target is new

an exploration in the new

Protecting privacy is all about critical living

I attended the Big Brother Award event organised by Bits of Freedom in Stadsschouwburg Amsterdam. Three prizes were announced, some bands and poets and talks by Hans de Zwart of Bits of Freedom, Aral Balkan and Edward Snowden in a Google Hangout.

Often the rhetoric in these contexts focuses on privacy. Also this night, but it was good to see that the main concept of freedom was more important after all. Privacy is ‘just’ a mean to leverage the freedom of living we need.

This freedom thinking is more and more important, and more and more linked to our own actions. Aral Balkan is able as no other to preach the ‘we are the product’-story. His focus is Google mainly, as the main representative of the tech companies that have build their business models fully on data. Data is eating the world, also in the new wave of things that are being connected, it all comes back to the data in the end. We as humans are a lab rat mainly. In all we do.

It is a well known concept Aral is telling. His hope pyramid boils down the mission: respect human values. It is definitely important. The winner of the public prize – Ivo Opstelten – showed how little respect the government has by making it into a joke.

You could debate what is more harmful, big companies building their business on data models or governments that define your rights based on making you a suspect by default. The latter probably, but the cynical thing is that governments are standing on the shoulders of big companies to gather the necessary data. That is what the Snowden affair made clear to everyone.

The price for Edward Snowden was more than well deserved. He may not be the great visionair as he says, but he is a classical hero that did what others would not do: stand up on a personal level. This was the main message of his words and also the main message of the night.

As Hans de Zwart in his talk emphasized that diversity is important. We need the space to experiment, to make mistakes. That is what freedom is for. We should strive for personal freedom and we are in the end the only ones that can start this freedom are we ourself. Building walls is not enough, we should learn to act on a critical living.

 

New things as hubs in the internet of daily life

We are slowly entering an new phase in online, in our digital life. As internet started before the web, it was a communication medium. E-mail as the most solid representative. When we got the web about 20 years ago internet became a publication medium and information base. Hyperlinking lead to surfing from article to article. Google optimised the system with relatively evaluating links.

Ten years later, in 2004, we got the social web. The network effect was strengthened by adding the people angle. It generated a huge uplift of the use of the web and the role it takes in our life. The open web with APIs was invented parallel and mobile did generate a wave on its own.

And now we are another 10 years later and we see the shift to the mix of the digital and the real. Often coined as the internet of things. But I like the term solid internet a lot. Internet lifestyle – thanks to the combination of social web and smartphone use – is the default and the physical is as a solid node in this.

I also like the definition of ‘the internet of the daily life’ as a good representation of the change that is happening. Internet is not a place you go to, it is part of everything, and you do not think about it. This is of course specially true for the digital natives that are become of age now after 20 years.

An interesting aspect is how this new balance between digital and real is influencing the way we look at the physical things. We expect our things to act like digital. We want products to be adaptable to the use, more platforms than products, playful and have new forms of interaction beyond the screen. We adapt new development methods, we have 3D printing as a first iteration of the new things.

This is all just at the beginning. Hardware produced as software is not that easy, as a lot of the Kickstarter projects prove.
The consequences of this shift to the internet of daily life and the impact for making a new type of things is what I think is an important theme of the Things-conference, that was organised in Berlin in May this year.
I hope we can touch this same theme coming Friday at the first ThingsConAMS, info.nl is hosting and I’m co-organising during the celebration of our 20 year history as internet agency, marking the next decade in internet history.

The haptic revolution of a watch

Today the Apple Watch was announced. It will not make it to the market until next January probably to give app developers chance to develop their apps and have a relevant watch experience from the start. And maybe also for other reasons we do not know.

In the media the reactions vary. Of course the stunning looks of the device and the sharp graphics are applauded. But on the other hand the features are criticised. Is this the leapfrogging device we were expecting?

