Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Co-creating value with connectivity

I've been in Berkeley for a few days and meeting up with my colleague, Dr. Christoph Breidbach at University of California, Merced.  Christoph has just published, with Ananth Srinivasan and myself, a ground-breaking article on connectivity and IT-enabled value creation.  It is based on Christoph's study of how consultants encounter and overcome connective gaps as they work together with their clients using various media.  Christoph is now working with Professor Paul Maglio on 'big data' projects from a service science perspective.

I also recently spent a week skiing in Colorado, where I encountered an example of what the service science folks call 'value co-creation.'  Or, at least it shows how technical connectivity creates data, which can become a valuable aspect of the user experience.

When you purchase an Epic Ski Pass, you get an RFID (radio frequency identity) card, which allows you to ski  the Colorado resorts of Arapahoe Basin, Keystone, Vail and Beaver Creek.  But that is not all the plastic card does.  First of all, you keep it in your pocket, instead of dangling outside your coat.  And, when the friendly staff wave a wand over your parka, they know your name and greet you as if they know you.  They may also see other things about you, like the type of pass you have purchased and possibly other aspects, like where you live, but I'm not sure.  So, their access to your data changes the interaction experience you get on the mountain.

But, wait, there's more.  Download the EpicMix app and you find that every lift ride you've taken is registered, giving you summary statistics of you ski day, comparing it to yesterday's performance, and so on. Around the mountain, you will also find photographers who happily take your photo, which will guessed it...on the EpicMix app and website.  (You call also get great tag-along reports from an app called Ski Tracks.)

My experience on the mountain reminded me of the service science notion of 'value co-creation,' whereby the IT application and the data it captures is, in and of itself, not that 'valuable.'  It really only becomes useful or 'cool' when I play along, i.e., smiling back when greeted by name, posing for a photo, and logging into the app or website as a means of extending, recording, and celebrating my day on the slopes.  If I do nothing, the data are there, but not fully utilized, which is the sort of problem the big data analysts are working on.

The question this raises however is how does one 'escape' to the mountains in a world of embedded connectivity?  And, what happens to our data--photos, names, ski runs, etc--once we leave the mountain?  It was a great trip.  I am just curious when and where it all ends.

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