TED Global 2012 – Radical Openness

TED Global 2012 was another fantastic feast of ideas from teaching to collaborative consumption and genetech to makers. The notes below are my highlights from the five days.

Daphne Koller gave a really interesting insight into her new venture coursera.org – a platform for educators to share lectures based on her experiences in the Stanford AI course (100k people joined the Machine Learning course!) The stats she presented were facinating and her talk is well worth 18 minutes of your life if you work in education (I will add a link when talk is available). Most interesting to me were the comments on personalised learning, the median response time between students getting a response to a question (outside of lecture time) being 22 minutes and the approach they have adopted for peer to peer and self grading. This is changing education.

Daphne Koller - coursera - 3

On the theme of education Beau Lotto gave an excellent presentation on engaging kids in science and getting a scientific paper published that starts with “Once upon a time…”. But his co-presenter 12 year old Amy O’Toole stole the show with a fantastic presentation of her experience. Very inspirational and worth a watch. And the TED Ed event introduced the really interesting http://ed.ted.com/ platform for sharing education talks – but most of all I loved the idea of Flip Teaching – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flip_teaching – why don’t all schools use this technique?


James Stavridis (NATO Supreme Commander) on open source security said “we need to build bridges not walls” and described how teaching how to read and write is fundamental to educating the Afghan soldiers – “when you can read and write you typically wear a pen in your pocket”. Plus, some great stories like the $10 billion credit card fraud by a couple of hackers “who were probably at TED last year” and an incredible homemade semi submersible caught trafficing 6 tonnes of cocaine.

Home made sub

The Shell lunch on Urban Mobility (challenges, issues and opportunities) was made really interesting by the mix of 16 or so participants from the founder of zipcar (now founder of buzzcar.com) to a marketing guy from Audi to a Chemistry Professor. Interesting memes for me were; the desire for linked data to support the search for “journey options”; no single supplier is going to be the central node in the urban mobility infrastructure; how can we use the internet as a model for structuring services. I wish we had an extra hour or two to really dig into some of the ideas being presented.

Susan Solomon presented some mind blowing work on creating a “genetically diverse global stem cell array” to enable the growing of “diseases in a petri dish” based on human tissue. We are on the cusp of a transformation of the pharma industry from one where big drug companies produce for the masses to one which is much more personalised, precise and community based. On a similar theme, John Wilbanks arguments around the “unintended consequences of informed consent” were fascinating. He is campaigning for creating a “health commons” where individuals can share personal data for the greater benefit of science discovery. http://www.healthcommons.net/

Susan Solomon - NY Stem Cell Foundation

Rachel Botsmans insight into collaborative consumption, micro-preneurs and “reputational capital” should be interesting to anyone thinking about how to support city systems that engage citizens. I really liked the notions of “connecting trust worthy strangers” and the fact that reputation is contextual – if I am trusted on e-bay should I be trusted on stackoverflow? Should reputation be transferable? Reputational Capital: power, trust, influence.

Rachel Botsman - 2

On the theme of collaborative consumption I really liked Robin Chase’s ideas around “Peer Inc” – the notion that combining the benefits of a community based context with industrial models of business organisation provides a best of both worlds scenario – watch how this strategy develops with her new venture http://www.buzzcar.com/ Beth Noveck hinted at a similar scenario in her call for more linkage between open data and institutions that help it flow for the purpose of collaboration (“transparency of data is not by itself the answer”).

And finally, Massimo Banzi did a great intro to Arduino, Matternet, and was the first video to be posted on-line – go and take a look at the really nice projects he mentioned…

Other great talks that I will watch again include: Dan Tapscott on “networked intelligence” and 4 principles of open worlds: collaboration, transparency, sharing, empowerment; Kirby Ferguson from Everything is a Remix on patents and ownership of ideas; and Clay Shirky on the printing press, github and school dinners.

other highlights worth searching out:

