Customers’ Lives

By Peter Semmelhack

There is no doubt that companies such as Facebook and Twitter have revolutionized social interaction. With a few clicks, one can reach entire social networks to communicate, convey ideas, market products, and more. But why stop there? What can we accomplish if we expand this scope beyond the limited realm of social interaction and apply it to other areas of our lives?

In Social Machines: How to Develop Connected Products that Change Customers’ Lives (Wiley; $29.95; April 2013, 978-1-118-47168-5) author Peter Semmelhack, founder and CEO of award-winning web services platform Bug Labs, revolutionizes the way we think about social media. Semmelhack argues that “social” has become a compelling new business model for a wealth of products, and he teaches readers how they too can follow in the footsteps of forward-thinking companies like Nike, Ford, Proctor and Gamble, and dozens of startups to take advantage of this smart movement.

Social Machines demonstrates that once we look at products as potential social networkers themselves, the opportunities are endless. Indeed, some companies are already ahead of the curve: Nike+ has shoe sensors that send data to your smartphone app, turning from a product into a record-keeper, fitness guru, and motivator. A Dutch start-up uses wireless sensors on cattle that inform farmers when their animals are sick or pregnant. With an estimated 50 billion products sharing data over the internet by 2020, it is likely that in less than a decade most forward-thinking companies will have embraced this innovative business model. But with Social Machines, readers will be able to modernize their businesses today.

The premise is simple, but the possibilities are infinite. With tiny, low-cost sensors, social machines can gather valuable data about customer behavior from nearly anything—cars, vending machines, smart phones, lawnmowers, hospital beds, and more. It may sound strange to think of everyday machines and appliances becoming part of a social network, but the functions they will serve—giving users vital information about their own needs—is invaluable for both the companies and the consumers. Users will appreciate having an effortless way to keep tabs on their products, appliances, or, in the case of Ford’s car seat blood-pressure monitors that can connect to WebMD, themselves. And as these machines communicate this valuable data over the internet, companies will be able to use this to reach new markets, improve brand and market awareness, and increase revenues.  The book includes informative chapters such as: 

  • Why Social Networks Must Evolve
  • Avatars and the Social Seven—Unique Characteristics of Social Machines
  • Spheres of Use or Why Your New Product Will Do Things You Never Envisioned
  • How to Build a Business Using Social Machines
  • The Art of Social Pricing
  • Design Requirements—What Does it Take to Design and Build a Social Machine?
  • Build from Scratch or Retrofit?
  • And more!

With an entire section of the book dedicated to tailored scenarios from a number of industries, including security, retail, transportation, finance, and health & wellness, Social Machines ensures that readers will find a situation suited to their organization—and that they’ll have all the tools they need to get their own social machine started.

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