The end of the internet as we know it

We are approaching a new year and there will be a lot of predictions on what the coming year will bring. I expect I will do something like that too again.
But it is also interesting to think and wonder on the bigger changes, longer changes sometimes. This morning I read an interview with long time respected Bruce Sterling in a Dutch magazine that sparked me to think on the state of the internet. The role is shifting as it remains a source for the things we do, one of the most important ones still.

We growing however in an functional internet. The internet as a medium on it’s own will have less importance as people are moving their communication to other places. And media consumption shifts to services captured in app on the devices we wear close to us or use for entertainment activities. Mobile phones, wearables, smart screens, all information is captured in streams. The internet facilitates the connectivity and is the management platform.

The functional internet is also part of our physical world. The connected things are all about connective tangible interactions with our cloud services. The internet facilitates here a new type of things that become adaptive to the context and use, I wrote on that before. The internet has not a presence on its own here, it is the back-end of the functions we use.

The functional internet is also in the messaging platforms, the closed communication services we use more and more as replacement for interaction with our peers, but is also the new media platform for brands to communicate with consumers.

The shift to a proprietary internet where the closed services becoming bigger as the the open internet is not a new development, it has been discussed before with the grow of Facebook. We see now the change emerge on all levels of our lives and the things we do. The combination of the digitised physical experience and the messaging platforms will change the character of products we use.
Our perception of our self is linked to that. As the reality is already in place that software is eating our world – everything is becoming software, the follow up is that we are as humans becoming eaten by the software too as our digital and physical presences is melted together.

An simple example is how a daily vlogger like Casey Neistat are now living their lives as a movie, and do real life decoupage where reality and representation are mixed up.
In that sense we will also deal with the dangers, the data leaks and manipulations of our behaviour, by developing a new literacy that is focused on data agency.

So in the end is the functional internet something we will be embedding in our being.
The end of the internet as we know it is complete as we have absorbed the characteristics of the hyper connectivity in all we do and are.

Thingscon 2015; on the core of the new things

Last Friday December 4 the second edition of Thingscon Amsterdam. In 2014 we organised the first edition of this Amsterdam edition as part of our 20 years anniversary of Thingscon is a Berlin conference that focuses on the design and making of the new hardware, the connected things. Often referred to as the Internet of Things, the approach Thingscon is more on the changes happen in things and manufacturing as result of the connectedness, than for instance a discussion on infrastructure, big data or cloud. It is all part of the total system, but we reckon it more interesting to think on the impact with our relation to things.

With this second edition we aimed to reach more people. We kept the one day format (in Berlin it is a two day conference), and we also sticked to the mix of plenary inspirational talks in the afternoon and in-depth workshops for everyone in the morning. We started with two keynotes this time to make the day more as one full story instead of two separate parts.

One of the ideas behind the composing of the program is a something I addressed in the short introducing presentation: we need to think beyond ‘fake IoT’, the products with an app. The Internet of Things is rather on top of the hype cycle at this moment, and that translates in a lot of concepts where an existing product is extended with an app that functions as remote control and monitoring of that one product. I think real value emerge if the connection between things with their surroundings and other things unlocks new uses, new functions. This is something that Rob van Kranenburg already described some years ago as pro-active thing-systems.


I used the example of a car. Nothing wrong that BMW adds an app to their car as extension of the car, but it does not do anything with the car as a product. That is something that is happening with Tesla where with the Model X is acclaimed as the first steps to the self-driving Uber with its recognizing of people approaching the car and opening it automatically. The Tesla is much more a connected system, a mobility software with a symbiose with its hardware.

I think that the core of things is changing -or can change- with adding electronics and connectivity. New uses emerge, new design principles are necessary to plan the things that flourish in the moment of use, that gets the real function when the thing is used.

There is a challenge to make these things. You need a framework where the things and the digital mixes with the inner data and algorithms, with the sensors and connectivity, thinking of energy harvesting and the connection with external systems. That is the challenge for the design and making of the new things. It was very nice to see how the different talks of the speakers followed the same chain of thoughts and adds a lot to this  as inspiration.