monotaskers – 3D printable covers for your smartphone to reduce its functionality – timely for me given the current 3D print project at Arup.
Manu Prakash on foldscope – a 50 cent microscope for disease diagnostics
Shyam Sankar on IA not AI (Linklighter vs Minsky) – Intelligence Augmentation and human computer symbiosis as seen in Foldy, a protein folding game.
JenSpace in Brooklyn – a DIY Bio Hackspace
Caterina Mota on http://openmaterials.org/ and the kit of not parts project http://web.media.mit.edu/~plusea/
Matt Mills on an interesting AR kit called Aura http://www.aurasma.com/
Shimon Shocken on Nand2Tetris – building a computer from nothing
Eddie Obeng for a great presentation on http://worldaftermidnight.com/
Neil Harbisson on “hearing colour” and his cyborg foundation
Robert Legato on visual effects for Apollo B, Titanic and Hugo films
Jonathan Trent, NASA, on the pretty impressive looking OMEGA microalgae fuel system
Amy Cuddy on how our nonverbals govern how we feel about ourselves (the toilets of TED were full of people standing like Wonder Woman…)
Jane McGonigal fantastic talk, watch it and go to superbetter.com and showmethescience.com
Heather Brooke on MP expenses data FOI and the alaveteli freedom of information platform
Marc Goodman does a great, scary presentation on how “Radicals use Openness” a great warning about the “other” things people do with technology.
John Maeda showed some great projects from the 90′s and spoke about his new challenges of leadership in the context of Design, Art and Technology.
Boaz Almog demoed quantum locking – really cool science.
Mozilla Popcorn – a semantic approach to videos on the web
http://www.arkive.org/ – an archive of natural history videos and photos

Amazing music by:

Raghu Dixit – rockstar
Natasha Pavenski – pianist
Usman Riaz – Percussive Guitarist
Preston Reed – Revolutionary Guitarist
Sarah Slean – pianist

And did you know that the word scientist was only coined in 1833 by William Whewell

Posted in convergence, drivers of change | Comments Off

IoT Week 2012

IoT Week opening

Scuola Grande San Giovanni, Venice.

The designers have arrived at EU IoT Week. It was interesting to see that the formal launch of IoT Week started with a couple of presentations from Adam Greenfield and Usman Haque. Both speakers managed to convey the opposite story to that typically told in this forum.

Adam focused on why “Smart City” jargon typically occludes meaning and understanding of cities actually work and did a great job of picking apart smart city visions from IBM, Cisco, Siemens and Plan-it (e.g. re Songdo – “uneconomic to fulfil the promise, how much has been delivered?”) His main thesis was that seamless does not exist, cities do not have “goals” to be optimised and efficiency was often an administrational target but one that does not necessarily support the citizen. I need to look up the Scott book he referenced re Brasilia’s administrational view of the city – “Brasilia was designed to be viewed from above – the god view” – and I found myself nodding a thinking “what IoT / Ubicomp projects would Jane Jacobson be working on right know” when he spoke about how ”technology undermines the running of communities” re cctv cameras creating false view of safety (i.e. someone in authority is watching and taking care of the problem therefore i don’t need to do anything). We need to aim for spontaneous order from below – multiple use, multiple interactions.

So what did he suggest? Design for networked cities and citizens, built over time by an infinity of small actions in the context of ”this” city (not the “proximate” city) focused on social spaces, socially constructed.

Usman built on Adams presentation using examples of what people are building using cosm.com. The map of live sensor locations was probably the envy of many of the multi-million Euro research projects trying to set up sensor networks and highlighted the obvious benefits to be gained from “just getting on with it”. Their firehouse of data (30 million readings a day) is very impressive but highlighted a practical problem that is pre-occupying Usman at present. He has ”an issue with the data info knowledge wisdom pyramid” – the 30 million daily sensor updates does not mean the public are getting more insight, the data always needs to be used in some context.

He also queried if the focus on control structures for optimising the city managers role are actually helping the citizen – and asked if that is enough? He used the example of current air quality measurement systems typically set up for scientists and city managers. They measure at 3m high and give “neighbourhood” values but don’t take into account ground level. Whilst the residents can see a “metric” for their neighbourhood they cannot take any action or change their daily behaviour (for more information on work they are doing to try and work around this issue look at the AirQualityEgg project).

His advice? An open system enables people to innovate and take actions. To make people feel like they are part of the city – since they are the city. “You do not need consensus to make these city systems work” – there will be heterogenous systems and actors. He also referenced the work done the previous weekend at the IoT assembly in london – a fantastic call to action and well worth a read – i particularly liked ”if you create a new format at least one other independent entity must use it” http://bit.ly/openiot/

IoT Week EC expert group

EC Expert Group Mtg

On other matters we had another EC Expert Group mtg on IoT including insight from Karl Brincat, Visa on the technology behind new contactless payment products, the crypotgraphy involved and how the user, terminal and issuer responsibilities for security are emerging. The meeting also discussed the working papers of the various subgroups focused on:

  • identification,
  • privacy, data protection, security
  • ethics
  • IoT architectures
  • Standards
  • IoT governance architecture

And finally, EU funding 2013 agreed – look out for objective 1.4 smart cities – energy + mobility.

