Musing gently about traffic and information and buyers and sellers

One of the themes that recurs quite often in the conversations I have is that of the next 50 billion devices. While people argue about the next 3 billion people getting connected, and while people wander around in a strange attitude of believing that the internet is nothing more than an illegal distribution vehicle attacking Hollywood, I get more and more intrigued by how information is becoming “live”.

Take this for example:

It’s a representation of the buses in Bangalore. [My thanks to @abhilash for letting me know via Twitter].

As you hover over the bus icon, you can see its location, bus number, current speed and some sort of unique reference to the vehicle itself. Looking at it, my natural reaction was to want more. Like “how crowded is it?”. Information that is not that easy to collect today, information that will become easier and easier to collect over time. And assimilate. And report. And display. Allowing each of us to make more informed decisions.

I travel around London using a variety of vehicular and ambulatory options: I don’t drive. That does not mean I don’t use a car; when I do use one, someone else has to drive. Comes from never learning how to drive. When I was growing up, if you were rich enough to have a car, you tended to be rich enough to have a driver. And so I didn’t learn then, and what with one thing and the other, I’ve never done so since.

When I travel around London, one of the things that amazes me is the apparent emptiness of the bendy buses; I’ve assumed that it is because of the time I travel, which tends to be early or late rather than peak. But then I think to myself: if I was running the bus network, would it not be possible to be more “just-in-time” with the whole thing? I know that buses do get rescheduled and repurposed, but I sense that everything could be more efficient if there was better information given to the people who decide.

Today it is not just about information to the centre but also to the passengers. As they, the passengers, make more and more informed decisions, everything should work better.

So there’s a metamorphosis going on. Stage one is where information is “automatically” collected and passed to the “centre”, allowing apparently better supply decisions; stage two is when this information is also passed to the edge, allowing the demand side to operate more effectively. But this is the static web, this is classic web.

What excites me is stage three, when the demand side can signal its intentions to the supply side cheaply and accurately and dynamically. And the supply side can respond cost-effectively. This has not yet happened, but the early signs are there. P2P collection of information on-the-fly; an extreme case of such information is the intention or signal.

There’s been talk of the Intention Economy for quite some time now, the issue is more about how to make it happen. The VRM movement has been working on this for a while now. As the power to collect and provide relevant information moves from the core to the edge, we will see this happen more and more. That is what the promise of the participative web is all about. The power of VRM, the power of the intention economy, all these rely on the ability of the edge to provide better information about tomorrow.

We have spent too long dealing with better information about yesterday; we have to get more and more involved in a world where we have better information about tomorrow.

2 thoughts on “Musing gently about traffic and information and buyers and sellers”

  1. Hi JP, picking up on ‘information about tomorrow’, you might be interested in a VRM spin off effort in which we are looking to establish a framework/ standard around what we call ‘Volunteered Personal Information’.

    This is the information known only to the individual, and which under current conditions cannot/ will not be released – because in releasing it the individual has to sign up to someone else’s terms and conditions.

    The easiest way to think about this new class of data is that it involves the organisation in signing the terms and conditions of the individual.

    This work is being taken forward via a Liberty Alliance special interest group ( – BT is a co-sponsor along with Mydex CIC.

Let me know what you think

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