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.

Design for privacy at the Annual Internet of Things Europe 2011

I attended the Annual Internet of Things Europe conference in Brussels last week. The conference gives an overview of the current state of the development towards an Internet of Things where not only computers and mobile phones are connected to the world wide network, but also all kinds of other objects become part. And just like computers make the Internet by being the hubs, this will happen in the Internet of Things where object are hubs in the network. This generates lots of new challenges and opportunities. The conference discussed both societal as technical consequences with an important role for standards and enabling technologies. I was invited to a panel and talk on the way this developments influence the design of online services ecosystems as we make them within
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How Apple boosts the real Internet of Things

We are entering a new phase in the Internet of Things. It is a promise for years, but it seems that we are heading to a tipping point. And Apple’s new iOS5 could be a accelerator. Tomorrow the new version of the mobile operation system for the iPhone will be introduced, and one of the most interesting speculations on the news is the integration of Twitter deeply in the OS, together with the introduction of iCloud. The real difference of a Twitter integration comes not with the sharing your pictures directly from the tools, but will be the way Twitter will evolve in a notification platform for smart objects via your phone. How does this could work?
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The wallet as a service

In an article on O’Reilly this week I read an interesting discussion on the mobile wallet. Naveed Anwar of Paypal coined the on-demand wallet.

The mobile wallet is necessarily an on-demand wallet, meaning it’s accessible from different devices and platforms and can hold more than any wallet in your back pocket: multiple funding sources, coupons, receipts, loyalty cards, private label cards, and business cards … and that’s just the start.

I believe too that we are moving to a new form of wallet after all and that this will be a service more than a physical thing. A service that can be used from different places and devices. On the other hand I think we need long time some kind of tangible reference points. It is no problem to combine those however.
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