We’ve defined universal connectors pretty much in terms of what we see out there – what they do. So a universal connector is RSS, an API or a stream.
In each case there is a software layer between an application and the World Wide Web, which gives us friction-free access to assets. In other words an application like a blog platform has a layer called RSS which allows us to distribute or call text from the blog to some other website or reader software.
Such connectors allow us to use remotely accessed assets to build business opportunity. In the case of RSS plenty of websites access other people’s content and then use those assets to populate their own sites.
That explanation might still seem a little opaque so I want to take the idea further with an example that might make the nature and power of connectors more immediate and obvious.
First one word of explanation. By friction-free we mean you are acquiring access to assets without all the friction of having to go out and negotiate, reach agreement and then use those assets.
Example. Huffington Post used thousands of writers’ works through their RSS feeds. Didn’t even need to ask them! That’s the power of the connector Really Simple Syndication.
Your calendar is now, potentially, a connector.
Whether you use a smartphone, Google mail or Apple or Microsoft’s email program, you will have noticed that more and more of the process of connecting happens automatically. So for example you and I agree to meet, I create an invite, you accept and the date and details are stored to your calendar, which probably has an automated reminder already set up.
To someone as disorganised as me, that’s already a powerful application of my calendar.
Earlier this year though I was doing a project on the car as a connected platform. A number of applications around calendar are maturing in that space. One idea is that your ultra modern car has very good diagnostics onboard. It also comes with a communications device, either your phone in a cradle, or a mobile somewhere in the works that connects to your entertainment services.
Why not use that onboard communications device and your diagnostics to send a message to a service station whenever your car looks ready for a check up?
The same connector could check the service station’s work schedule and find a data that is not taken up in your diary. It could then offer you the service appointment.
If you really trust the process it could automatically book the appointment and agree it.
It’s unlikely we’re going to get that far with our cars any time soon. But hospitals and dentists should be looking at how they can make better use of connectors like calendars.
Project management programs, particularly those in the Cloud like 37 Signals, could be making much more use of calendar synchronisation. No doubt it will come.