Posted in IoT + ubiquitous computing | Comments Off

Small is the new big

Autodesk IDEAS - 04

Last week I joined a fantastic group of scientists, designers, architects and engineers at an Autodesk IDEAS event on the theme of “Small is the New Big: Designing Our Future at the Nanoscale, Humanscale, and Beyond“. Why should I be interested in the Nanoscale and Synthetic Biology? Their welcoming note summarizes it nicely:

“Imagine it is the mid 1970′s and you were thinking about the potential opportunities for a programmable personal computer. It would be hard to imagine the exponential growth of computation, connectivity, and miniaturization that powers a globally connected network of technologies that today define, transform, and create industries. Today, advancements in programming matter at the nanoscale, and synthetic biology in particular promise imminent disruption to industries beyond just the medical and pharmaceuticals.”

My main takeaways from the discussions are below.

DNA ‘strand sequencing’ – price drop a million fold in 10 years.
Oxford Nanopore has created the MinION USB device for portable analysis of single molecules for under $1000 with a 4% error rate. This is a huge step forward from the millions invested to sequence the human genome 10 years ago. It is not inconceivable that by 2018 the device cost for sampling DNA will mean that it will become an on demand service for a few dollars. This may also mean an increasing trend towards understanding authenticity – 30% of fish mis labeled in NYC restaurant – shown by DNA testing.

The end of blockbuster drugs?
Big Pharma has transitioned from an R&D based enterprise to a marketing based enterprise. The number of drugs delivered per billion dollar investment has dropped one hundred fold over the last few decades. Reasons cited include the risk aversion of companies (due to threat of compensation) and regulation of the public office (most drugs have potential side affects for someone). As a result there are increasing concerns that not taking action on bringing drugs to market is costing lives. A formula for risk / reward / regulation is needed but seems to be unobtainable. An interesting middle ground is being established where smaller companies are creating drugs targeted at individuals which then bypass the need to run large scale double blind trials. See also Rare Genomics Institute.

Building a nano robot using DNA origami – awesome!
Why build at nanoscale? The need to work at the scale we are investigating. Great demo of how Cadnano, a generalized platform for 3D construction, was used to build a nano robot to mimic immune system and target cancer cells. The video below is worth 6 minutes of your life for both the technical wizardry and potential of the science.

Other insights:
Gary Wolfe on “when this knowledge arrives, where will it be stored, in what knowledge system, the doctors office?”
Omri Amirav-Drory on his companies “Genome Compiler”, an IDE for creating genes to send to gene synthesis shops.
Daisy Ginsberg on “how does the reflective component, beyond the aesthetic, change the work of the synthetic biologists?” great projects at http://www.daisyginsberg.com/
Skylar Tibbits on his Self-Assembly and Computational Construction demo built for TED 2012 using magnetic structures. Really cool.

Final notes:
This area is moving so fast, people don’t think of this stuff as computers. DNA as software is a radical thought to many. Viruses as apps is the next big thing, but may need careful branding for uptake beyond the scientific community (ie be careful about “killer apps”).

Themes of discussions during the cage fights:

  • Regulation vs free market
  • Old ideas being rebranded vs new discipline
  • Abundance vs destruction

4 themes from the second day discussions:
Big urgent idea.
Data sets increasing in size. Big data mining. Crowd source / mechanical Turks to mine the data. Opt in data. Privacy controls. Subscribing to the global immune system.

Framework for design.
Tools to help the layman design with synbio. Inspired by nanocad and building of nano robots. Making synthetic bio plastics, designing and growing bio facades.

Nightmare scenarios, bioterrorism, pathogens available, read and write functions available. Accidental exposure. License to create organism. Net nanny for bio. Asimov laws of synbio. Private islands off shore hosting synbio “culturally” unacceptable elsewhere.

A manifesto for SynBio
Industrial model has caused its own obsolescence – wasteful, toxic, unsustainable….

  1. Autotrophic energy sources
  2. Open source
  3. Distributed
  4. Self contained production
  5. useful waste / biodegradable – Lifecycles and not life spans – Disposal included in design – Self optimizing – context adaptive
  6. Ethical and responsible – ecologically inclusive
  7. Symbiotic and convergent with existing methods and platforms
  8. Ecosystems and diversity not mono cultures
  9. Inclusive design – species / audience / cultures
  10. Direct value representation
  11. Consuming is useful
  12. Personalized

Some photos are on Flickr, links to tweets on twitter and notes to links are on Pinboard

Posted in drivers of change | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Arup Explores Prototyping

Arup Explores Prototyping was held in London on March 8th. Forty-five delegates, half from outside the firm, including practitioners and business leaders were provoked by 15 short presentations in three sessions; access to tools, successful prototyping business models and scale. The event was part of a series of events that aim to explore trends and technologies that may impact on the future of Arup and was held prior to a related evening event with our friends at 100%Open titled “User Makers and Distributed Production”. Both events were great, with lots of positive feedback. My take away from the events are below.

