Categorywork

A Trustmark for IoT: Some updates

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Just for the record, a few quick updates regarding my work on a trustmark for IoT.

Last year I did some research with the ThingsCon network and Mozilla about the potential of a trustmark for IoT. (Learn more about my report “A Trustmark for IoT”.) This year, we want to turn this research into action.

This is work that I’ll be doing under the ThingsCon umbrella with support from Mozilla Foundation—as of March 2018 I’m a Mozilla Fellow. (Read the ThingsCon announcement about the fellowship.) It’s an inherent part of this project to work as much in the open as possible. With this constellation in mind, the project documentation won’t happen primarily here at this blog and instead in the following places:

Also, I’m happy to report that the initiative is already getting quite a bit of attention, including an interview with the Wall Street Journal for their cybersecurity newsletter (paywall), and a mention in Mozilla’s Internet Health Report 2018. (See the media mentions round-up on the ThingsCon blog.)

Full disclosure: My partner works for Mozilla.

Zephyr Berlin: Featured in The Craftsman

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The Craftsman header

The brilliant and kind Gianfranco Chicco writes a super lovely monthly newsletter called The Craftsman. For it, he meets and interviews craftsmen (and women, obviously) around the world about their projects, products, and passions.

I’m super happy, and very much humbled, that Gianfranco approached us to feature Zephyr Berlin in the March edition (read issue #006 on Medium).

Zephyr Berlin is very much a passion project of Michelle’s and mine, and we dug deep into the craft aspect when working with our designer Cecilia. Also, I loved that he gave a shout-out to our iterated designs that feature extra deep pockets, the model we internally nick-named The Deep-Pocketed One.

Here’s the blog post over on zephyrberlin.com.

Monthnotes for February 2018

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What happened in February? I’m a little short on time today so let’s keep it short and sweet:

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The National IoT Plan in Brazil has been published by the Brazilian National Development Bank (BNDES)—and it’s so good to see our ThingsCon & Mozilla Trustmark for IoT report picked up there.

I’m very, very happy (and to be honest, a little bit proud, too) that this report just got referenced fairly extensively. To learn more context, here’s Brazil’s National IoT Plan, concretely in Action Plan / Document 8B (PDF). (Here’s the post on Thingscon.com.)

This is exactly the kind of outsized impact I always strive and hope for.

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We’re headed for a social media winter. I think we’re arriving in the post-social media era. It’s going to be interesting to see what’s next. My money is on small, private groups (think Whatsapp chats).

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Less formal media: For somewhat more off-the-cuff, more personal takes and pointers come join my semi-personal newsletter, Connection Problem.

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More formal media: For the first time in a long time, I have some things to advocate for (responsible IoT, trustmarks, etc.) and a story to tell. So I’m looking to improve my media presence beyond the occasional, fairly random interview or article. Still figuring out how to best go about it. Any pointers are welcome!

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

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That’s it for today. Have a great March!

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.