I have to say, my first reaction when the movie was played was also a bit disappointed. Not for the lack of functions, I really don’t think that is an issue at all. I was however expecting a bit more a new type of product and not the pure watch. Still I could have known, Apple did not invent a smartphone or a tablet but improved the dna of it from the outside in. The real disruption is in the way the device works, the way it feels, the way we will use it and integrate it in our lives. And in that sense I think there is a true breakthrough innovation: the haptic touch.

I am wearing a Pebble for a year now and next to the real value of the concept of a notification device on my wrist, the most interesting part for me is the resonating interface. We are really able to distinguish different information signals by the resonation rhythm.

Next to that Apple introduced forced touch and heartbeat communication. Both are part of a whole new interface language I think, that brings the next level of intimate interactions into our digital devices. In the presentation some of these interactions are hinted but I expect this is just the start of a sixth sense, a way we will be able to make contact with the digital cloud around us, and with others.

Together with Digital Life Center, Labs is running a research project to look into the way trembling interfaces can be used to connect to digital coaches and to touch on distance. I think the ecosystem Apple created by sensor, display and SDK HealthKit can be more revolutionizing than any other functions that are introduced or did not been introduced. Looking forward to dive into this beyond touch interactions and develop for real intuitive use, for interfacing without a screen.

The battle for the home cloud media

Samsung has acquired SmartThings, a Kickstarter project to create a smart home platform. It is the next step in the battle for domination in the home cloud media. Entering the house and adding a new media touchpoint is part of all major strategies.

This blogpost was published on Adformatie earlier, in Dutch.

 

Samsung neemt SmartThings over, een Kickstarter project voor een smart home platform. Het is een nieuwe stap in de strijd om het slimme huis als medium naar de klant.

Op mijn bureau liggen drie hubs voor verschillende connected products. Eentje voor de Philips Hue, eentje voor de Little Printer en eentje voor de Air Quality Egg. En dat zijn er nog maar een paar. Het is een teken van de huidige status van het verbonden huis of smart home; het zijn nog silo’s.

Nu is de Little Printer gebouwd op het platform van BERG Cloud, de spin-off van het beroemde designbureau uit Londen, BERG. Het past bij de battle of the smart home. Vrijdag was daar een nieuwe stap: Samsung heeft SmartThings overgenomen. Dit van origine Kickstarter-project doet in principe hetzelfde: een netwerkoplossing voor al je slim verbonden dingen in je huis.

Apple kondigde al eerder HomeKit aan als onderdeel van het nieuwe iOS8 dat in september uitgerold zal worden via de nieuwe iPhone. Een logische actie, de eerste generatie slimme dingen zijn vooral een op een relaties tussen product en app. De waarde zit echter niet in de ‘afstandbedienings-apps’ die het nu zijn, maar zijn de combinaties tussen producten in je omgeving, gekoppeld aan de kennis over de mensen.
Google legde bij de laatste I/O conferentie de nadruk sterk op wearables via Android Wear, maar plaatst dat ook als verbindende schakel.

Samsung en SmartThings benadrukken het belang van het open platform voor third party developers. Een eerdere analyse over het verschil van insteek tussen Apple en Google over de verhouding tussen cloud en devices (Apple smart device, Google smart cloud; kort gezegd) zal alleen maar interessanter worden om te volgen. Er zijn dingen die worden gekoppeld via een cloud waardoor ze slim worden. De verbindende factor is vaak nog je telefoon, en straks je wearable.

Hoe Samsung hierin via SmartThings een positie neemt moeten we afwachten, maar het is logisch te verwachten dat alle partijen open zullen zijn voor het verbinden van alle producten van aanbieders, maar de lock-in wordt gedaan in de data die er uit voortvloeit. Want de grootste bron van data is het gebruik van alle nieuwe verbonden producten. Het is de volgende stap van het internet of things; het solid internet. Digitaal waardes met ankers in de echte wereld. Er ontstaat een digitale laag die alles wat we gebruiken tot media maakt. De volgende Facebook is de speler die dat goed bij elkaar brengt, op en wijze waarin de consument meer sturing over de inzet van de data krijgt.

