Monthnotes for September 2017

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September was an exceptionally productive month with plenty to share, so let’s get right to it!

As always, if you’d like to explore working together, get in touch now.

A new website

First things first: You’ll have noticed that we completely relaunched this website. It’s much more clearly structured, and visually built more around text than images. This should make it a lot easier to find the content you’re looking for, and make load times a lot faster.

Most importantly, the front page is now a lot better structured, and we also optimized the navigation:

  • Front page: Client services and in-house projects are more visibly separated, recent projects are more visible, and text highlights allow for extra quick skimming.
  • Content: The clear separation into pages for STRATEGY and RESEARCH & FORESIGHT provide more structure.
  • Navigation: The OUTPUT pages shows at a quick glance all the various things we produce and work on. One level below, PUBLICATIONS, CLIENT PROJECTS and SPECIAL PROJECTS allow for deep-dives.

Not everything needed to change, though. For example, the MEDIA and SPEAKING pages work well, and provide the most comprehensive log of my speaking engagements as well as media mentions and contributions. (By the way, I’m keeping the dual BLOG structure of COMPANY blog and PERSONAL blog—mostly the occasion travel log—, which exists for purely historical/archival reasons. I simply didn’t want to move it to another server or domain.)

While we were at it we also cleaned up a ton of copy and got a spanking new SSL certificate.

Curious to hear what you think!

A Trustmark for IoT

For Mozilla, we explored the potentials and challenges of a trustmark for the Internet of Things (IoT). That research is now publicly available. You can find more background and all the relevant links at thewavingcat.com/iot-trustmark

If you follow our work both over at ThingsCon and here at The Waving Cat, you know that we see lots of potential for the Internet of Things (IoT) to create value and improve lives, but also some serious challenges. One of the core challenges is that it’s hard for consumers to figure out which IoT products and services are good—which ones are designed responsibly, which ones deserve their trust. After all, too often IoT devices are essentially black boxes that are hard interrogate and that might change with the next over-the-air software update.

So, what to do? One concept I’ve grown increasingly fond of is consumer labeling as we know from food, textiles, and other areas. But for IoT, that’s not simple. The networked, data-driven, and dynamic nature of IoT means that the complexity is high, and even seemingly simple questions can lead to surprisingly complex answers. Still, I think there’s huge potential there to make huge impact.

I was very happy when Mozilla picked up on that idea and commissioned us to explore the potential of consumer labels. Mozilla just made that report publicly available:

Read the report: A Trustmark for IoT (PDF)

I’m excited to see where Mozilla might take the IoT trustmark and hope we can continue to explore this topic. After all, who if not Mozilla could—or should—take the lead in this space.

Also, I’m hearing whispers that some core recommendations might already be making their way into a large country’s national IoT policy—and that just makes my day!

Talks

I was kindly invited to speak at Netzpolitik.org’s annual conference, Das ist Netzpolitik!. The title: Das Internet der Dinge: Rechte, Regulierung & Spannungsfelder.

Due to technical issues with the video projection, my slides weren’t shown for the first few minutes. Apologies. On the plus side, the organizers had kindly put a waving cat on the podium for me.

It’s a rare talk in that I gave it in German, something I’m hardly used to these days, so it was extra fun. In the talk, I argue that IoT poses a number of particular challenges that we need to address (incl. the level of complexity and blurred lines across disciplines and expertise; power dynamics; and transparency). I outline inherent tensions and propose a few approaches on how to tackle them, especially around increasing transparency and legibility of IoT products.

I conclude with a call for Europe to actively take a global leadership role in the area of consumer and data protection, analog to Silicon Valley’s (claimed/perceived) leadership in disruptive innovation as well as funding/scaling of digital products, and to Shenzhen’s hardware manufacturing leadership.

You can find the slides, a video, and links to more extensive German write-ups in this blog post.

I also have a few talks coming up:

  • In October, I’ll be speaking at a lecture on communications and IoT at Dresden University, where if logistics work out I’ll be chatting a bit about the practitioner’s side of IoT. (Details TBD).
  • On 9 November, also in Berlin, I’ll be at SimplySecure‘s conference Underexposed (program). My talk there is called The Internet of Sneaky Things. I’ll be exploring how IoT security, funding and business models, centralization and data mining, and some larger challenges around the language we use to consider the impact of data-driven systems combined all form a substantial challenge for all things related to IoT. But it’s not all bleak. There are measures we can—and through ThingsCon, we do—take.

Wrapping up ODINE

For the last two years, I was part of the pool of evaluators for ODINE, the Open Data Incubator Network Europe. The program just ended, after funding around 57 companies doing interesting work with and around open data in Europe. And so now the list of evaluators is being made publicly available. As far as I can tell from the more-or-less outside, it was a successful project. Congratulations to the team and all the participants, and best of luck with the next steps.

Thinking & writing

ThingsCon

ThingsCon has too much to go on right now to include everything here, so I’ll point to the ThingsCon blog where we now also have monthnotes. When I opened last night’s ThingsCon Salon Berlin with a quick community update about what’s been happening across the ThingsCon network my mind was blown by the level of activity there.

The super short version is this: 15 events, 3 publications, and 2 ongoing newsletters so far this year alone, with much more coming up. (See thingscon.com/resources for links.)

The “coming up” section includes highlights like the biggest ThingsCon event to date with the annual ThingsCon Amsterdam, a world premiere in Antwerp in that it’s a new chapter, the first event in Flemish, and a comedy special to boot! It also looks like new events or chapters are in the making in Nairobi and Manila, which is very exciting. All that and much more at thingscon.com/events

Zephyr Berlin

Over at Zephyr Berlin, we’re preparing for the second small batch production. In the meantime, there are still a few pairs in some sizes available!

What’s on the horizon?

The next few weeks will go into wrapping up/advancing the Trustmarks for IoT project, as well as planning for the rest of the year. We’re starting a new client project in the space of evaluation of education programs in South Africa. ??

Hit me up if you’d like to discuss new projects.

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