'Socially networked SMEs' could compete globally

Emerging Web environments could revolutionise the way small- and medium-sized businesses work together online, and help them compete with larger companies, according to researchers working on a project led by the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

OPAALS is a research Network of Excellence funded under the European Union’s 6th Framework Programme for Research and Development. OPAALS’s main aims are to develop an integrated theoretical foundation for ‘digital business ecosystems’ research, the technology of Digital Business Ecosystems, and a sustainable and open community of research.

The OPAALS project is working on the science, social science and technology that underpin such ecosystems – virtual business communities connected by an open and low cost peer-to-peer computer infrastructure. Participants share computing resources such as processing, storage, and bandwidth, to ‘become the network’, and so are not dependent on intermediary hosts or servers.
“Digital Ecosystems – the combination of the technology and the communities that use them – represent the future of the connected world,” says OPAALS project leader Dr Paolo Dini from the Media and Communications Department at LSE. “They will allow small companies, for example, to offer loosely-coupled services that are coordinated by the peers of the peer-to-peer network rather than by a centralised transaction server, and thus help them compete on the global stage.”
The distributed nature of the technology “avoids the risks associated with the central server style networks” that govern the internet at present, Dr Dini maintains: “Not depending upon a central point of control and failure is a key advantage to small players such as small businesses, entrepreneurs, and other virtual communities including those in the developing world.”

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