The holy grail of the private moment

Since half a year now or so I’m using Taptalk. This Dutch/German app grew out of DingDong app and is unleashing a bunch of new apps that are a kind of retake more or less literally. Instagram introduced an app named Bolt just yesterday and earlier this week Mirage was launched, made by the people behind Yo. Both had done a shameless copy of the interaction principle of tap-to-share ultra short interaction model.

One of the makers of Taptalk did react on this fact by stating that they don’t really care because of their steps advantage in thinking and roadmap they have. And I believe him, not specifically for that roadmap, but because there is an angle in the Taptalk app that Bolt and Mirage are missing because they just focus on the quick share. The crux of the new movement of apps, that are originated by Snapchat, is the private character. We go from moment sharing – the field Instagram has conquered – to private moment sharing. This requires a different approach to master.

With Taptalk there are clear and hidden elements that create an extra private feeling. The clear thing is the location sharing. By adding the location of the moment it becomes way more private in perception. It seems simple but is so important for the feel of it. Also the way that only the one that shares reveals it location, something that was different from DingDong. I think this works better.

And there are also more hidden ways the app is more private I think. It lies in the obscurity of things. In the awkwardness of the sudden sharing, the puzzling interaction. Something that becomes of course less the case for regular users, but remains an important feel. The fact that there is no history, that there is a weird indicator in the avatar pics. The app is constructed around obscurity. Obscurity in an engaging way. That is different from the irritation factor Slingshot is generating with it’s forced communication chain.

The attention for Taptalk by Instagram is logical. They have no stake in the private message domain that is becoming more and more important. Like Whatsapp is replacing the function of Facebook and Twitter because we are rather sharing in our known groups. Instagram has introduced the messaging function but probably sees not many use (speculative). Mother Facebook is separating the Messaging app, Instagram is now doing the same with Bolt. Breaking up apps to their different functions is a trend on its own.

Unless I think that Instagram did not really get the essence of this new private moment sharing, they have a chance in succeeding as they find a way to embed their unique value of manipulating reality (filtering) and adding that to the private moment. Apart from that we will see that the new tap-to-direct-share interaction paradigm will dominate apps from now on. And so will private communication.

The challenges of simulating reality at This happened UTC

20up. This happened has become an institute on it’s own. With chapters in Amsterdam and Rotterdam now, Utrecht remains the original. I dare to admit I am a fan of the concept and the curation of speakers, and was present at a lot of the evenings (I think I only missed two). After edition 10 I wrote on the role of this happened in addressing some elements in designing interaction.

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It was of course great to have Kars Alfrink to present at this edition, he is the initiator bringing the event to the Netherlands (it originated in the UK). He showed the work of Hubbub for Shell, creating a game (Ripple Effect) that shapes an environment for learning to work together without trying to simulate reality. It is a signature project of Hubbub.

In the presentation Kars showed the way a divers team agents (that were present in room, including the product owner of the client) together with the client makes a project like this possible. It is an great overview of all kind of tools to shape a project like this.

In the questions we could experience a little bit on the conscious thinking of the design of these kind of ‘tools for change’. Kars mentioned how the use of the concept from the daily reality of the Shell workforce, the Goal Zero clock, was blocking the possibility to step out of the reality and really learn something, change behavior. A useful insight in approaching serious gaming. Making a simulation of reality is not the way to go, you need to adapt the principles and try to shape an environment to make understanding possible by taking action.

Next up was Yvonne Dröge Wendel showing a project where she made a simulation of a train coupe that helps patients with Alzheimer to relax. A beautiful project that was a bit suffering from the choice of Yvonne to go into more than one project. Proven a tricky approach with only 10 minutes of presentation, better give one project all the attention. Luckily in the question round we could dive a bit deeper and hear on the hard work to make the videos in the right manner. Shot from a low standpoint, tuning on the pace, and above all how the filtering all the unwanted visual trigger was important. To much of specific elements like a church makes the patient troubled.

