Categorywork

Monthnotes for January 2018

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January isn’t quite over, but since I’ll be traveling starting this weekend, I wanted to drop these #monthnotes now. A lot of time this month went into prepping an upcoming project which is likely to take up the majority of my time in 2018. More on that soon.

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Capacity planning: This year my work capacity is slightly reduced since I want to make sure to give our new family member the face time he deserves. That said, this year’s capacity is largely accounted for, which is extra nice given it’s just January, and it’s for a thing I’m genuinely excited about. That said, I think it’s important to work on a few things in parallel because there’s always potential that unfolds from cross-pollination; so I’m up for a small number of not-huge projects in addition to what’s already going on, particularly in the first half of the year. Get in touch.

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On Sunday, I’m off to San Francisco for a work week with the good folks at Mozilla because reasons and a number of meetings in the Bay Area. (Full disclosure: my partner works at Mozilla). Last year I’ve done some work with Mozilla and ThingsCon exploring the idea of a trustmark for IoT (our findings).

Image: commons (SDASM Archives)

Should you be in SF next week, ping me and we can see if we can manage a coffee.

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IoT, trust & voice: More and more, I’m coming around to the idea that voice is the most important—or at least most imminent—manifestation of IoT regarding user data. Voice, and how it relates to trust, is what I’ll be focusing on a lot of my work in 2018.

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User profiling in smart homes: Given my focus on voice & trust in IoT this year, I was very happy that Berlin tech & policy think tank Stiftung Neue Verantwortung invited me to a workshop on user profiling in smart homes. It was all Chatham House rules and I don’t want to dive into specifics at this point, but smart homes and voice assistants are worth a deep dive when it comes to trust—and trustworthiness—in IoT.

Connected homes and smart cities

Not least because (as I’ve been hammering home for a long time) the connected home and the smart city are two areas that most clearly manifest a lot of the underlying tensions and issues around IoT at scale: Connected homes, because traditionally the home was considered a private space (that is, if you look at the last 100 years in the West), and embedded microphones in smart homes means it’s not anymore. And smart cities, because in public space there is no opt-out: Whatever data is collected, processed, and acted on in public space impacts all citizens, if they want it or not. These are fundamental changes with far reaching consequences for policy, governance, and democracy.

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Worth your time: A few pointers to articles and presentations I found worthwhile:

  • Kate Crawford’s talk on bias in AI training data is ace: The Trouble with Bias [Youtube].
  • TechCrunch has a bit of a top-level explainer of GDPR, Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation that goes into effect in May this year. It’s being widely lauded in Europe (except by the usual suspects, like ad-land), and been unsurprisingly criticized in Silicon Valley as disruptive regulation. (See what I did there?) So it came as a pleasant surprise to me that TechCrunch of all places finds GDPR to be a net positive. Worth 10 minutes of your time! [TechCrunch: WTF is GDPR?]
  • noyb.eu—My Privacy is none of your Business: Max Schrems, who became well-known in European privacy circles after winning privacy-related legal battles including one against Facebook and one that brought down the US/EU Safe Harbor Agreement, is launching a non-profit: They aim to enforce European privacy protection through collective enforcement, which is now an option because of GDPR. They’re fundraising for the org. The website looks crappy as hell very basic, but I’d say it’s a legit endeavor and certainly an interesting one.

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Writing & thinking:

  • In How to build a responsible Internet of Things I lay out a few basic, top-level principles distilled from years of analyzing the IoT space—again with an eye on consumer trust.
  • On Business Models & Incentives: Some thoughts on how picking the wrong business model—and hence creating harmful incentives for an organization to potentially act against its own customers—is dangerous and can be avoided.
  • I’ve been really enjoying putting together my weekly newsletter together. It’s a little more personal and interest-driven than this blog, but tackles similar issues of the interplay between tech & society. It’s called Connection Problem. You can sign up here.

I was also very happy that Kai Brach, founder of the excellent Offscreen magazine kindly invited me to contribute to the next issue (out in April). The current one is also highly recommended!

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Again, if you’d like to work with me in the upcoming months, please get in touch quickly so we can figure out how best to work together.

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That’s it for January. See you in Feb!

Monthnotes for December 2017

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December was a slow month in terms of work: We had a baby and I took a few weeks off, using what little time was left to tie up some loose ends and to make sure the lights were still on. In January, I’ll be back full time, digging into some nice, big, juicy research questions.

My capacity planning for 2018 is in full swing. If you’d like to work with me in the upcoming months, please get in touch quickly.

Media

SPIEGEL called to chat about insecure IoT devices. We chatted about the state of the IoT ecosystem, externalized costs, and consumer trust. In the end, a short quote about cheaply made, and hence insecure, connected gadgets made the cut. The whole article is available online (in German) here: SPIEGEL: Internet der Dinge Ist der Ruf erst ruiniert, vernetzt es sich ganz ungeniert.

Thinking & writing

Just two quick links to blog posts I wrote:

  • The key challenge for the industry in the next 5 years is consumer trust is something I originally had written for our client newsletter, but figured it might be relevant to a larger audience, too. In it, I explore some of the key questions that I’ve recently been pondering and that have been coming up constantly in peer group conversations. Namely, 1) What’s the relationship between (digital) technology and ethics/sustainability? 2) The Internet of Things (IoT) has one key challenge in the coming years: Consumer trust. 3) Artificial Intelligence (AI): What’s the killer application? Maybe more importantly, which niche applications are most interesting? 4) What funding models can we build the web on, now that surveillance tech (aka “ad tech”) has officially crossed over to the dark side and is increasingly perceived as no-go by early adopters?
  • Focus areas over time explains how the focus area of my work has shifted from across a number of emerging technologies and related practices.

Newsletter

I’ve pulled my good old newsletter out of storage, blown off the dust, and been taking it for a spin once more. I’m experimenting with a weekly format of things I found worth discussing, some signals on my radar, and some pointers to stuff we’ve been working on. To follow along as I try and shape my thinking on some incoming signals, sign up here for Season 3.

What’s next?

Capacity planning for 2018 is in full swing, and it’s shaping up to be a busy year. There’s a couple of big projects that (barring some major hiccups) will kick off within the next few weeks. Just like I’ve done a lot of self-directed research in 2017 which has been tremendously useful, I’ll continue this kind of work in 2018. I’ll try to also write a lot to help spread what I learn that way. Between all of that, the year is filling up nicely. It looks like 2018 won’t be boring, that’s for sure.

If you’d like to work with me in the upcoming months, please get in touch quickly so we can figure out how best to work together.

The key challenge for the industry in the next 5 years is consumer trust

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Note: Every quarter or so I write our client newsletter. This time it touched on some aspects I figured might be useful to this larger audience, too, so I trust you’ll forgive me cross-posting this bit from the most recent newsletter.

Some questions I’ve been pondering and that we’ve been exploring in conversations with our peer group day in, day out.

This isn’t an exhaustive list, of course, but gives you a hint about my headspace?—?experience shows that this can serve as a solid early warning system for industry wide debates, too. Questions we’ve had on our collective minds:

1. What’s the relationship between (digital) technology and ethics/sustainability? There’s a major shift happening here, among consumers and industry, but I’m not yet 100% sure where we’ll end up. That’s a good thing, and makes for interesting questions. Excellent!

2. The Internet of Things (IoT) has one key challenge in the coming years: Consumer trust. Between all the insecurities and data leaks and bricked devices and “sunsetted” services and horror stories about hacked toys and routers and cameras and vibrators and what have you, I’m 100% convinced that consumer trust?—?and products’ trustworthiness?—?is the key to success for the next 5 years of IoT. (We’ve been doing lots of work in that space, and hope to continue to work on this in 2018.)

3. Artificial Intelligence (AI): What’s the killer application? Maybe more importantly, which niche applications are most interesting? It seems safe to assume that as deploying machine learning gets easier and cheaper every day we’ll see AI-like techniques thrown at every imaginable niche. Remember when everyone and their uncle had to have an app? It’s going to be like that but with AI. This is going to be interesting, and no doubt it’ll produce spectacular successes as well as fascinating failures.

4. What funding models can we build the web on, now that surveillance tech (aka “ad tech”) has officially crossed over to the dark side and is increasingly perceived as no-go?

These are all interesting, deep topics to dig into. They’re all closely interrelated, too, and have implications on business, strategy, research, policy. We’ll continue to dig in.

But also, besides these larger, more complex questions there are smaller, more concrete things to explore:

  • What are new emerging technologies? Where are exciting new opportunities?
  • What will happen due to more ubiquitous autonomous vehicles, solar power, crypto currencies? What about LIDAR and Li-Fi?
  • How will the industry adapt to the European GDPR? Who will be the first players to turn data protection and scarcity into a strength, and score major wins? I’m convinced that going forward, consumer and data protection offer tremendous business opportunities.

If these themes resonate, or if you’re asking yourself “how can we get ahead in 2018 without compromising user rights”, let’s chat.

Want to work together? I’m starting the planning for 2018. If you’d like to work with me in the upcoming months, please get in touch.

PS: I write another newsletter, too, in which I share regular project updates, thoughts on the most interesting articles I come across, and where I explore areas around tech, society, culture & business that I find relevant. To watch my thinking unfolding and maturing, this is for you. You can subscribe here.

