Five years ago, back in the antediluvian era of Web 2.0 (the web as enabler and facilitator of social networks), we had the idea of social-network forecasting. We developed a product to enable a group of people to share and aggregate their forecasts of something, via the web. Because reducing greenhouse gases were also becoming flavour-du-jour, we applied these ideas to social forecasts of the price for the European Union’s carbon emission permits, in a nifty product we called Prophets-360. Sadly, due mainly to poor regulatory design of the European carbon emission market, supply greatly outstripped demand for emissions permits, and the price of permits fell quickly and has mostly stayed fallen. A flat curve is not difficult to predict, and certainly there was little value in comparing one person’s forecast with that of another. Our venture was also felled.
But now the second generation of social networking forecasting tools has arrived. I see that a French start-up, Doppio Software, has recently launched publicly. They appear to have a product which has several advantages over ours:
- Doppio Software is focused on forecasting demand along a supply chain. This means the forecasting objective is very tactical, not the long-term strategic forecasting that CO2 emission permit prices became. In the present economic climate, short-term tactical success is certainly more compelling to business customers than even looking five years hence.
- The relevant social network for a supply chain is a much stronger community of interest than the amorphous groups we had in mind for Prophets-360. Firstly, this community already exists (for each chain), and does not need to be created. Secondly, the members of the community by definition have differential access to information, on the basis of their different positions up and down the chain. Thirdly, although the interests of the partners in a supply chain are not identical, these interests are mutually-reinforcing: everyone in the chain benefits if the chain itself is more successful at forecasting throughput.
- In addition, Team Doppio (the Doppiogangers?) appear to have included a very compelling value-add: their own automated modeling of causal relationships between the target demand variables of each client and general macro-economic variables, using semantic-web data and qualitative modeling technologies from AI. Only the largest manufacturing companies can afford their own econometricians, and such people will normally only be able to hand-craft models for the most important variables. There are few companies IMO who would not benefit from Doppio’s offer here.
Of course, I’ve not seen the Doppio interface and a lot will hinge on its ease-of-use (as with all software aimed at business users). But this offer appears to be very sophisticated, well-crafted and compelling, combining social network forecasting, intelligent causal modeling and semantic web technologies.
Well done, Team Doppio! I wish you every success with this product!
PS: I have just learnt that “doppio” means “double”, which makes it a very apposite name for this application – forecasts considered by many people, across their human network. Neat! (2009-09-16)
Article in The Observer (UK) about Doppio 2009-09-06 here. And here is an AFP TV news story (2009-09-15) about Doppio co-founder, Edouard d’Archimbaud. Another co-founder is Benjamin Haycraft.