It showed how she is really focussing on creating some product that fits the needs of the user. One thing that is interesting in the light of her statement that she is more of an artist than a designer and that the difference is in the way to propose a project. A designer wants to solve problems, an artist creates problems, new questions.

After the break Lilian Henze shared insights and approaches on the research of the use of the packaging of a product from KPN (InternetPlusBellen). The insights from the research lead to design changes that generated lots of reduction in costs in after care.

Real understanding how behavior works should be the beginning of all design, she thinks. Which is true of course.

An interesting chain of thoughts that flew by during the questions: user insights are hard to adopt in the complex environment and keeping them robust. It felt she is looking for a more lean approach; deliver fast, fail fast, learn a lot (oversimplification).

Last speakers of the evening were the founders of IJsfontein (Jan Willem Huisman and Hayo Wagenaar), an agency with a long lasting reputation in designing games. As it was a bit the classic edition of This happened they brought an old laptop to be able to show the old game Meester van de Macht, a game that started off their fame in a way. It brought back some old feelings. But also shared some interesting choices, like the focus on a couple of principles, and working together with a designer and a coder to create the best and most efficient solutions. Also in animation.

The way they treat the mouse pointer as part of the interaction and communication of behavior was great in the game. It also unlocked the insight that we are losing the cursor as a concept more and more with the ubiquitous presence of touch devices.

A connection in the projects lies maybe in the that disconnection of simulations from reality. As IJsfontein showed with the bouncing ball how you can replace exact feeling with the right combination of key animation components. And as Kars showed in his approach to serious gamers within Shell. The simulation of a world outside for the Alzheimer patients is clearly an altered reality, and in that a simulation of reality, where it is proved that detailed simulation distract you from engaging with the simulated reality. An approach that could be valuable for Linze to shape the future research, getting more fundamental than detail insights as start for design work.

Continuity, the first step to a notifaction based OS

A new OS model emerged, thinking on the consequences of the Google Glass interface model and the consequences on a more deeper level for the way user experience will work in the future, and services will function on our mobile and wearable devices.

I sketched it for the first time for a presentation at the CrossMediaCafe February 4 this year: the app model is replaced by a system where the notifications-layer become the linking pin between instances of the service you are subscribed to. The context of use both in knowledge as in sensing is defining what is relevant for the moment.

I predicted this would be the playing field of the next generation OS’s of Google and Apple. I made a typo and call it the notifaction space, something that works remarkable well though.

Now we have seen the first of it in iOS8 and OSX Yosemity at the WWDC last Monday. The talk was packed with interesting new stuff, from appearance to complete new program models including a disruption in the platform with Swift and Extensions. And also some huge steps in connecting the tangible world to our digital reality with Healthkit and Homekit, something to go in deeper another time.

The solution for the notifaction space from Apple is called Continuity. OSX and iOS are not only looking more and more the same, the experiences are really merging now. And more interesting, the presence of devices in relation to each other is noticed and have added intelligent behavior. Fluent experiences, discreet behavior, all solved with Continuity.

Combined with the catching up in interactivity in the notifications with direct interactions via Spotlight features shows how this layer is indeed the center of our control room of the digital life. I expect even more to come as app-maker will start to use it and we grew into a trigger based ad-hoc service experience. Exciting times.

Evgeny Morozov inspiring a balancing of viewpoints

This evening I attended a debate session in De Balie organized around the Dutch introduction of the book by Evgeny Morozov: To Save Everything, Click Here. The writer was present to kick-off the discussion. Three others played the role as referent (Hans de Zwart, Linnet Taylor, Dimitri Tokmetzis). It became interesting as the floor was opened to the audience. I am not reporting on the session in detail, you can rewatch the whole piece if you want.

The value of the work of Morozov and this debate is not his standpoints as such, but it is the discussion it triggers. For me two important concepts are linked (and I don’t mean to be complete in the analysis, these are mine main observations).