Focus areas over time

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The end of the year is a good time to look back and take stock, and one of the things I’ve been looking at especially is how the focus of my work has been shifting over the years.

I’ve been using the term emerging technologies to describe where my interests and expertise are, because it describes clearly that the concrete focus is (by definition!) constantly evolving. Frequently, the patterns become obvious only in hindsight. Here’s how I would describe the areas I focused on primarily over the last decade or so:

focus areas over time Focus areas over time (Image: The Waving Cat)

Now this isn’t a super accurate depiction, but it gives a solid idea. I expect the Internet of Things to remain a priority for the coming years, but it’s also obvious that algorithmic decision-making and its impact (labeled here as artificial intelligence) is gaining importance, and quickly. The lines are blurry to begin with.

It’s worth noting that these timelines aren’t absolutes, either: I’ve done work around the implications of social media later than that, and work on algorithms and data long before. These labels indicated priorities and focus more than anything.

So anyway, hope this is helpful to understand my work. As always, if you’d like to bounce ideas feel free to ping me.

Monthnotes for November 2017

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November was for wrapping up some client work and speaking, and for starting the planning for 2018. On a personal note, we also had a baby and so things have been a little slower than usual these last couple of weeks. So we’ll keep going as normal for now, just with a bigger smile on my face.

I’m starting the planning for 2018. If you’d like to work with me in the upcoming months, please get in touch.

Media

Netzpolitik: In September I spoke at Netzpolitik’s annual conference, Das ist Netzpolitik. While I was there, Netzpolitik.org also recorded an interview with me: “Regulierung und Datenschutz im Internet der Dinge“:

stories connecting dots

Stories Connecting Dots: Back in July, the smart & ever-lovely Markus Andrezak interviewed me for his podcast Stories Connecting Dots. The second part of our interview just went live and I’m honored to be opening the second season of SDC discussing Shenzhen’s IoT ecosystem.

Thinking, writing, speaking

Underexposed: On 9 November, I spoke at SimplySecure‘s conference Underexposed (program). It was an excellent event, put together by the even-more-excellent Ame Elliott.

My talk was called The Internet of Sneaky Things. In it, I explored how IoT is at a crossroads, and we can either let it become the Internet of Sneaky Things or we can make it better, more human-centric, and more responsible.

Underexposed also surfaced a conversation that’s been picking up steam: The importance of great and simple-to-use documentation, tooling and toolkits for designers and developers to make their products and processes more safe, secure, and ethical. And analog, of course, the equivalents for strategist, entrepreneurs, and everybody else: All the experts in their fields might not be experts in these other, often thorny meta areas, so let’s build tools that make their life easier. This led to this list of toolkits for designers around ethics & emerging tech.

Good School: I also spoke at Good School, a Hamburg-based executive leadership program, where I was happy to give a glimpse or two at China and its digital landscape as we experienced it during our recent research trips to Shenzhen and Shanghai. The feedback was fantastic—seems the topic struck a nerve.

Inflection point [blog post]: AI, IoT, Robotics: We’re at an inflection point for emerging technologies

Newsletter

For a long time, I’ve been writing (on and off) a newsletter with some work related and some more personal notes: Some project updates, some half-formed thoughts, some freshly explored ideas, some articles I found interesting.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been trying to write that newsletter more regularly, and experimenting with a weekly format of things I found worth discussing. To follow along as I try and shape my thinking on some incoming signals, sign up here for Season 3.

ThingsCon

Lots of ThingsCon action around the world: Dublin is confirmed (details TBD), we’re having promising conversations with teams in two cities in the US, Shenzhen is on the way to turn into a regular event series, and another 1-2 cities in China might also happen soon.

In the meantime, because this month’s notes are a little delayed, the big annual ThingsCon Amsterdam has happened (check out the videos), and ThingsCon Nairobi premiered to a full house, too!

Miscellaneous

I learned a word from Cennydd: Provocatype, “a speculative prototype that isn’t ‘good’ product per se, but is intended to spark conversation”. It made instant sense. Definitively a keeper.

If you’d like to work with me in the upcoming months, please get in touch.

Launching the ThingsCon Fellowship Program

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Please note: This is cross-posted from the ThingsCon blog.

We’re happy to announce the ThingsCon Fellowship Program.

The ThingsCon Fellowship recognizes achievements and commitment that advance the ThingsCon mission of fostering the creation of a responsible and human-centric IoT generally, and support for the ThingsCon community specifically.

With the program, we aim to amplify the fellows’ work in this area and to promote knowledge transfer and networking between fellows and the larger ThingsCon network.

The first round of fellows for 2017/2018 consists of a small cohort of ThingsCon allies. These individuals have over the past years put tremendous effort into advancing and promoting the ThingsCon mission.