Creating a space to think with your hands.

We had a great discussion around the desire for your own workshops and studios vs using other spaces and events as a catalyst to encourage the process of prototyping.

The benefit of your own spaces is the cultural shift that occurs, the design process changes, having a different toolset around you influences the way you think. At Arup we have the Light Lab “a place to flexibly experiment with lighting concepts”, Sound Lab “a place to listen to our designs”, a workshop in Arup Associates that builds on the strong tradition of making physical models in architectural practice and in many corners of the office we have emerging Innovation labs ranging from Arduino kit behind peoples desks to rooms with separate network infrastructure to allow prototyping of future ICT tools and networks.

“Other peoples spaces” provide an opportunity for greater collaboration and access to a broader toolset. But whilst many individuals probably have access to their old University workshops or emerging hackspaces I am not sure if we have ever formally looked at the potential for pooling resources to extend Arup into collaborative workshops. In addition to the spatial aspect there is also the benefit that a temporal one can bring. The focused activity of events such as Smartgeometry or Hackdays creates a platform for collaborators to come together, share experiences and develop their craft.

The purpose of the prototype.

Most of the speakers and participants had first hand experience of creating prototypes and their stories about why they were created was fascinating. For example, with Hintsights, the interaction designer exploring a service concept “didn’t intend to prototype initially but tools available meant it was really easy – this meant [he] kept making iterations [..] prototypes help us have discussions and test plausibility”. For Moving Brands the motivation for prototyping “off the job” was to communicate ideas and tell stories of what is possible without having to disclose client confidential projects. A really interesting concept when you take into account the learning that has now helped win fee paying client work.

Increasingly the prototype is no longer the final destination, rather part of the design process. And this seemed to be a common thread across most discussions. But the role of the prototype in the process does still vary. An interesting observation made by CRDM (a rapid prototyping shop) highlights the distinctions in different industries: “in automotive industry the virtual model is the part, in construction the virtual representations is a model of what may become real”. A discussion of scale then ensued, but to me it comes back to the level of detail in digital model – and that is why prototyping of this kind is interesting – it is the merging of the digital and physical skill sets.

The toolmakers

Several participants had made their own tools and spoke about the relationship between making things and then wanting to make the tools better to iterate their designs. The craft element of prototyping was a thread that seemed to run through many of the conversations during the event. Craft takes time, space and a certain level of freedom to pursue – and one that will always be difficult for management to nurture.

Other things I heard that I found interesting

“I wish we had an Arup Apprentice scheme to learn how to make stuff”

“3D printing is easy, the machine does that, the hard bit is giving it the instructions so that it knows what to do”

“Prototypes and the need to show someone something that works help us understand the integration issues”

“the problem with outsourcing prototyping is that the flow is lost, knowledge is lost and assumptions are made”

“Does it require a mindset change? First week people brought in 3D line drawings, now people are modelling precisely, your model is printed or not, 1 or 0″

“To the new generations of designers, engineers and architects, mathematics and algorithms are becoming as natural as pen and pencil.”

Whats next?

Colleagues in Australia (and hopefully US) will soon be organising region events using a similar model – I look forward to seeing the results of their discussions. Our tasks are:

Increase awareness and access to current toolset available.
Make it easy for people to access toolchain to create stuff.
Organise more lunch time Arduino “how to” workshops.

Questions still bumping around:
If we could develop an Arup Apprentice scheme, what subjects would it cover?
What are people doing in other Arup offices / regions?

UPDATE: more info also at:


Posted in innovation | 3 Comments

TED Global 2011

Last week I was at TED Global in Edinburgh. The event felt different to previous years in Oxford, it was bigger, seemed to have a broader mix of nationalities and a larger contingent of TEDx’rs.

TED (which stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a global not-for-profit organisation which aims to bring together inspiring, energetic, extremely smart or renowned individuals from different disciplines – art, business, politics, science and much more – to generate “ideas worth spreading”.

Stuff of Life

The mix of talks this year were themed around the Stuff of Life. Here are my five favourite speakers that I want to remember and recommend that you look up.

