The Truth of Things is in the Cloud
"Why should we limit computers to the lies people tell them through keyboards?" Attributed by author Steven Levy to MIT hacker Bill Gosper, this challenge now comes one step closer to closure with today's announcement of Toyota Friend: a private social network, for Toyota customers and their cars, that will be built by Toyota and salesforce.com based on Salesforce Chatter.
The concept of Toyota Friend goes beyond the simple telematics of remote diagnostics and in-car communications. Toyota Friend will be a social network, and that implies connecting people and processes based on shared interests and opportunities.
In particular, Toyota Friend customers will be able to extend their communications to family, friends, and others, interacting as desired with public social networks such as Twitter and Facebook. As in those popular communities, we may expect that people will think of things to do with this capability that the developers never imagined – satisfying the test proposed by Marc Andreesen for what constitutes a true platform.
Would you like to know what's happening to a car you own that's being driven by a young family member? Would you like to know if your dealer's service department has a big empty space on its calendar tomorrow morning, and is willing to offer you a sizable discount on routine service if you'll bring the car in then instead of waiting another 100 miles? This is just the beginning of what it means to have an Internet of Things in our daily lives: a common phrase, but one that's finally starting to describe reality in the present rather than possibilities in the future.
Mike Leach at Facebook has been thinking about these things for a while: he's asked these questions about merging real worlds with digital worlds in the context of other tasks, such as managing a building's systems. Mike sees the Force.com Platform Cloud as "an ideal platform for sensor data with the ability to relate information in the physical world to native or custom objects...using Force.com and Chatter to capture information from objects in the physical world and posting to Chatter feeds using the Chatter web services API." [my hyperlink added in that quotation]
What previous hobbyists did within the confines of a breadboard or a ham station, Force.com and Chatter invite people to do on the scale of an entire planet – for starters. Extending the Internet beyond this third rock from the sun, using modified protocols tolerant of the speed-of-light-limit, is not merely a next step but something that's already well under way.
This is going to be fun. And it may sell a bunch of Toyotas.
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