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As enterprise supply chains and consumer demand chains have beome globalized, they continue to inefficiently share information “one-up/one-down”. Profound "bullwhip effects" in the chains cause managers to scramble with inventory shortages and consumers attempting to understand product recalls, especially food safety recalls. Add to this the increasing usage of personal mobile devices by managers and consumers seeking real-time information about products, materials and ingredient sources. The popularity of mobile devices with consumers is inexorably tugging at enterprise IT departments to shifting to apps and services. But both consumer and enterprise data is a proprietary asset that must be selectively shared to be efficiently shared.

About Steve Holcombe

Unless otherwise noted, all content on this company blog site is authored by Steve Holcombe as President & CEO of Pardalis, Inc. More profile information: View Steve Holcombe's profile on LinkedIn

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« The Tipping Point Has Arrived: Market Incentives for Selective Sharing in Web Communications | Main | Pardalis announces issuance of Canadian patent »

The Tipping Point has Arrived: Trust and Provenance in Web Communications

By Steve Holcombe (@steve_holcombe) and Clive Boulton (@iC)

"The Web was originally conceived as a tool for researchers who trusted one another implicitly. We have been living with the consequences ever since." Sir Tim Berners-Lee

"One of the issues of social networking silos is that they have the data and I don't … There are no programmes that I can run on my computer which allow me to use all the data in each of the social networking systems that I use plus all the data in my calendar plus in my running map site, plus the data in my little fitness gadget and so on to really provide an excellent support to me." Sir Tim Berners-Lee.

The tipping point has arrived for trust and provenance in web communications. And it is not just because Tim Berners-Lee thinks it is a good idea. The control of immutable data in the Cloud by content providers is on the verge of moving out of research projects and into commercial platforms. The most visible, first-mover example known to us is provided by the Wikidata Project.

The rapidly emerging Wikidata Project, the next iteration of Wikipedia, will in its first phase (to be finished within the next 6 months) implement the deposit by content providers of data elements (e.g., someone's birth date) at a single, fixed location for supporting in Phase 2 (targeted to be completed by the end of 2012) the semantic relationships (i.e., ontologies) that Wikipedia users are seeking. Paul Allen's Institute of Artificial Intelligence and Google are two of the three primary benefactors of the Wikidata Project. And it is no surprise that the base of operations for this ground-breaking work is in Germany. The European Commission proposed in January, 2012 a comprehensive reform of data protection rules to strengthen online privacy rights and boost Europe's digital economy.

This blog site exists to discuss whole chain communications between enterprises and consumers. Along that line the Wikipedia folks aren't really thinking about the Wikidata Project in terms of supply chains. But that is what they are backing into. Daniel Matuschek (@matuschd) would seem to agree in his blog post, Wikidata - some expectations. Here's an excerpt:

"Some ideas for open databases that could make our live easier or better [include] Product data: Almost every product has an EAN code. There are some companies building and selling databases for specific products (e.g. food, DVDs), sometimes generated with community support .... The Wikidata project is currently not addressing [this kind of database], but if a platform is available, there’s a good chance that users start creating databases like this."

And granular permissions (in the hands of content providers) over individual data elements are on Wikipedia's wish list to be introduced later this year during Phase 2:

  • O2.5. Add a more fine granular approach towards protecting single facts instead of merely the whole entity.
  • O2.6. Export trust and provenance information about the facts in Wikidata. Since the relevant standards are not defined yet, this should be done by closely monitoring the W3C Provenance WG.

We suspect that as the Wikidata Project begins to provide "trust and provenance" in its form of web communications, they will not just be granularizing single facts but also immutabilizing the data elements to which those facts are linked so that even the content providers of those data elements cannot change them. This is critical for trust and provenance in whole chain communications between supply chain participants who have never directly interacted.

What are the other signs of the "tipping point"?

Another sign is the shift to forecasting demand certainty directly from a consumer interest graph. Walmart purchased Kosmix in 2011 to push into social commerce and to integrate products with social identity. This ia an important new way to give shoppers information, and get information from them. Analysts at the research firm Booz and Company said in a 2010 report.

“Social media, or places where people congregate to share information and mutual understanding, are replacing broadcast media as the primary way many people learn about products and services.”

"Doc" Searls, co-author of The Cluetrain Manifesto, and a former Fellow of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, calls this a shift to the Intention Economy, Where Consumers Take Charge. Here is an excerpt from his May, 2012 publication:

Today, Walmart and Tesco and other global grocers have to wait for the checkout register to record a sale and pass the product sale information through a network of EDI processing to reforecast demand. Imagine the improvements when Walmart can see supply chain intent before the sale. Unlike Walmart, the FT calls Tesco tired.   

Indeed, Keith Teare on Tech Crunch posits Facebook's purchase of Instagram (and Google's falling earnings) signals the end of the Web 2.0 era. In the Web 2.0 era we consumed services on a web browser monetized by display ads. Now we are moving to a mobile app-centric world without desktop display ads. This is fertile ground for a shift into sharing at the identity and granular detail level via trust and provenance.

Does the Instagram purchase signal that Facebook will become a "trusted site" for granular information saved and shared in immutable objects? Facebook has to aggregate more and more data to build better services and makes its post IPO numbers. Will Facebook services come to provide W3C-type trust and provenance? We will see. But it is interesting to imagine that the Wikidata Project will be a "tipping point" for Facebook and other Web 2.0 providers toward granular trust and provenance in the Cloud.


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