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CyberTroc - A Barter System for the Information Society

mercredi 5 novembre 2003, par Harrison Colin

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Project Proposal

CyberTroc - A Barter System for the Information Society


Barter - or troc in French - is the exchange of goods or services for other goods or services. It is the oldest form of commerce and continues to have an important role in even the most highly developed societies. Not least it is highly valuable for developing social capital among a community. The Information Society brings to barter both a new meaning for "community" and new mechanisms for exchange. In particular it may be a key motivator for bridging the digital divide, but providing a tangible, understandable purpose for joining the Information Society.

The goal of CyberTroc - or Internet-based barter - is to connect people with needs to other capable of satisfying these needs. The exchange may be mutual - the two parties to a barter directly exchange goods or services of comparable value - or communal - each member of the barter community is required to maintain a personal balance of trade. The Internet is a ideal means for facilitating barter, since it can provide a transactional capability at extremely low cost and since it can bring together communities that may be highly localized or may be very scattered.

One could imagine trading many goods and services and indeed commercial bartering, for example, for the disposal of unsold lots of goods ( or for the exchange of timeshare holiday accommodation (, is already well established. However we see CyberTroc as a person-to-person activity, a core activity of the Information Society. In particular we have considered the application of CyberTroc to ride-sharing.

An efficient mechanism for on-demand ride sharing in both urban and rural areas would have many benefits. It would promote the mobility of those who are unable to drive themselves to their destination or who are unable to afford a taxi or for whom public transportation is unavailable or ineffective. It could reduce the number and use of polluting vehicles. It could serve to develop social capital within a community and it would provide an Information Society service of direct value even to those who are otherwise uninterested. It is sufficiently simple that it could be accessible not only via a personal computer, but also via SMS or voice access. In return for the transportation, the passenger offers some good or service to the driver ; since the imposition is small, the compensation need not be onerous.

A would-be traveller enters a request for a journey between a starting point and a destination and an approximate time of departure or arrival. Others who are capable of providing transportation can view these requests, possibly as visualizations on a map, or may be identified automatically by fuzzy matching to journeys that they regularly make. The technical challenge comes from the need to make fuzzy matches between requests and offers, possibly exploiting public transportation for some segments of the journeys.

Software to implement such a CyberTroc system is available and indeed during the transportation strikes in France earlier in 2003, such a system was spontaneously created to help workers to get to their jobs ( ?language=uk).


Colin Harrison joined IBM in San Jose, California in 1979 and has held many technical leadership positions in IBM’s product businesses, in IBM’s Research Division, and currently in IBM’s IT services business. In 2001 he established IBM’s Institute for Advanced Learning. Following his university studies, he spent several years at CERN developing the SPS accelerator. He then returned to EMI Central Research Laboratories in London, and lead the development of the world’s first commercial MRI system. With IBM he has enjoyed a career leading from micromagnetics to medical imaging, parallel computing, mobile networking, intelligent agents, telecommunications services, and knowledge management.

Colin Harrison studied Electrical Engineering at the Imperial College of Science and Technology and earned a PhD in Materials Science. He also studied Physics at the University of Munich. He is a Fellow of the Institution of Electrical Engineers (UK) and a Senior Member of the Institution of Electronic and Electrical Engineers (USA). He is a Chartered Engineer (C.Eng.) and a European Engineer (Eu Ing). He was a founder member of the Society of Magnetic Resonance in Medicine (USA). He is also an expert advisor to the Swiss Academy of Technical Sciences. He has been a visiting scientist at MIT, Harvard Medical School, and Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory.

Colin Harrison has been awarded 26 patents. He has published some 40 scientific and technical papers and talks and a successful book on Intelligent Agents. He is an invited speaker at European universities on the impact of information technology on the nature of work, business organization, and industries.

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