Response: “Digitizing Everything”

I liked how simple and straightforward this reading was, and I was especially drawn to the concept of the network effect that the author referred to in relation to the navigation app Waze. Essentially, the network effect is a “situation where the value of a resource for each of its users increases with each additional user.” So as the amount of users increases, the overall quality of the app increases, and this is because user input is crucial to the accuracy of the app’s results. User input, in this instance, does not only mean manual information provided by users (typing in traffic updates, warnings of accidents, etc.), it also means gathering information from each mobile device’s sensors, processors, and transmitters.

Another interesting, relevant point raised in the chapter was the idea that “new ideas yield new recipes”. The author uses the example of Waze to contextualize the idea of using layers and generations of digitization within the application. Here, the oldest layer would be digital maps, then GPS location information, then social data. Social data refers to the point raised above about the network of everything and how users directly contribute information about various factors affecting one’s transportation from A to B, almost like crowdsourcing data. After social data comes sensor data, which utilizes every car using the app to collect data. This is where sensors, transmitters, and processors come to play. This data is calculated and converted into the app to help people find the quickest, most reliable routes, amongst other services.

So, Waze used an already existing technology or system: GPS navigation. However, they increased its potential to a very great degree by adding two more layers to the system: social data, and sensor data. I think this is a very important aspect of modern-day innovation. Technology has come a far way, and sometimes we become too pre-occupied with the idea of creating entirely new technology, or finding brand new breakthroughs, that we don’t think of the ways we can massively improve already existing technology with our newly-found knowledge and capabilities.



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