Smart physical products increasingly shape a connected world and serve as boundary objects for the formation of ‘smart service systems. While these systems bear the potential to co-create value between partners in various industries, IS research still struggles to fully capture the phenomenon to support successful digital innovation in IoT settings.
In our work, we analyze the phenomenon of smart service systems taking an affordance- actualization perspective. Based on a qualitative content analysis of a multi-case study, we identify elements and propositions to build mid-range theoretical knowledge for smart service systems. These conceptual findings are further illustrated with a real-world case study. We suggest that providers and users of smart products not only realize their own affordances via their actions but can affect the immediate concrete outcomes of partners. The developed theoretical framework and six distinct propositions should build the theoretical base for further research into the phenomenon in related disciplines.