Maajid Nawaz - Age of Behaviour - 2
Maajid Nawaz [talk already online at TED]

Maajid Nawaz was the first speaker who got my mind racing thinking about the how the implications of what he was proposing might influence me. He spoke about the ‘Age of Behaviour’ and how transnational behaviours are influenced by ideas and narratives. Maajid grew up in Essex and as a teenager was recruited to the global Islamist party Hizb ut-Tahrir, rising into its leadership until being sentenced to 4 years in an Egyptian prison in his early 20′s. He left prison feeling that Hizb ut-Tahrir was hijacking Islam for political purposes and in 2009 founded Khudi, a counter-extremism social movement working to promote a democratic culture in Pakistan.

What struck me about his talk was the leadership role he had created at young age based upon a new technology base for sharing ideas. His talk provides some interesting insight into the potential for creating bottom up movements in an environment that thrives on cultural belief. Why do I find this interesting? I am curious to explore ways of building a new way of working within Arup focused on the organic development of the “new generation” in the firm. I suspect that a bottom up, activist based approach would work well in our culture. [quilliamfoundation.org, khudipakistan.com]

Niall Ferguson - ideas and institutions - 1
Niall Ferguson

I found Niall Ferguson’s introduction to the “great divergence” between east and west economic development fascinating. The ‘apps’ listed in the photo above were an interesting way of looking at the ‘ideas and institutions’ that provide the vehicles for our societal development. He also raised some interesting questions: are we deleting some of our apps? is the sequence in which we develop the apps important? can China do without the third app? Why do I find this interesting? I like the idea of thinking about how ideas are stored, shared and passed between generations. This is particularly relevant in a growing organisation and raises interesting questions around size, structure and leadership.

Mikko Hypponen - internetpol - 1
Mikko Hypponen [talk already online at TED]

Putting the excellently geeky presentation skills to one side (he ran most his presentation from the command line and ended his show using an overhead projector) this was a funny and scary presentation. Mikko walked onto stage and showed us code from the boot sector of a 5 1/4 inch floppy that contained one of the first computer viruses – ‘Brain-A’. In that boot sector he showed us the names and address of the hackers – Basit & Amjit – and then showed a photo of himself standing outside that address a couple of years ago, introducing himself to Basit & Amjit, brothers who still lived there. Why do I find this interesting? Viruses like STUXNET have come to my attention recently [see 'open source weapons' video] since they are starting to move into the world of PLC’s and by implication will soon start to become a bigger issue in the world of Internet of Things. Mikko was championing the creation of an ‘internetpol’ to support the defence of our networks from largely criminally driven hackers who create viruses – another example of the need for agency beyond borders.

Todd Kuiken
Todd Kuiken

I loved this talk for the ingenuity that only someone with training as both Doctor and Engineer plus 20 years of hard earned experience could deliver. Todd introduced a bionic arm created by ‘stitching’ nerve endings from an amputated arm into muscle tissue on the pectoral. This technology called targeted muscle reinnervation allows the brain to control the arm directly but also had the unexpected effect in some patients that not only can they move their new limb, they can also feel with it. Why do I find this interesting? I am intrigued by the combination of body and technology, and find the adaptability of the brain to ‘fix’ its understanding of the world in which it operates fascinating.

Rory Stewart - Afghanistan
Rory Stewart

This one was unexpected. I guess the label of ‘conservative politician’ made me jump to some conclusions. But his talk about his experiences in Afghanistan were insightful, articulate and at the same time made me frustrated. I was intrigued by his experiences of the light touch (he walked across Afghanistan in 2001/2002) vs the role of international aid and (the very funny) ’7 decisive years’ by 7 different leaders. Why do I find this interesting? He spoke of a ‘mountain rescue’ approach to problem solving where experts need local context and knowledge, plus they can intelligently adapt to the environment when it changes. I am not sure if we give enough focus to the right person being in the ‘right’ job.

In some ways it is hard to pull out a favourite 5 so here are a bunch of other talks to look at.

Justin Hall-Tipping – Nanoholdings – technology to drive the future energy neutral building.

Geoffrey West – Santa Fe institute – on bounded growth, sub-linear scaling (meaning as things get bigger they need relatively less) and why do cities live but companies die?

Kevin Slavin – Area/Code – on our new ‘Algoworld’, an increasing trend which sees various aspects of our lives being run algorithmically and with a complexity that we can no longer meaningfully understand.

Tim Harford – Undercover Economist at Financial Times – great talk on our ‘God complex’, our belief that we are right and a call for more trial and error experimentation in the workplace. Talk is already up at TED.

