Tagconnected home

Internet of Things as a range of arenas

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The term Internet of Things (IoT) is so large, so almost all-emcompassing, that it can get in the way of conversations: Just like the internet itself has become a horizontal technology that has touchpoints across (almost) all industries and (almost) all parts of (almost) all organizations, IoT is on the way to also cut across industries and organizational boundaries.

It can help to break it down into fields; they’re verticals of sort, but not quite: More like contexts in which IoT manifests. I like to think of them as arenas of IoT:

IoT Arenas IoT arenas. Image by Peter Bihr/The Waving Cat. Licensed under Creative Commons (CC by)

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Connected homes at Fuori Salone

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While in Milan to bring The Good Home to Fuori Salone, we tried to find some time to see what else is happening around connected homes. Turns out, a lot and not a lot at the same time.

Let me explain.

Every major exhibitor (kitchen manufacturers, etc.) has smart appliances of course – fridges, ovens, you name it. Also, smart lighting. Overall, a lot of home automation. Which is in the brief window of “kinda exciting” before, I suspect, going straight into banal in a very, very short time.

Going through the motions

But for all the novelty, overall it feels a bit like the big companies are merely going throught the motions. As if they’re ticking boxes off their bucket list: Smart light, check. Connected fridge, check.

I expect there’s a lot more interesting stuff coming up in a second wave of smart home products. For now, it seems there’s a lot of engineering and design power thrown at fairly minor problems.

At a (somewhat sterile, but very well done) corporate smart home exhibit in Puorta Nuova for example there was a touchscreen-equipped oven. When you pull up a recipe it can check in with the fridge to see if you have all the ingredients stocked. Interesting and convenient? Sure! Could I imagine using it? Maybe. Is it revolutionary? Hardly.

Smart homes crash

More importantly, at this same exhibit plenty of the exhibits wouldn’t work. They had crashed in the way that exhibits at fairs have always crashed. Only here it seems like it might not be a fair-specific issue but one with the whole category of product: If it’s connected, if it runs on a computer, it can and will crash. If the thing that crashes is an essential thing of our home, it sucks.

Failing infrastructure

When we think of infrastructure in the context of connectedness, security, and reliability we tend to think of “high risk” infrastructure: dams, power plants, public transport. This is the kind of connected infrastructure that gets a lot of attention in terms of security and quality assurance.

In the consumer space safety, security, and reliability is a different story with different (worse!) financial incentives to put as much effort into failsafes. Who’d pay twice the price for their kitchen appliance on the basis of security features after all?

However, I expect we’ll see a rethinking of that space. As we see more and more failures, as you hear of friends who can’t eat dinner because of a failed software upgrade or your fridge mis-orders food from Amazon or your heating will switch off in mid-winter because your wifi router goes down, we’ll start rethinking what infrastructure means in the home. After all, for decades we just assumed the appliances in our homes worked no matter what, because usually they did. (The occasional power outage is the exception that proves the rule. I still vividly remember a Christmas dinner during a storm-related power outage that we prepared in the fireplace – we were lucky we had one at the time!)

For now my impression is that the connected home is still in its infancy. This also means it’s a great time for our contribution through The Good Home. There’s much to be gained, many ideas to explored.

The Good Home at Fuori Salone Milan: Our projects

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The Good Home at Fuori Salone, Milan

As you know, we’re in Milan to bring The Good Home to Fuori Salone.

Between Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino, Iohanna Nicenboim, Michelle Thorne and myself we’re exhibiting 7 projects:

Data Domestication. Data Domestication uses the metaphor of pets to explore environmental sensors in the domestic environment. For example, the Air-quality Birdcage takes inspiration on how canaries were used as measuring systems for air quality in the past.

Home Totem. The Home Totem physically represents the owner’s privacy and sharing preferences within their home. Think dietary requirements, energy consumption profiles, records of former home ownership and the like.

Internet Adhesives. Internet Adhesives explores how to append the internet to everyday objects. This project argues that people shouldn’t have to buy a new object in order to get it talking with the web. It also argues that being able to open and modify an object is an important part of owning it.

Privacy Dimmer. The privacy dimmer can be regulated so that privacy in the connected home is controlled across a spectrum instead of just on/off. It consists of a set of two objects: a dimmer installed in the room, and a keyfob.

Recipes. Turn everyday objects into ingredients that you can use in recipes to control interactions in your home. Each visitor explores the kinds of objects they would want to be connected in their home and designs the interactions that they want–on their terms.

Home Sweet. Home Sweet sketches how we bring our own data to a home’s data and what kind of data service that could create. A new inhabitant could learn the history of the building, pending issues, and any local information that they may want to be aware of as they join a new neighbourhood.

Trickle. Trickle looks at how we might use motion and moveable home structures to interact differently with water. It enables us to make explicit decisions to throw water away or reuse it through a simple filtration unit.

You can find photos for all project in our The Good Home Fuori Salone album on Flickr.

Understanding the Connected Home: Shared connected objects

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This blog post is an excerpt from Understanding the Connected Home, an ongoing exploration on the implications of connectivity on our living spaces. (Show all posts on this blog.) The whole collection is available as a (free) ebook: Understanding the Connected Home: Thoughts on living in tomorrow’s connected home

As anyone who’s lived in a shared household can attest, there will be objects that you share with others.

Be it the TV remote, a book, the dining room table, or even the dishes, the connected home will not doubt be filled with objects that will be used by multiple people, sometimes simultaneously and sometimes even without the owner’s permission.

On the whole, you find wealth much more in use than in ownership. — Aristotle

Rival vs. non-rival goods

What will these shared, connected objects be like? What characteristics will define them?

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The 1926 Frankurt kitchen and what connected kitchens can learn from it

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In 1926, Austrian arthitect Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky designed the Frankfurt kitchen [Wikipedia], a kitchen concept aiming to be affordable and enable efficient work.

Image: Frankfurt Kitchen (Wikimedia Commons)

It was considerate, well designed. Groundbreaking in many ways, and influential in some. It made great use of space, brought high quality and top design to people at very affordable price levels. (About 10,000 units were installed in Frankfurt at the time.) All great, right?

But people struggled using it. And that’s where we can learn something for the connected kitchen.

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Work updates: New work with Bosch & a day of workshops at Mozfest

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Two things that have been keeping me busy for a while (and will continue to do so):

Building bridges with BoschSI

Together with Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino (Designswarm) I’ve been working with the good folks over at Bosch Software Innovations on building bridges between the company and the #iot, startup, designer, and developer communities. Focused around a conference, this is one of several projects to foster collaboration between the various scenes, actors and disciplines that make up the larger #iot ecosystem.

More on this soon.

Connected Home at Mozfest

In early November I’ll be headed to London for Mozfest for a few days of connected home fun. In a highly collaborative (and I daresay agile) fashion, Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino, Marcel Schouwenaar & Harm van Beek and I will be taking over a space inside the Global Village, a series of spaces that explore all things “connected home/space” in its various facets.

For me this is a bit of a singularity event in that it combines a whole bunch of strands and projects I’ve been working on:

Working closely with these fine people is the best thing ever. To say I’m very much looking forward to these few days would be an understatement.