Categorywork

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 time lines 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 (see below). 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.

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.

We relaunched our website

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We just relaunched our website for more clarity and to better reflect our work, both recent and future.

So what’s new?

Less images, more text

At a glance you’ll notice that it’s a lot more built with text in mind. This reflects our output, and should lead to much, much faster load times.

Clear structure

A lot of cruft went out the door. This allows for a much clearer structure.

The front page still offers an overview of the company, but CLIENT SERVICES and IN-HOUSE PROJECTS are more visibly separated, and text highlights allow for extra quick skimming.

The ABOUT navigation item recently got their own STRATEGY and RESEARCH & FORECASTING sections, so that was all new and fresh and will stay this way for now.

Better navigation

What’s new is the navigation item OUTPUT. Clicked directly, it offers an at-a-glance overview of all the many outputs we produce, including REPORTS, BOOKS, THINGSCON, and also SPECIAL PROJECTS like Zephyr Berlin, Dearsouvenir, and other experiments and spin-offs.

Sub-pages of OUTPUT provide a higher-rez overview of PUBLICATIONS (for books & reports), PROJECTS (for highlight client projects as much as the results are publicly sharable), and SPECIAL PROJECTS (as mentioned before).

MEDIA & SPEAKING are still largely unchanged, just a little cleaned up. They work, 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.

Curious what you think. If you see something that looks broken, say something. Thanks!

Wrapping up at the ODINE project

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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. The list of evaluators is now officially being made public. (It should be online on the ODINE website soon.)

As far as I can tell from the more-or-less outside, it was a successful project.

While reviewing multiple times, I think only once did I participate in on a day of interviews with a bunch of applicants and teams onsite. During that day, I was impressed with the overall level of conversations.

Now that the program is being wrapped up, I’d like to congratulate the team and all the participants. Best of luck with the next steps.