Claire Rowland was very clear in their focus on the design of the things that let the users understands the system behind and the importance of interusability. Nadya Peek showed how important the low level making is, with machines that make machines. Tina Aspiala showed us the impact of the new things on the experience of things, something Matt Cottam uses in his installations, making the invisible material characteristics visible. Martijn Thé made very clear that the profit of designing the good things is in the detailing of the software. Ross Atkin took us to the city level emphasizing that the clever city is build with things that deliver a human profit.

The same mix we made with the workshops that focused often on the methods to design and think on several aspects of the new things. From the Thingclash in our world of ubiquitous connectedness, to the haptic interactions to mediate social relations. Imaging the future and designing the connections. Using gaming principles and connecting your body, it all was a great palette of inspiration I think (and hope).

I am happy that this edition turned out that well. This Thingscon showed how a lot of different people are inspired with the new things. It would be great to build upon the event to make more connections between the people. To zoom in on certain topics with specialists and those that apply them in the new things. We are thinking on the possible ways to do so, let me know if you want to join.

To close, this nice aftermovie gives some first impressions of the day. The videos of the talks will follow as soon as possible. Hope to meet you again soon!



Read the tweets of the day here.

Battle of the platforms part 2 is about the seams

A couple of years ago we discussed the battle of the platforms with big players dividing the pie on Internet. The big 4: Google, Apple, Facebook, with Amazon as outsider providing the ecosystem for making. An interesting aspect was (is) the proprietizing of the internet, the closed systems. This has only become more apparent in the way we use the internet for instance with the closed chat systems like Whatsapp.

With the internet of things is one of the lines of discussion always on standards. Can we create a new standard that has the same status as the internet itself has. That is now far from true, all kind of different alliances are defining communication standards for the specific data communication in IoT. In a blogpoast Martin Spindler shares some good thoughts. The article from Theo Priestley he mentions shows a matrix with the big players and the alliances.

It is interesting that in this overview the big four are not mentioned. That could very well be because the parties are more active on a manufacturing level than a servicelevel, it is all on the embedded layer. But maybe there is also a part that is overlooked. The big question Priestley also touches: do we really move to one standard that functions as a new internet in a world of connected things (life)? Fragmentation is a much more likely scenario. Proposition driven systems that create seams for interoperability. Services will work together if we choose to connect the APIs.

We will live in our own default ecosystem more and more, and connect services from others based on exchanges of data in the moment. Ephemeral data as Maciej Ceglowski describes. The real war of the platforms will move to the seams. The question is how the seams will be controlled. With new design challenges.

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, 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 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 internet of things vs connected devices

In a blogpost on Numrush I ran into an overview made by Stained Glass Lab on the a categorisation of the internet of things and connected devices. Reading the post I got the feeling those two things were taken together as one, which is not the case in my opinion. Probably blinded by the fancy infographic. I found the original post which put it more in context, Stained Glass Lab makes the differentiation in a sense. Still I like to share my thoughts on the differences here (again?).

Connected devices are smart devices that function smart because of their connection with the internet, or with the connection to another smart device. A device has a function on its own that originates only from the fact that it is connected.

The internet of things functions on a level higher, the concept that there is a network of connected things that in itself don’t to be smart things. The smartness (forgive me this hollow word smart) is generated by the fact that they connect to each other and the internet. The smartness is the system, not the object (eg. device) itself…

In that sense connected devices can and will be part of the total ecosystem that the internet of things is. One connected device does not make the internet of things.

An extra layer here is the distinction in reactive and proactive internet of things, as coined by Rob van Kranenburg. Reactive internet of things focusses on the value that emerges from the relations between the things. Extra value is generated as the system of the connected things becomes a value on its own. It generates more value by working together, and only by being connected.

Devices like smartphones, watches, glasses etc. function more as a remote control to the internet of things than as the defining elements. I used the difference between optimised and meaningful internet of things before. I hope some time soon be able to make time to elaborate a bit more on these things.

