The Internet of Social Things

When objects communicate with one another via social networks, companies can gain tremendous opportunities to create more useful experiences.

by Michael Abramow

August 2014


The number of objects being connected to the Internet is growing at a rapid rate. According to Cisco, by 2020 there will be 50 billion things with web connections, including consumer goods such as cameras, cars, fridges, and televisions. These physical things are now being transformed into social things. When objects communicate with one another and share data via social networks, this can open up tremendous opportunities for companies to create better, more useful experiences in the new digital realm.


Social communities of smart objects

Social media is perhaps the single most impactful development of the last decade. Now, various appliances, objects, and devices can “use” social media as well, to post data about their state in the social networks of humans, interact in social networks with humans and other objects, and to build a social communication network with other objects.

The socialization of objects data will provide more accurate and contextual information, which can be used to offer value-added services to users in their social sphere. The cooperation between smart objects will create trusted, dynamic communities that enable insightful data that is beneficial to people and organizations.

Here are some examples of how social media and the IoT may change (and is changing) our world:

The cooperation between smart objects will create trusted, dynamic communities that enable insightful data that is beneficial to people and organizations.”

Healthcare: Steven purchases medicines for his family. The pill bottles are automatically recorded as Steven’s objects by the RFID reader located at the chemists, so his smartphone automatically establishes a social friendship with them. The smartphone will be automatically notified when the drugs are about to expire. It will also receive information about the drug availability from other pharmacies he has entered, since it has established social relationships with the pharmacy management system and the available drugs. Depending on the privacy policies set by Steven, information about the drugs may be shared with his relatives’ smartphones with a social link, so they can keep track of his prescriptions as well. Also, thanks to these relationships, Steven’s smartphone will alert the doctor’s system about the need for a new drug prescription, so all he has to do is pick it up. Companies are also part of the pharmacies and doctors’ social links, and can use this data for segmented advertising and marketing.

Traffic management: Sophie is a sales representative at a global IT company. Her car exchanges information about the status of traffic with the other smart cars in her social network. This information includes the path travelled during the last few minutes and the time spent on the road, traffic cameras, police blocks, and any accidents. Collecting this information from several reliable sources enables computing the best path to get to the next meeting and avoiding unexpected congestion points. Government and private organizations, being part of Sophie's public social groups, can collect and offer additional bus, train, and ferry data, and analyze and offer travel, accommodation, and nearby store promotional offers based on time and location.

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Michael Abramow is director, Oracle Strategy and Insight, Asia Pacific.

Quantified self: Big data, the smartphone, sensors, visualization, and social propagation are already changing how individuals behave. The fitness sensor devices made by Fitbit and clip-on golf-club sensors made by Zepp are prime examples. Zepp’s sensor, for example, monitors details such as the velocity and club angle of your swing. It then visualizes the data on your device while publishing information to social groups for peer feedback. Fitbit allows users to share their fitness and personal data with their social network to receive motivation and feedback.

The social IoT will aid companies in augmenting their customer service models with creative possibilities involving cost savings and enhanced user experiences. The difference is that engagement will now be tied to things, sensors, and information intertwined via social channels. These channels will have the visibility and transparency to create touch points between businesses and customers—creating their own vibrant ecosystem.

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