Social Products: The Internet of My Things

Companies need new and better ways to relate to customers. A 2012 IBM study1 of over 1700 CMOs found that marketing organizations were good at using digital marketing tools in the transaction-oriented portions of the customer life cycle but less adept at relationship-oriented activities.

Many companies confuse "having information" about their customers with having a relationship. That might constitute customer intelligence, but it's not a relationship. Relationships are built on common interests and an exchange of value. Both parties need to see that value or it's not a relationship. People are more likely to resent the fact that you know things about them outside of a relationship.

SquareTag is a social product platform that helps brands build relationships with their customers by helping customers get more out of owning and using a company's products. Whether you're building a smart, connected product, or just want to give your product more smarts in the cloud, SquareTag's one-of-a-kind architecture can help.

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Business Benefits

SquareTag lets business use social products—whether those products are smart or not—to build better, more authentic, longer-lasting relationships with their customers. SquareTag provides businesses with a way to speed their Internet of Things products to market and increase the feature set at the same time. SquareTag provides a proven, mature social products platform for building products that interact with users, their makers, as well as other things.


SquareTag's architecture lets you worry about building product features instead of infrastructure. SquareTag's evented model is a natural fit for IoT products and speeds the design and implementation of software to work with them. And because SquareTag is a platform, you can easily customize it to match your needs and add new capabilities that enhance your customer's enjoyment of your products and services.

Technical Benefits

SquareTag uses a powerful decentralized programming model that eases the burden of creating multi-tenented applications that use Web APIs. A full developer program and cloud-based deployment make getting started as easy as supporting millions of customers. SquareTag supports multiple programming models, including unhosted and mobile.

For more information on these benefits and SquareTag's unique architecture, download our free whitepaper "SquareTag: Making Everything Smart"

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Case Studies

SquareTag can help brands connect with customers. Here is a recent case where SquareTag was used to solve a common customer connection challenge.

University of Utah Bike Program

The University of Utah had a problem: when police recovered lost bikes, they had no way to contact the owner. Rather than starting up their own registration program, University Police turned to SquareTag. Multiple times each year, campus police hold bike rodeos and encourage students to put a SquareTag on their bike. Now when police find a bike with a SquareTag, they simple scan the tag and are immediately presented with a contact form. Others who scan the tag simply get a short message without revealing any personal information.

SquareTag has the ability to present different people with different experiences because of its unique decentralized architecture that allows unique relationships between things, people, and organizations. University police get one experience, owners get another, and everyone else gets a short message. What's more, SquareTag let students control their own personal information so that it's always up to date.

How SquareTag Works

Say Allison has just bought a new Specialized bike. If that bike is equipped with SquareTag, it could come from the factory with a pre-established relationship to Specialized. When Allison claims the bike in her personal inventory (normally by scanning the tag), she becomes the bike's "owner" and establishes the pre-eminent relationship with her bicycle. The bike's cloud (established by Specialized at the time the bike is manufactured) comes pre-populated with a lot of information about the bike including it's component mix.

Inside her personal inventory, Allison sees the bike and can click through to its profile to see specific information about her bike as well as notifications, reminders, offers, and other information. She can record information there—either manually or automatically. Using the bike's profile, she can ask questions of Specialized customer support, access customized FAQ lists, and even schedule maintenance appointments with the bike shop.

The bike shop that sold the bike to Allison also created a relationship with the bike. Using that relationship they record any initial assembly information and modifications. Later, they can store maintenance records right on the bike for Allison to see or augment as necessary.

Allison introduced the bike to her Garmin's personal cloud and the bike and bike computer can share information about rides. As a result of that relationship, the bike knows where and how far it's been ridden. This data might be merely logged or used to give Allison reminders about needed maintenance depending on what apps she's installed on the bike's cloud.

Allison happens to be a student and allows the campus police to create a relationship with the bicycle. Through that relationship, they can help her recover her bicycle if it gets stolen or message her (without revealing her personal information) if they find her bike or need her to move it.

Because SquareTag is architected as a system of decentralized clouds, each of these relationships is unique and can cause specific interaction patterns with Allison. For example, after a few years, Allison decides it's time to replace the chain on her bike. Rather than search the Web, she asks her bike (or to be more precise, it's cloud) for recommendations. She gets back purchase options from the manufacturer, the repair shop, and others of the exact chain she needs. The bike also knows about accessories Allison might like, shares recalls and warranties with her, and provides service reminders.

The SquareTag Value Proposition

The relationships that Allison built through her bike above have several important properties:

Personal and Directed—each relationship was directed not only at Allison, but made in the context of a common interest: the bike. Because Allison values her bike, she will also value any help in making it more useful or enjoyable. The relationship is personal without being threatening because of that context.

Privacy-Enhancing—SquareTag's unique architecture assures customers that their privacy is protected and increases personalization at the same time. We call this "privacy by design".

Continuously Interactive—the relationship allows Specialized and the bike shop to interact with Allison throughout the customer lifecycle, whether she's using the bike, getting it serviced, buying accessories, or just has questions.

Extensible—SquareTag is a programmable platform and so the nature of the relationship and the amenities it provides can be enhanced and changed over time as appropriate.

Flexible—SquareTag can provide different interactions and features on a per-relationship and per-product basis. The experience that Specialized has interacting with Allison through SquareTag is different from that of the bike shop. Each product can present a different experience on each channel.

Compelling—by including SquareTag with their products, companies can drive adoption and the creation of valuable customer relationships. SquareTag provides real value to customers and so they adopt it. Product registration is immediate and automatic.

Current—SquareTag links all kinds of products to the user's personal cloud. Allison's cloud doesn't just contain her bike, but lots of other products and services that she uses. This creates network effects. Apps in the bike and other product clouds use Allison's cloud to notify her of important events (e.g. "time to check your tires"). These properties provide an incentive for Allison to keep her contact information current and to maintain the relationship.

Transferable—suppose Allison sells her bike, she can transfer the bike's cloud to the new owner with no loss of data and without revealing or losing control of her own data. For high value items that might change hands several times during their lifetime, companies can engage second-hand owners in the same way they engage the original buyer.

These properties combine to create relationships that are genuine, varied, and relevant. Both Allison and the companies connected to her bike see value from the connections that SquareTag provides and thus use and maintain them.


1. IBM Global CMO Study: Insights from Over 1,700 Chief Marketing Officers, 2012