ORF401 Course Overview


Electronic commerce, commonly called eCommerce, is traditionally defined as the buying and selling of goods using electronic transaction processing technologies. Over the past twenty (20) years these approaches have gone through a cycle that has extolled great promise, then bitter disappointments only to be followed lately by a substantial rebound and growth to respectability and now dominance. (Charts galore! ).

With the world having rebound from the 2008 economic downturn and now possibly facing a plateau / inflection point, Behind Tech’s Shine, Some Warnings Signs Appear, the efficiency, scope and reach of eCommerce continues to hang in there but may be peaking.

Moreover, eCommerce continues to evolve both technologically and in the scope of its market reach. Even IBM is reinventing itself. Technologically, desktop and laptop/notebook computers have been the dominant client/user-side technology with the server-side being either dedicated boxes owned/managed by the eCommerce entity (e.g. the entity providing the goods/services) or an intermediate entity providing "cloud computing" resources shared by many eCommerce companies.

More recently, Apple, Samsun, Amazon and a host of others have evolved this paradigm by creating an environment by which mobile devices such as an iPhone, iPad, Android-based smartPhones, a host of Tablets (that cost as little as $40.), and (Heaven Forbid!) wareables glasses , Google CardBoard, Foldable phones , and Roll-up TVs, have emerged as the everywhere/everytime client-side technologies.

The extreme portability, mobility and place-aware nature of these devices is transforming and exploding the fundamental character of the eCommerce environment. Enabled is on-the-go eCommerce that is place- and time-aware now,
has remembered the past and continually makes intelligent expectations about the future.

The scope of the eCommerce market has also evolved beyond the narrow buying and selling of goods to include services of all kinds including entertainment, communications and transportation/mobility that is making eCommerce an integral part of everyone's daily life. It is these fundamental daily personal services provided by the extended scope of eCommerce that have the opportunity to substantially enhance the quality-of-daily life of "all" "consumers" and "all" quality-of -life "providers".

Interestingly, eCommerce and its fundamental ability to correlate information at essentially zero cost so that the provider enables the consumer to not only find the "needle" in the hay stack but also the "thread" and assembles them in an environment so that it is trivial and inexpensive for the "button to be sowed". It is this mobile eCommerce space, that is the creation of an enhanced environment while on-the-go, that is of greatest interest to me.

One travels to enhance one's time and place utility. Today, the world spends roughly $10T for that utility enhancement.

Technology and eCommerce are evolving to completely disrupt how and the extent to which that utility enhancement is going to be delivered to society.

Traditionally mobility services have required the expenditures of money, displeasure and wasted time all while wreaking havoc on the environment.

Automated technology and mobile eCommerce can substantially enhance all elements by enabling a better use of the time, bringing enhanced entertainment and information to alleviate displeasure, allowing the mode of transport to operate more efficiently, thus saving money while being more environmentally responsible. These combine to make it "affordable" in terms of money, pleasure, time and negative externalities to experience a broader array of destinations that otherwise would not have a place and time utility enhancement that would justify the traditional investment in money, displeasure and time. Such improvements open up vast new markets.

In this course we will study

  1. the basics fundamentals of the business and economic motivations
    for eCommerce as well as the needs and desires of individuals,
  2. the underlying computation, information and communication environments
    that encompass and enable eCommerce transactions,
  3. the evolving role of new highly portable, place-aware, always-with-you personal devices in eCommerce, and
  4. the algorithmic (AI) pieces, the sensors and the data streams that they produce and the computational environment that can lead cars to drive themselves.

We will start by focusing on the "traditional" electronic and process technologies and data sources that allow for transactions to be conducted with little or no human intervention on the part of the buyer/consumeror the seller/provider. We will characterize the value proposition afforded by such transactions. Initially we will focus on traditional stationary transactions using "wired" connections; however,we will quickly evolve to focus on transactions that are made while on-the-go that, out of necessity, use 2-way wireless communication. This leads us to look into Navigation-based Commerce (nCommerce)and Navigation-based Entertainment (nTertainment or TravelTainment)and even delve into Smart Driving Carsthat may allow everyone to more fully enjoy the process of getting there. And there might even be a business caseassociated with focusing on this sector. Chunka Mui and MB with two full-page ads in the NYT. This will set us up to really delve into the algorithms/sensors/data to do autonomousTaxis (Driverless cars)We will briefly look at the role and opportunity of extremely mobile, place aware, communications and computing enabled devices suchas smartPhones (iPhone, Android, WinMobile (?), RIM (??)etc.), and smartPads (iPads, and the plethora of Android tablets), wearables (watches and glasses (or are they simply too goofy??)) andAndroid - the open handset alliance.