First is the notice we have entered a state of total digital life. We are post digital and beyond mobile. We live our life like it is digital, in our behaviour, in our expectations. Next step is the connection with the real world, the creation of ‘solid’ touchpoints, tangible interactions. This is the solid internet. In Morozov’s world he is opposing the technology as solutionism for everything. He propose to think technology as part of our life, as something to live with, not to live by. We need not to be servants to technology, not to be pure slaves to data optimised behavior, we need to keep thinking. Something I agree upon.

Secondly we need to think how to react. We need to master this digital life, to learn and have literacy to play the system. We live in a world that becomes more and more defined in rules, adapting to our behaviour, but also trying to influence our behaviour.
We can fight this situation by ignoring technology, but I think it is a better strategy to learn to master this world. We will have a continuum of virtual reality that we can manipulate. The smart ones will generate ghost-presences, will learn how to bend the rules.

So we need to learn how to play. And we need to be aware how digital and physical layers interfere and add on. This is not something we can master in one iteration, this will take more like a generation. To help understand and learn is the important part of thinkers as Morozov. The biggest danger is the rhetoric and polarisation. I value Morozov as inspiration for this thinking, not as the end stage of an ideology.

Lessons on wearables from Berlin

[Published on mobilemarketing.nl in Dutch]

Afgelopen week was ik op twee conferenties in Berlijn. De eerste was een nieuwe over het internet of things: Thingscon. Een zeer goede conferentie met hoog niveau sprekers en publiek. De tweede was NEXT Berlin. Daar was ik voor de tweede keer (vorige keer in 2012), dit keer op uitnodiging om als bezitter van een Glass bij nog erg summiere Glass penetratie in Duitsland het publiek kennis te laten maken.

De wearables waren in verschillende vormen goed vertegenwoordigd op beide conferentie. Bij Thingscon werd veel nadruk gelegd op het maken van dingen, iets dat voor een mensen die normaal over bits nadenken nog al eens weerbarstig kan zijn. “There is no China button”.  Nu we van corporate via personal computing nu naar ambient computing zijn gegaan gaat het niet meer om sneller maar om kleiner en minder energiegebruik, zoals de Noor Adam Scheuring zei.

Olivier Mével, de maker van Nabaztag (later Karotz), het Wifikonijn dat 200 duizend stuks verkocht, zoekt het nu vooral in dingen die onszelf quantificeren, en remote controls van alles.
Zoals ook Matt Biddulph aangaf op zoek te zijn naar de randen en vooral te focussen op het ecosysteem, niet op de node.

Die nodes zijn nog steeds de mensen betoogde Alasdair Allan. Wij verbinden nu nog de verschillende connected devices. Bij NEXT Berlin gaf Cedric Hutchings van Withings een mooi voorbeeld hoe hier gebruik van te maken. Ze proberen bestaand gedrag te ondersteunen met connected devices, zoals de weegschaal. Deze data wordt vervolgens persoonlijke gezondheidsdata waar omheen nieuwe producten worden gemaakt.

Interessant zijn de principes van discretie in design zoals de Finse designer Sami Niemelä het verwoordde. Mobile first = behaviour first, ontwerp vanuit de human factors de service, daarna de software en de hardware als laatste. Brady Forrest van investeerder Highway1 gaf het eerder ook aan: if the software breaks, the product breaks.
We maken daarbij steeds meer adaptieve producten die pas af zijn door het gebruik betoogde Matt Webb van BERG.

Het meten zelf is interessanter dan de data die we meten. Usman Haque hield een vlammend pleidooi als afsluiter van Thingscon om niet te focussen op de optimalisatie van persoonlijke dingen, maar op de mogelijkheden die de connected things hebben om samen diensten op te zetten met meer waarde. Wil niet alles simpel maken. Making meaning is making mess.

Christian Holm zei het ook bij NEXT Berlin. Serendipity maakt het leven mooi. Omarm de onzekerheid, neem dat mee in het design van de wearables.