Mark Pagel - language - 3
Mark Pagel – evolutionary biologist – on how language provided the mechanism to allow cooperation in cooperative societies.

Joe Castillo - sand artist - 1
Joe Castillo – amazing sand artist

Ben Goldacre – Guardian – Bad Science author, really funny, slightly alarming, frenetic talk – definately worth 18mins of your life.

Daniel Wolpert – neuroscientist and engineer – on the brain, movement, sensory processing and tickling robots.

Nadia al Sakkaf – editor of Yemen Times – when she took over as chief editor in 2005 she sacked half of the senior male staff and replaced them with ‘women and younger men’ – diversity in the workplace, leadership and a VERY brave woman.

Bunker Roy – barefoot college – inspiring talk about making your own destiny and two of my favourite quotes: ‘a dignity of labour’ and ‘these [hand] puppets are made of recycled worldbank reports’

Alain de Botton – writer – on religion

Alison Gopnick
Alison Gopnik – child development pyschologist – on kids sphere of exploration rather than focus of attention (interesting ideas on play and innovation here).

Michael Biddle – MBA Polymers, plastic recycling – on waste, recycling of plastics and over ground mining.

Harold Haas – Edinburgh University – wireless communications via LED light using orthogonal frequency division multiplexing. Geniunely impressive live demo that falters to show that it is real.

Markus Fischer – Festo – smartbird is a project to create an artificial bird capable of flying like a real bird. Inspired by the herring gull and inspiring factory automation products for Festo, this creature is awesome!

Links to all the speakers above will eventually emerge on http://www.ted.com/talks?event=tg2011

And finally, links to other resources that caught my imagination are tagged on pinboard with TEDlobal2011 and photos are on Flickr

Posted in innovation | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

IoT expert mtg 5

Xiaohui Yu from China Academy of Telecommunication Research (CATR) of the Ministry of Information Industry (MII) gave a fascinating overview of IoT activity in China. The scale of their investment is well reported so it was useful to hear about the support coming via government, enterprise and research, and where those programmes are being implemented.

“IoT is deemed as an important part of the strategic emerging industries, as a measure for transformations of the mode of economic development, for developing low carbon economy and achieving green and sustainable growth, as a footstone of forging the information society and improving people’s life in China”

Pilot applications are being rolled out in infrastructure (100′s of smart grid trials completed, ITS in 17 provinces), upgrading the traditional industry (agriculture, industry, logistics – this “smart” approach across sectors is aimed at “transforming” the mode of economic development), to serve the people (healthcare and housing) and environment and safety (environment protection and energy saving).

Convergence of information and industrial transformation.

In addition to the different research programmes the MOF (Ministry of Finance) and MIIT (Ministry of Industry and Information Technology) have just launched an IoT Development Special Fund aimed at technology development, industrialisation of the technology, application development and the creation of a “standard public service platform“. The label assigned to the latter has potential to be something quite interesting but it seems there is some uncertainty around what and how it will be delivered. One to watch though.

Florent Frederix reported on a presentation to the European Commission on IoT governance roadmap that was made the previous week to Neelie Kroes, Vice President and EU Commissioner for Digital Agenda. Governance refered to the “rules, processes and behaviour that affect the way in which powers are exercised particularly as regards openness, participation, accountability, effectiveness and coherence.” The five “principles of good governance” presented were:

1. Identification (network address of object and identification of the object) – issues are around maintaining interoperability of identifiers.
2. Privacy and Security (regulatory and technological) – issues being debated around privacy by default, the right to be forgotton and privacy by design, silence of the chips.
3. Ethics (implants, privacy in the home, accountability, liability of objects) – the European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies are very interested in creating an independent report and are asking for feedback at http://bit.ly/lW8owj
4. Decentralised architecture (extensions to physical infrastructures such as Smart Grid) – the quest for solutions offering more autonomy and stronger security.
5. The European IoT Norm (self- or co-regulation) – need to be compliant with EU Norm, future IoT recommendations and the legislative framework without the need for specific directive or EU legislation.

This translates into sub working groups in: identification, privacy + security, ethics IoT architectures, IoT standards, multi-stakeholder governance architecture.

A complete paper will be complete by the end of 2011 and will then go to public consultation. Impact assessments and consultations with the commission will occur through 2012 and expected adoption is in early 2013.