A central element that has fueled this nCommerce and nTertainment revolution is a substantially new intermediaries in the eCommerce equation, "App Stores" and "Ubers". While seemingly very different they are really fundamentally thesame basic paradigm that is very much in its infancy. They both have fundamentally created an eCommerce environment by which those that arecapable and intrinsically motivated to provide a service are empowered to focus all of their attention on the provision of that service while all of the"overhead" necessary to efficiently and effectively manage, market, sell and deliver that service is done efficiently and effectively by these new eCommerce enterprises.Think about it! "Coders" develop Apps, "AppStores" do everything else and "Cash" appears in the "Coder's " account. "Drivers" drive and "Ubers" do everything else and "Cash"appears in the Driver's account. Everybody's a "Happy Camper". (Even though both coders and drivers may"on average" be making "less than minimum wage". Who cares...coders and drivers are getting to do what they want to do when they want to do it. What a great country!

We will attempt to characterize this "App-fication" (aka "Verification") , analyze it and try to understand how these technologies can enhance everyone'sdaily life as well as create opportunities for those that wish to focus on "doing their own thing (or doing what they do best, or ...).

The last third and most important part of the course focuses on the design and construction of eCommerce and nCommerce applications in the following areas:

  • autonomousTaxis (aTaxis)

    aTaxis may have the opportunity to completely revolutionize the way we move around and live our lives. The transormation enabled by the elimination of the Steering Wheel may well be comparable, if not even more profound, to that which followed its evolution from the Buggy Whip. That elimination will be done with sensors, data, algorithms and computational engines. This will have many many pieces that will need to be assembled to work harmoniously from detailed byte level manipulation to the logistics management in real-time of fleets comprising of millions of individual aTaxis serving billions of person trips each and ever day. And, of course, goods need mobility. What are "eCommerce" aspects of the these vehicles?

    HandyRides For Real

    Another priority will be to have a group of students follow-up and really develop HandyRides and either integrate it with eVite or create a competing system that no only handels the invitations to an event but also encourages, establishes and manages the shared mobility of the prticipants to that activity.

Other possible more traditional areas of focus include:

  • Navigation-based Commerce and Entertainment (nCommerce and nTertainment)

    With the transformation of cell phones into powerful mobile computing devices sporting wireless data communications, sizeable memory and a sense of "where am I" they have given rise to a market segment widely known as Location-based Services (LBS). However, when coupled with a knowledge of "where am I going", and a route planned by a navigation system, one not only has current knowledge of place and time but leading indicators of future locations and times. These leading indicators transform LBS into Navigation-based Services (NBS) or what I prefer to call Navigation-based Commerce, nCommerce, that can better target valuable services to the mobile consumer thus transforming the underlying economic proposition. Advertisers can expect better results and can be expected to pay more for navigation-based placements, thus transforming the underlying economics of nCommerce. The anticipation of where you will be when can also enhance games and entertainment, thus nTertainment.

  • Apps enhancing traditional goods and services

    Parrot's AR.Drone. The Flying Video Game, requires an accompanying App to be useable. Robot Quadrotors Perform James Bond Theme - YouTube, A Swarm of Nano Quadrotors - YouTube,
    Music is also beginning to be integrated with Apps. For example, Bjork: "Cosmogony"

    One of my all-time favorites websites Map of the Market
    Another one of my all-time favorites websites J-Track 3D Satellite Tracking/"

    Simple and effective Drive-Time New Jersey: Your Daily Commute

    The 1st app that I've found enhancing the driving function (besides all of the turn-by-turn nav apps) iOnRoad

    What other products or services could be better delivered to the end user when combined with an App?

  • We will explore these opportunities, although I'd really like us to focus on the mobility delivery sector, especially autonomousTaxis. We'll discuss.

Nominal homework assignments revolve around the design, construction and evaluation of a traditional eCommerce site. Through a series of assignments, the first part of the course will focus on a generic example. In the past we have we focused on the rental of DVDs for viewing on airplanes (now a very old concept, but one that became NetFlix.) What a shame we didn't pursue it seriously because we could have become "NetFlix" before "NetFlix". Last year we switch to creating a ride-sharing site called HandyRides for which we have the URL HandyRides.com The focus is the creation of a plug-in that would be really used by anyone who is putting together an event. Since any event involves folks coming from many place to one place at about the same time and the reverse, there is an enormous opportunity to share rides, if only there was a "plug-in" that would "make it happen". That's what we'll all be doing in the first part.

The second part of the course will be team project-oriented. It will focus on developing a more substantive student-motivated initiative focused (hopefully if the class agrees) on AI in SmartDrivingCars; else,we'll do it on more traditional eCommerce problems/opportuinities. There will be a midTerm exam on Wednesday of Midterm week: (March 21). In place of a final exam, the team Projects will be presented at a course symposium to be held at the end of reading period. Final code/writeups are due on Dean's Date. Popular Background readings are: