Tagemerging tech

Trust Indicators for Emerging Technologies

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For the Trustable Technology Mark, we identified 5 dimensions that indicate trustworthiness. Let’s call them trust indicators:

  • Privacy & Data Practices: Does it respect users’ privacy and protect their data rights?
  • Transparency: Is it clear to users what the device and the underlying services do and are capable of doing?
  • Security: Is the device secure and safe to use? Are there safeguards against data leaks and the like?
  • Stability: How long a life cycle can users expect from the device, and how robust are the underlying services? Will it continue to work if the company gets acquired, goes belly-up, or stops maintenance?
  • Openness: Is it built on open source or around open data, and/or contributes to open source or open data? (Note: We treat Openness not as a requirement for consumer IoT but as an enabler of trustworthiness.)

Now these 5 trust indicators—and the questions we use in the Trustable Technology Mark to assess them—are designed for the context of consumer products. Think smart home devices, fitness trackers, connected speakers or light bulbs. They work pretty well for that context.

Over the last few months, it has become clear that there’s demand for similar trust indicators for areas other than consumer products like smart cities, artificial intelligence, and other areas of emerging technology.

I’ve been invited to a number of workshops and meetings exploring those areas, often in the context of policy making. So I want to share some early thoughts on how we might be able to translate these trust indicators from a consumer product context to these other areas. Please note that the devil is in the detail: This is early stage thinking, and the real work begins at the stage where the assessment questions and mechanisms are defined.

The main difference between consumer context and publicly deployed technology—infrastructure!—means that we need to focus even most strongly on safeguards, inclusion, and resilience. If consumer goods stop working, there’s real damage, like lost income and the like, but in the bigger picture, failing consumer goods are mostly a quality of life issue; and in the case of consumer IoT space, mostly for the affluent. (Meaning that if we’re talking about failure to operate rather than data leaks, the damage has a high likelihood of being relatively harmless.)

For publicly deployed infrastructure, we are looking at a very different picture with vastly different threat models and potential damage. Infrastructure that not everybody can rely on—equally, and all the time—would not just be annoying, it might be critical.

After dozens of conversations with people in this space, and based on the research I’ve been doing both for the Trustable Technology Mark and my other work with both ThingsCon and The Waving Cat, here’s a snapshot of my current thinking. This is explicitly intended to start a debate that can inform policy decisions for a wide range of areas where emerging technologies might play a role:

  • Privacy & Data Practices: Privacy and good data protection practices are as essential in public space as in the consumer space, even though the implications and tradeoffs might be different ones.
  • Transparency & Accountability: Transparency is maybe even more relevant in this context, and I propose adding Accountability as an equally important aspect. This holds especially true where commercial enterprises install and possibly maintain large scale networked public infrastructure, like in the context of smart cities.
  • Security: Just as important, if not more so.
  • Resilience: Especially for smart cities (but I imagine the same holds true for other areas), we should optimize for Resilience. Smart city systems need to work, even if parts fail. Decentralization, openness, interoperability and participatory processes are all strategies that can increase Resilience.
  • Openness: Unlike in the consumer space, I consider openness (open source, open data, open access) essential in networked public infrastructure—especially smart city technology. This is also a foundational building block for civic tech initiatives to be effective.

There are inherent conflicts and tradeoffs between these trust indicators. But **if we take them as guiding principles to discuss concrete issues in their real contexts, I believe they can be a solid starting point. **

I’ll keep thinking about this, and might adjust this over time. In the meantime, I’m keen to hear what you think. If you have thoughts to share, drop me a line or hit me up on Twitter.

What’s hot this summer?

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today's office

Working, as I do, at the intersection of analyst, radar for emerging tech, curator and connector, I sometimes feel like a big I/O machine: I read a lot, hear a lot, see a lot of stuff that is still in the pipeline, and talk to the very people who are building the future every day.

Here’s a quick, unsorted and unprioritized snapshot: Which current trends are most fascinating and which might hold most potential? So find a nice shady spot outside your office, take some time and google away!

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A tipping point for bio

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Bio hacking lab at Share Conf 2013

It’s both my job and a great pleasure to be looking out for signals that point to something fundamentally new and interesting. Something that might be driven by a technology (or a combination of technologies) that will have a massive impact on the way we live – or at least offers that opportunity.

Over the last ten years, just to name a few, these mega trends (or tectonic shifts) include the whole way we connect more deeply online through what today is called Social Media and a normal part of our everyday lives; the way these connections started following us around more seamlessly through the mobile web; the way manufacturing and “reproduceability” changed through 3D printing and the fabbing movement; how the physical world joined us online in the Internet of Things, turning our physical environment more responsive.

Let’s look at all things bio

But for a couple of years now, there have been more and more signals – weak and odd and quirky at first, but quickly gaining strength – around biology: bio synthesis, DIY bio hacking and the like.

Just like 3D printing before, this all very much happens in the space of atoms – or of the organic – but with the thinking of the web overlaid. A combination of atoms & bits in the most literal way. And much like what later became known as Social Media started out with a myriad of competing terminologies (ubicomp, social computing, web 2.0…), I don’t think that the final terminology has yet emerged, making it somewhat harder to follow the many parallel discussions around bio/organic hacking in a structured way.

This phase of competing ideas and terminologies is usually a good sign that something is interesting enough that stakeholders from different angles are feeling out the same area, trying to figure out what’s going on there and where to take it. It’s when stuff is at Peak Interesting, long before the real impact becomes tangible. And no doubt, this area will have massive, profound impact on society, business, medical, industry. And no doubt this impact will come in many unexpected ways.

Tipping point

We’ve been talking about this for a while, and just a little while back I remember mentioning that the the signals are still just a little bit too scattered for me to fully engage. Not quite there yet, for the way I operate. But just now, this recent brief blog post over on O’Reilly Radar about the BioFabricate Summit kind of put me over the edge. I mentally mark this as a personal tipping point for the signal-to-noise ratio that triggers my dig-deeper impulse.

So I’ll be reading up on bio fabrication, bio hacking, bio synthesis. If I find enough interesting stimulus, the next step for me will be to think about a new conference around the issue: I still find it the best way to dive in and get all the players together.

If you’re aware of interesting stuff happening around this, particularly in Europe, please do share. Thanks!