Posted in IoT + ubiquitous computing, research and funding | Comments Off

3rd IoT European Conference

I recently attended the 3rd Annual Internet of Things Europe 2011: Bridging the divide between policy and reality at the Management Centre Europe, Brussels I was invited by Rob van Kranenburg from Council and attending as a representative of the IoT Expert Group and was invited to contribute to the panel on standardisation. The event was useful to get a feel for the temperature of IoT developments in Europe and the progress being made. I think this was best summarised by Mike Nelson (@mikenelson) on the culture of the room when viewed through the lens of West Coast / East Coast / Europe. Which was a different take on the opening quote “Caminante, no hay camino, se hace camino al andar” (Traveller, there is no road; you make your path as you walk).

Mike Nelson on the differences between west, east coast and Europe
fun, money and rights

Tech cultures
ready aim, aim, aim, aim….

This was partially down to the sessions of the event (below) but also reflected the nature of the community in the room. One message that struck home for me was a comment that 2-3 years ago it felt like we had a first starter advantage, but now we are moving to trying to keep up.

Societal challenges and applications for a smart and green planet
Where are we today? – The International Experience
Technological developments and business applications
Sources of funding for the IoT
Governance, privacy and security
Standards to support policy

The aim of the event was:

“The Internet of Things is finding its way into real applications and services. It is driven by smart city concepts, energy and mobility management and the quest for data to bring better foresight to scenarios for industry, government and citizens. The 3rd Annual Internet of Things Europe Conference will explore the major trend towards M2M and the merging of online and offline worlds. This event will facilitate the debate among all stakeholders on the discussion of the future of the Internet of Things and how it will re- shape our interactions with the real and virtual worlds in the coming years and how it will affect citizens in everyday life.”

Things I found interesting were Michael Nelson’s thoughts about IoT not needing a single “privacy by design” solution, rather creating the space for many different solutions to be brought to market. And on transparency, its about transparency of the systems to hold the data not necessarily transparency of the data itself.

The keynote presentation by Neelie Kroes (@NeelieKroesEU), Vice President and EU Commissioner for Digital Agenda, European Commission is below but focused on the governance needed and highlighted three issues of object identification, privacy and security. At a meeting at the OECD later that day she extended these to the “Compact for the Internet”: an Internet of Civic responsibility, One Internet, that is Multi-stakeholder, Pro-democracy, Architecturally sound, Confidence inspiring, and Transparently governed!

Peter Hustinx, Supervisor, European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) made a great point that “fundamental to the successful deployment is trust”, ergo effective data protection is a critical success factor. Privacy of data and trust of consumer will be critical – whilst the “right to silence” is “hyperbole (and probably impractical)” it is getting the conversation started on privacy by design. This is a watch-it for us since we need to understand the privacy implications in the built environment that are in-directly caused by us observing and understanding the behaviour of people in buildings. He made this point nicely when he stated “I don’t see objects exercising rights” but went on to describe how the increasing ubiquity of these devices in our environment makes the distinction between us and the objects difficult.

Pilgrim Beart from AlertMe, made a really clear presentation of their consumer IoT application and stated that most IoT once installed is ambient and does not require “modal” interfaces that require our attention – therefore design for that. Great reminder.

Professor Julian Kinderlerer, President, European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies gave a good intro on ethics around IoT and identity “in applying right to be forgotten, we have to know what is that we have to forget.” – their group want your opinions. He also raised the interesting issue of ownership of data and knowledge using the example of ICKN at MIT – should info be mashed together to create swarm behavior? An alternative application could be Police and Insurance DB “sharing” scheme recently in the news.

But the most thought provoking talk for me was Usman Haque from Pachube with a very frank and open talk on the cultural differences between investment in IoT from a start-up perspective learned through 8 years of experience. Worth a flick through the slides covering the IoT market, Europe vs. US funding, and an intro to Pachube.

And slides from my panel intro are also on slideshare.

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system layers and science in schools

I had the pleasure last week of two activities taking me out the office. The first was a trip to East Barnet School to see the installation of a series of science interactives developed under Project Faraday. We were part of the team that created the blueprints for the designs so it was great to see them in situ. The installations are built into the fabric of the building with the aim of exploding science out of the laboratory and into everyday school life. They included 60 year clock, a 3 storey high drop zone and the robot lab.

East Barnet School - Project Faraday

The second was participating in a Do Projects “walkshop” led by Adam Greenfield. At the moment I am pulling together some thinking around urban informatics for an internal project at Arup so I was using the event to think about the current creases in the fabric of London. As the Facebook page says, the aim of the walkshop was to look for

“Places where information is being collected by the network. Places where networked information is being displayed. Places where networked information is being acted upon, either by people directly, or by physical systems that affect the choices people have available to them.”

