Atoms and Bits
Let’s consider an object, any object. In the near future it will be possible to capture its essence, its identity, using a plain cell phone. From this identity it is possible to move on to related information and services.
Let’s imagine to identify a monument observing it through our cell phone (e.g. by taking a picture with the phone camera). Immediately a menu pops up on the screen offering to provide information on that monument (video clips, text, images,..) to put us in contact with a tourist service provider that can engage us with a guide on the history of the monument, to indicate a shop where we can buy a model copy, a book, an artistic photo of the monument, to provide information on other masterpieces of that same sculptor within walking distance. Obviously, an unlimited number of information and services can be associated, each potentially provided by a different party for free or at a price.
What goes for the monument goes for any other object, as trivial as it might be. A video recorder can be associated with services to support its use and others providing a back up for recording through a service provider a certain show when the video recorder is out of order or busy recording something else; a can of tomatoes on a supermarket shelf can point to information about possible mismatch with the kind of diet one if following at that time, and so on and on.
Identification technologies keep decreasing in cost: the usual bar code can be substituted by bi-dimensional optical tags, or by RFID chip and soon by printed RFID. Alternatively an object can be identified by capturing its image using the cell phone camera and localization, or it can be identified by a self aware environment and mesh networks.
Similarly, there is a growing number of devices to capture the object identity, cell phones with NFC, maps with an overlaid inventory of objects…that are easily accessed or that become part of the context (the Google approach).
How can we exploit these possibilities? Who can leverage them? Who can benefits from them?
How is the ecosystem shaping up, what are the relationships among the different players, what are the infrastructures, platforms, terminals fostering the evolution of the ecosystem and what their characteristics? How is it possible to leverage this link between atoms and bits and how should revenues be managed in absence of explicit contracts among the various players?