Will Apple kill NFC?

We had a keynote address on the new iPhone last Tuesday as you probably know. And a lot of people were disappointed with the news. But what else is new. At the same time the strategy of Apple remains as it was and will be: making the best products for premium prices, and earn a good living. Going for mass markets with cheap phones does not fit this idea. But I will not go into that discussion, enough people said smart things on that.

In the new presented phones there are enough interesting aspects. First is the way the 5s is becoming a hub for everything. Connecting a screen together with the move to more streaming than storing in Apple TV and we see that this is the TV set we will have. In that sense it looks a lot like the model of Google’s Chromecast, but they will be creating a more seamless experience I expect. The difference will be in connecting and connection.

One of the most interesting parts of the new step in their smart product strategy is the role of NFC. Or better, the neglecting of NFC. It seems that Apple is choosing for another technology; bluetooth, and then especially the low energy variation. They combine this with the iBeacon option in the SDK to create a better solution for NFC. The well-known strategy to try to make an experience better. This article does a good analysis on the consequences.

The use of a near field technology is highly dependable of market adoption. So we can expect a fight here on standards. It seems like Apple is planning to break the market with their preferred technology. Just like with Flash and the Floppy disk. Sometimes they win that war sometimes they don’t. Let see what happens here. It will depend on the adoption by products and services like this Estimote. One of the strong aspects of the Bluetooth model can be the possible interoperability with other solutions like mesh based product to product networks.

We enter an interesting future, that’s for sure.

IoTRotterdam contemplating on the connected impact

Last week Peter van Waart and Martin Pot organized IoTRotterdam. A series of events on the theme of the Internet of Things with a slight focus on the relation with the built environment. I attended the conference day on Tuesday and took part in a discussion on education and IoT, where I presented also some of my thoughts. And on Thursday I attended the first This happened Rotterdam that turned out to be connected too.

On the conference day there was a mix of speakers but all were on the more contemplative approach. Like Tijmen Wisman that did quite a rant on the privacy aspects. Ending with a conclusion that IoT leads to slavery. It can be like a trojan horse as it enters your home and makes the last real private place public too. This is indeed an important aspect of the Internet of Things that should not be overlooked. It could be like a weapon, in the wrong hand it could do harm. If you lose control on your data you lose your privacy. Creating awareness is in that sense important.

Earlier that day Nicole Dewandre of the EU committee told about the onlife research initiative within the EU she is responsible for. She sees a paradox in keeping the focus on people as sensitive beings in a high functional context that the connected world is shaping.

The shift that is happening: we had the primacy of entities, now the primacy of interactions. “Boundaries are not fences but restricted connections.” This is an interesting concept because of the link to the connected world. Our boundaries are not defined by something geospacial, but by the existence of connections. From the sky is the limit to the earth is the limit, we are now coming to the self is the limit.

In the same flow was the talk of Carolyn Strauss from Slowlab. The introduction movie made the whole concept looking quite soft, but it turned out that she introduced some concepts that can be inspiring in the thinking on our connected world.

She mentioned six principles of slow design: reveal, expand, reflect, engage, participate, evolve. She did not go into deep for all of these, and did not connect them to the Internet of Things context, something that could be done easy. She asked herself the question if the Internet of Things could be made slow. That is the wrong question I think, you can create slow things with the help of Internet of Things principles looking to the six principles. Adding a reflective layer to products from the context, creating options to engage. Etcetera. I think Tellart have shown some great examples of that approach in their work, for instance for Google Chrome Lab and even more with the Love Song Machine. And also a lot of the work of BERG is a proof of that, only think of Little Printer.

So in the end the thoughts of Carolyn were interesting, the way she wants to execute them in this domain could be much more interesting.

This is an aspect that could be an important part in the education of IoT. The discussion on Wednesday was good to see how the agencies has a different approach still with some similarities. Seeing Internet of Things more as evolution of interaction based design. Where data is a distinctive value and invention an important design strategy. Enough inspiration for the educational system, where the biggest barriers the silos in disciplines are, that are forced by the rule system.

