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.