It was a great 90 minutes and reminded me of the value and stopping and looking at your environment. A collection of photos on flickr highlight some of the observations we made.

Wireless traffic mgt? - Walkshop  - 09

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IoT Expert Group governance, privacy, m2m

The fourth meeting in Brussels of the EC expert group on the internet of things providing another interesting day of debate around the policy needed to support a humane yet commercial internet of things. On the agenda for the meeting were: continuing the review of a martyr paper on “governance”, a discussion on privacy and in particular the “privacy impact assessment” created through the RFID working party, and the implications of m2m standardisation.

The debate around the “Governance” martyr paper started, and didn’t really end, with a discussion on the definition of the internet of things that will be used in this groups final output. Several different versions have been proposed but there was a clear difference in opinion on whether the definition should have a human or technical focus. At the moment the definitions are technically oriented but there was a call to have the human at the center and themes such as “provide a secure and trusted platform” were proposed and with several objections to the definition relating to IoT operating “without the intervention of a human”. Those last six words alone were discussed for over an hour.

Taking a historical perspective, IoT is not the first technology with which we have discussed the balance between the damage it can do and the benefits it could deliver. I really liked the presentation by Marcel van Galen from Qiy who summed up this issue quite nicely with their video that introduces their business concept.

Qiy is a utility to collate your data. They are working with companies and public bodies who create data and enabling them to share your data with you. Has been in development for past five years but not clear on the split between how many companies send you a copy of the data and how many let only you store your data. One to watch.

Rudolf Van Den Berg – OECD – focused his M2M implications discussion on GSM and the implications of lock in to network operators. He showed an interesting diagram of M2M networks by type but focused on the fixed / dispersed quadrant.

IoT m2m networks by type

2G,3G,4G are best for dispersed applications – they have near global coverage and the SIM based approach means zero config (vs me setting up my wifi at this meeting which required me to authenticate – I didn’t bother to authenticate my phone or fitbit). But the downside here is that in the M2M environment the user is not the consumer, it is the service provider. And the M2M user has different requirements since they are often responsible for millions of SIMs (phones, traffic lights, sensors in the field etc.) meaning there are very practical problems with switching operators without swapping SIM cards (hence think of the lock-in operators currently have). Like international roaming their is a need to negotiate roaming with local operators. Even static objects like SIM based traffic lights suffer from network effects since at rush hour the cells will change shape to actively manage communications traffic.

His main plea was a need to liberalise the ability to network swap without changing SIM cards – this will create an open communications platform and increase the potential for radical innovation in applications as experienced on the internet. However, this shift of power from operator to consumer would have significant impact on the telecoms providers.

Sarah Spiekermann reported on the learning from the privacy debate in the recent EC RFID consultations. It focused on “privacy by design” – the Privacy Impact Assessment encourages companies to focus on how to think about privacy in the design stages of developing RFID applications. The PIA is setup to help companies creating RFID applications question the potential risks to personal data being compromised with their application so that they can answer the question “do I run the risk of not complying with the EU law?” (EU Directive on Data Protection).

Interesting to see how this would actually work in a commercial environment. The cost impact of PIA is not in terms of direct financial costs (it would be cheaper to pay fines if data protection was broken than pay for the PIA’s), it is more focused on the brand cost associated with fallout of wrong doing. In the future world of the internet of things how will we quantify the value of trust and brand over commercial necessity?

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smart pop up retail

Over the past couple of years we have done several workshops on the theme of retail of the future with collaborators such as the Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute and the Narrative Environment students at CSM. One of the consistent “future tech” ideas that popped out of those charettes would include some magic that allowed friendly robots to make “suggestions” that supported your consumption. Over the next couple of days we will be testing such robots in a temporary pop up retail installation at Arup Phase 2.

Po-Up Wine Shop

Gonzalo is a CASE PhD researcher who has been with the Foresight team for the past few years. He has just completed the major experimental component of this work at the OU in Milton Keynes and is now bringing the installation to the Arup offices at 8 Fitzroy Street to conduct a second “mini” experiment with a different cohort of test subjects. Gonzalo says

The focus of my research is the design of smart products and services and how these may change people’s behaviour. As computers become ever so small and disappear inside walls, tables and many everyday objects the way we interact with information changes radically. Like footprints in the snow our encounters with smart objects and spaces leave a permanent mark in the information substrate. From these traces smart artefacts can learn how, when and where they are used, and can react to that information.

If you are near the BT Tower in central London over the next couple of days please call in. Full details of both the installation and the research is over on makingsenseofspace.

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