In het zelfde panel gaf Priya Prakash terecht aan dat de notificaties nog niet werken. Daar ligt voor wearables de werkelijke uitdaging. Waar ik het helemaal mee eens ben. Mensen zijn daarin de sensors die de notificaties moeten sturen. Mooi gezegd. Het werd onderstreept met de slechte manier waarop de eigen iBeacon conferentie-implementatie werkte, onterechte en 10dubbele notificaties als je op de verkeerde plek stond. We zijn daar nog maar net gestart…

FutureEverything thinking on the box

This year I attended the FutureEverything conference for the second time. The last time was two or three years ago. A small conference, but with high quality content. And a good atmosphere too. This time it was scaled up a bit with big support of the city municipality, what makes it into a conference with a few side tracks and bit more local focus. Still the quality of speakers was far above average again.
It is some weeks ago now but I will give some reflections (instead of reporting in detail).

The kick-off by Mike Bracken and Russell Davies talking on GDS was nice. The first time I saw Russell in such formal talk, but still very smart and the achievements of GDS are of course impressive. Putting the delivery before the talking is very productive. The use some straight forward principles like: Work on stuff that matters. Do the hard stuff first. Make it open. Show the thing. Also show the analytics. Fixing the basics
They believe that the future of government is not a policy paper. It will emerge from the places where government is made. GAAN Government as a network. Not centralised, Not localised, But networked.

The rest of the day a lot of talks refer to different kind of utopias in the main room. The minimal viable utopia as Greenfield it puts.

The best talks I followed in the fireside chat room. James Bridle is still one of my favourite thinkers and artists. Always shifting our thinking with pieces of real working art. He talked on his drone shadows of course and on the project that was in town (but I missed); the Spaulder. Looking for the physical embodiments of the internet makes it interesting to look reversed too: digital embodiment of the real. The next day he talked a bit more on the surveillance topic in the main room. This was a very good panel of speakers, with next to James a talk by Eleanor Saitta, and Adam Harvey. James started with questions on the data ownership of driving plate data captured by British government.

It addresses how the current developments in surveillance shifts from an understanding of the world to an understanding of the person. Adam Harvey is the artist who made the camouflage like face paintings to counter face recognition. “We can interfere with observation by modifying our simulation. We exist in many environments and may moments in the future”. In that sense is the work of Tom Armitage creating a ghost presence of himself in another city a very practical implementation of the concept. Combining these would be very interesting.

Also the chat with Adam Greenfield was good. Long time I saw him present. His new piece as anti-smart city thinking was the main topic. From smart to networked city as an approach. The example to go out through the city in a ‘Walkshop’ and be aware of all the connected artefacts.

The second day was talking on the box as one speaker quoted.
A nice metaphor to take responsibility again instead of making just new new stuff. On of the boxes is our relation to tech and the evolution in that. Koert van Mensvoort introduced a model that behaves like the Maslow pyramid, upper levels are the next stages in evolution. For tech he found the steps: envisioned > operational > applied > accepted > vital > invisible > naturalised

Especially in the afternoon some great speakers told about projects. Like Tom Armitage on Hello Lamppost, and Dan Williams on several robotic encounters.
The talk of Alexandra Deschamp-Desino on gonzo products is definitely something to watch if you are active in the field of creating connected products, lets call them new products, like we call media new media in the era of change. Gonzo products are a need breed: a product designed for the crowdfunding reality. Low goal, lean, 6 months pivots.
Tom Armitage talked on Hello Lamppost and showed us how you make a city really playable. It is not a playable city if not everyone is allowed to play. Therefor they used low entry technology (SMS). Networks go beyond network cables. We should create service avatars. Objects as manifests of services. Made personal. Products can break from the services. Wellknown example is the Nabaztag connected rabbit.

Looking back on the conference it is hard to pinpoint one overall story. I like the box as a metaphor. Also I got the feeling that there is a kind of gap emerging between a non-developing practice of open data in cities and new realities of automated contexts we need to master.

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