Are services a brake on the sharing economy?

by bold-lichterman

The sharing economy upsets traditional models and calls into question the position of their players. Its growth, made possible by the Web and the logic of the platform (it is easier to find people with whom to share when you can free yourself from location constraints and go to the perimeter of people you can reach in your environment clean) seems inescapable and, according to some, almost endless.

Does the sharing economy know no intrinsic limits?

Before you begin it is important to remember that words have meaning and that the word “sharing” is often misused for marketing purposes. Whether we are talking about the sharing economy or the collaborative economy, we realize on closer inspection that there is often no sharing or collaboration., simply logic of asset return (for individuals) and intermediation (for platforms). But that is not the subject of my talk today.

One of the first limits that I see in the blissful enthusiasm that accompanies this trend on a fund of “producing is has been, sharing is in” is we must keep in mind that we can only share this. that was produced. So from there to saying that sharing will kill the traditional economy, there is only one step to take that I will not take.

We easily share objects, not services

We will continue to produce but we will certainly need to produce less, which is certainly a good thing from the point of view of optimal management of natural resources, provided that a critical mass of things can be shared. However, it seems that if sharing works well on a large scale for goods requiring a significant investment (carpooling for example… and even that depends on the country). It’s a practice that struggles to really take off on small everyday objects that we don’t really care about having bought them to let them sleep in a cupboard and only use them once every 3 years.

And then there are some very difficult things to share. Services. While sharing works wonderfully for physical goods, it is more complicated for services. I can at the limit share my Wi-Fi connection but for most of the services I use it is more complicated.

  • already because unlike an object, I often continue to pay monthly so I want to maximize the use for my benefit

  • because a service is most often nominative and non-transferable

Where the subject becomes interesting is when we look at the trend towards “servicization” of the economy which is neither more nor less than the generalization of “product as a service”. And I put that more specifically in the context of the Internet of Things and the economy that goes with it.

When the object is an accessory to a service, we lose the right to dispose of it as we wish

What matters in the Internet of Things is the service provided by the connection. Ultimately, we can envision an economic model tomorrow where we pay for the service and where the object is almost offered. A bit like with the mobile phone, but taking the logic a little further.

The object cannot function without the service, the service is nominative and here are all the possibilities of sharing which collapse for two reasons:

  • because the one with whom we share the object can only have a limited use of it except to pay for the service

  • because apart from the notion of utility, the service contract will clearly and unstoppably state that the service is neither transferable nor “subletable”.

  • because if the service relates directly or indirectly to my personal data (and it is almost always the case) I would be less tempted to share an object even if I don’t care if I violate the conditions of use of the service.

In short, we will be the customer of a service and no longer the owner of an object. And when you are not an owner, you simply lose the use of all or part of the attributes of the property right.

Connected services are a brake on the sharing economy

So of course we are still very far from such a future. But as we live in a world and a service economy whose material objects will only be accessories, it is possible, conceivable, that the ability to do what we want with our goods is limited by the conditions of use of the service on which they depend.

Unless… wait. In fact this is already happening. Did you know that some farmers no longer own their tractor under the tractor software license agreement. The tractor is no more than the object allowing the implementation of the “real” offer which is the software allowing to operate the tractor. Once you are there, you just have to put all the clauses you want in the service contract.

Much closer to ordinary people, with the digitization of cultural goods, the property rights associated with them have disappeared. We can no longer resell titles as we resell a second-hand CD. If Amazon considered the loan of books under Kindle, the rights holders did not hear it the same way. It was not done without difficulty (and not for all books and not for everyone) and something as simple and basic as lending books with friends is going to become something more and more rare and complicated. . The book or the song are no longer a product but a service.

It just goes to show that the wave of the sharing economy can still find some breakers in its path. And I have no doubt that “old” companies are rethinking their business model in the light of the connected services that are going de facto limit the division of property.

bertrand-duperrinBertrand Duperrin is Digital Transformation Practice Leader in Emakina. He was previously Consulting Director at Nextmodernity, a firm in the field of business transformation and management through social business and the use of social technologies.

He regularly deals with social media news on his blog.

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