We are both humbled and proud to welcome these six outstanding individuals as the inaugural ThingsCon Fellows:

ThingsCon Fellows 2017-2018

Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino Ame Elliott Dries de Roeck Iohanna Nicenboim Michelle Thorne Ricardo Brito

Together with them we will develop and evolve the ThingsCon Fellowship program through a collaborative process of mutual exchange and shared learning.

Learn more about the program and the fellows on thingscon.com/fellowship.

Monthnotes for October 2017

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October wasn’t just productive. This month our work got a ton of attention across different projects—which is great as it leads to great conversations and is indicative of larger impact. Speaking of impact, over on ThingsCon we realized a long-held dream by announcing the ThingsCon Fellowship program. This and more below. Enjoy!

If you’d like to explore working together, please get in touch.

Lots of conversations & media attention

It’s always great to see own work get attention. After all, this is how impact starts.

There was some excellent Twitter action when in one day, Mozilla‘s main account tweeted our trustmark report, and Medium‘s featured my thoughts on Google’s push to AI-powered services which had already been going somewhat viral. This started a number of fantastic conversations. Then VentureBeat asked to cross-post my recent article on Germany’s need to get ready for AI. A nice hat-trick indeed.

CNN screenshot

As if this wasn’t enough, in an op-ed on CNN.com on the future of IoT, Mozilla CEO Mark Surman and Michelle Thorne kindly gave not one but two shout-outs to ThingsCon, too!

stories connecting dots

Also, remember when back in July, the smart & ever-lovely Markus Andrezak interviewed me for his podcast Stories Connecting Dots? The second part of our interview just went live and I’m honored to be opening the second season of SDC discussing Shenzhen’s IoT ecosystem.

ThingsCon Fellowship Program

I could not be more happy to announce the ThingsCon Fellowship Program. It’s been a long-held dream of mine to start this, and I can hardly believe it’s finally happening.

The ThingsCon Fellowship recognizes achievements and commitment that advance the ThingsCon mission of fostering the creation of a responsible and human-centric IoT generally, and support for the ThingsCon community specifically. With the program, we aim to amplify the fellows’ work in this area and to promote knowledge transfer and networking between fellows and the larger ThingsCon network.

The first round of fellows for 2017/2018 consists of a small cohort of ThingsCon allies. These individuals have over the past years put tremendous effort into advancing and promoting the ThingsCon mission. We are both humbled and proud to welcome these six outstanding individuals as the inaugural ThingsCon Fellows:

ThingsCon Fellows 2017-2018 ThingsCon Fellows 2017-18

Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino Ame Elliott Dries de Roeck Iohanna Nicenboim Michelle Thorne Ricardo Brito

Thinking, writing, speaking

At the invitation of Prof. Sven Engesser at Technical University Dresden, I had the pleasure of presenting to the master students of applied media studies. Here are my slides (in German):

It’s great to see that communication science/media studies tackle IoT and human-computer interfaces as a field of research. I was impressed with the level of thinking and questions from the group. The discussion was lively, on point, and there were none of the obvious questions. Instead, the students probed the pretty complex issues surrounding IoT, AI, and algorithmic decision making in the context of communications and communication science. It’s part of the master program, and of Prof. Engesser’s new role as professor there, to also set up a lab to study how smart home assistants and other voice-enabled connected devices impact the way we communicate at home—both with other people and with machines. It’ll be interesting to watch the lab’s progress and findings, and I hope we’ll find ways to collaborate on some of these questions.

What else?

I was more than a little pleased to learn that our recent work on a trustmark for IoT that we’ve been doing with Mozilla (see thewavingcat.com/iot-trustmark) is continuing to unfold its impact: I had heard whispers before, and now heard confirmation, that some core recommendations from our report found their way into a large country’s national IoT policy. It’s not yet published, but will be soon.

What’s next?

A project with our office neighbors, the lovely Syspons team, is kicking off. It’s about increasing the impact of health education in South Africa, which I’m quite excited about.

In the next few weeks we’ll also decide what the next steps are for our IoT Trustmark efforts.

On 9 November, 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 is at a crossroads, and we can either let it become the Internet of Sneaky Things or we can make it better, more human-centric, and more responsible.

Later this month I’ll be also speaking at Good School, a Hamburg-based executive leadership program, where I’ll be giving a glimpse or two at China and its digital landscape.

And last but not least, a personal note (which is rare on this blog): We’re expecting a baby within the next few weeks, which of course makes me very happy. My tweets and monthnotes might temporarily become a little more irregular (or not), and or time-shifted to odd late night postings (or not). Who knows? We’ll see! Next year I’ll likely take a few months off to stay home with the little one. But until then, everything else here will continue as normal for now.

In the meantime, please get in touch if you’d like to discuss new projects.