This happened Rotterdam on unlocking hidden worlds

The successful series of talks called This happened has found a Rotterdam chapter now too. Last Thursday was the first edition in WORM. A lovely location and it was crowded as ever, even more than crowded. One of the four speakers – Pinar Temiz – fell ill unfortunately, so we missed the story behind the intriguing floating balloons in a room. Still 3 speakers left though of course.

The boys from Perceptor kicked off with a talk on their design for the webshop of Mendo, a book shop for table books. They try to approach the design of the shop different from normal shops by making visual stories on every book, something which fits the kind of books very well, and is also only possible with the small amount of inventory and dedication of shop owners that are designers themselves.

The shop has some tricks that are both practical and elements to give it an extra human touch. Showing the size of the book by the comparison with a sticky note and iPad. Also the possibility to get personal suggestions by a bookseller based on your wishes. The design is very strong in its hierarchy and eye for details.

As Bastiaan said: Better have beautiful seams than have seamless experience where you get lost. It turns out that the website is used for orientation more than buying. Something that is maybe even triggered by the way it is designed; you experience how important it is with these books to feel them.

The talk of Kristi Kuusk was interesting for things she did not tell or did. It seems like a kind of strange choice to stimulate the craftsmanship in textile making by adding a quite straightforward augmented concept. Especially because the connection between these kind of fabric production and the possibilities of the AR are rather weak; also every mass production cheap sheets can do the same, even better maybe.

And in the end possibly the most interesting part of the Bedtime Stories would have been to think how to add something to the stories that emerge in the in-between space. As BERG managed to do with Suwappu. Kristi wants to create a deeper connection with the textile and its production, there lies a chance in really adding something from the code/space into the textile, that can be unlocked. So therefor lies for me the most interesting part of this project, hope she can add that one time.

The last speaker of the night was Mattijs Kneppers talking on his ongoing development of ShowSync, a new way to connect audio and light into one balanced experience. More like the other time he presented the technology part of Eboman on This happened Utrecht, this project has a more aim, not only for the artist he developed it with (Feed Me). The trick is that he is creating an ecosystem with the elements of audio and lights linked together. It forces the different roles that makes a performance interesting working together on the same experience. Hopefully it can create a kind of standard so that it also will be possible to implement in situations where the lighting system is part of the venue instead of the artists entourage.

The talk of Mattijs was very nice to experience again. Showing his passion for the experience of audio and light and the way this can be connected to a digital virtual representation. And how this virtual component is in the end maybe even more defining for the experience than the psychical one. Which should be definitely the case for the concept of Bedtime Stories. And writing this down, it strikes me that this could be said of the work on Mendo too, if a shopper of a book that makes it’s orientation has probably a better experience of the book on the table later, than without. Which fits this edition in the end quite good to the theme of the week: Internet of Things.

People are the sensors

Last Friday Kevin Kelly did an interview via a Google Hangout for Fast Moving Targets. In this part of a interview with Kelly he is talking on the quantified self and a new form there where collecting blood is an indicator for the toxic in our environment. Starting from about 45:46.

This is interesting and reminded me to some things Usman Haque said that same day at the Social Cities of Tomorrow conference: the people are the sensors. He refers in that sense to the way people that process the data from the sensors are more important than the data that is sensed. And the value emerges not before the processed data is shared.

The example of Kelly goes even a bit further, but the concept is the same. You will see that when we will be collecting more and more it is not directly benefiting ourselves, but in the end we are taking the role of sensors for the community cause, for the collective intelligence in a way.

The rules of thumb for successful social software that Tom Coates made years ago, are valid for the new sensor world too. A successful connected service is only achieved when:

  • it benefits yourself (quantified self)
  • it benefits your social peers (as reference for instance)
  • it benefits the system to leverage all the collective data

Interesting stuff to elaborate on.