Tagiotmark

Defining an #iotmark for consumers

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A long over-due blog post, I wanted to share some thoughts on the recent #iotmark event that Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino and Usman Haque convened in London as a follow-up to the 2012 Open IoT Assembly (which produced this Open IoT Definition).

Most importantly (spoiler alert!) the #iotmark is a work in progress. You can follow along and/or contribute here.

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Consumer trust and the Internet of Things

Why is it important to talk about IoT and a label, certification, or trustmark? Because in IoT, it’s really hard for consumers to make an informed decision on which products and services to trust.

Partially this is because implications of anything are hard to gauge in the context of connected, data-driven systems. Partially it’s because the categories of IoT products aren’t fully matured yet and it’s not always clear what to expect from one thing over the other. But also, there’s a lot more going on under the hood that makes it nearly impossible to tell quality work from crap.

A shiny box could be built with top security processes in place by a trustworthy organization, or it could be slapped together haphazardly by a scammer. How would you know!

As a starting point, inspired by a conversation at the event, I made this 4-quadrant test:


Trust and expectations in IoT by The Waving Cat/Peter Bihr

This group of 40-50 participants went hard at it with lots of intense and super interesting conversations. IoT is a huge space, and the challenges are manifold and real.

The range of challenges (and hence, opportunities to tackle) include digital rights, transparency, data protection & privacy, innovation, security & safety, reparability and maintenance, business models, literacy, policy, and many more.

Different schools of thoughts: Purists versus Pragmatists

An aspect I found particularly interesting was the different schools of thought present—pretty much what Venkatesh Rao refers to as Purists versus Pragmatists.

I’m painting with a very broad brush here, but you could tell two underlying approaches to solving these very real issues:

  • Part of the group aimed for a purist approach: Aim high, and stick with the high goals. In terms of labeling, this would manifest in a desire to see a strongly backed, third party audited, highly trustworthy and credible certification of sorts.
  • The pragmatists on the other hand were guided by not letting the better be the enemy of the good. Their approach tended towards a more bottom-up, decentralized, organic label based on self-declarations that might get more widely adopted because it requires less overhead and hence would have a lower barrier to entry.


When collaboratively editing the first draft of the #iotmark doc, we broke Google Docs.

While I tend to be a little partial here and lean a little more towards the pragmatic side of things, I fully see why both sides have strong points in their favor. In a context like this, where there’s no golden path that’s guaranteed to work, it boils down to a philosophical question.

Will this get traction?

So where will this go? It’s hard to say yet, but we’re motivated to make it happen one way or another. (I’m involved on a voluntary basis by heading the governance working group together with Laura James.)

The interest is certainly there, as is promising precedence as you’ll see below: Stacey Higginbotham just covered the #iotmark on her (excellent!) blog, staceyoniot.com.

And we know that informal, ad-hoc gatherings can have a real impact. Decisions are made by those who show up! Steffen Ferber was a participant in the 2012 Open IoT Assembly, and he shared the story of how he introduced the Open IoT Definition we signed back then at Bosch.

Now, 5 years later, this impacts Bosch’s work in the space. (If the images in the embed below don’t load, just click through to the tweets.)

To me this is a great reminder and gives me a lot of hope: This type of work might not always seem glamorous and sometimes it’s hard to tell if it has an impact. But often that’s just because it unfolds its impact silently, in the background, and only much later the effect becomes visible.

A nice side effect of Bosch using the Open IoT Definition principles we laid out in 2012 is, by the way, that their products are now all pretty much automatically compatible with the GDPR, Europe’s new data protection regulation. Another case that illustrates that good ethics are good business!

I’m looking forward to continuing the very hands-on work on the #iotmark. Hopefully we can move it to a launch-able v1.0 shortly.

In the meantime, I’m also doing more research into the overall landscape and most promising approaches to an IoT trustmark, and how it might be developed and deployed for maximum positive impact.

It’s a good time to put a label on IoT for sure.

Monthnotes for June 2017

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One day you plant the seeds, and later you harvest. An old freelance friend used to say this to remind herself and me at the time of the cyclical nature of work. First you put in the work, then later it pays off. June is such a month of harvest: We published not one but two full-scale reports.

For this and much, much more: Keep reading.

If it seemed a bit quiet here last month it’s because it was the proverbial quiet before the storm, aka launch month.

View Source: Shenzhen

We went to Shenzhen to explore opportunities for collaboration between European Internet of Things practitioners and the Shenzhen hardware ecosystem—and how to promote the creation of a responsible Internet of Things. You can read the result here: View Source: Shenzhen

ThingsCon Report: The State of Responsible IoT

The ThingsCon report The State of Responsible IoT is a collection of essays by experts from the inter-disciplinary ThingsCon community of IoT practitioners. It explores the challenges, opportunities and questions surrounding the creation of a responsible & human-centric Internet of Things (IoT). You can read the result here: ThingsCon Report: The State of Responsible IoT

Trustmarks for the Internet of Things

My research into IoT labels to increase (and justify!) user trust in connected products continues.

As part of this research went to the Open IoT Definition (5 years later) hosted in London by Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino and Usman Haque. Just like the first convening of this loose group, it was excellent and intense—and we started a process to try and develop an #iotmark (iotmark.wordpress.com). It’s currently a v0.1 document open for input.

While I’ve been doing expert interviews for a broad range of input, we’ve also just launched a small online survey. If you work in IoT or adjacent fields, I’d love to hear from you!

I’m also planning to host a brief workshop on this attached to the ThingsCon Salon Berlin on 13 July. Please ping me if you’d like to participate (likely 15:30 to 17:00 or so).

Updated website

Perhaps a little less concrete but also relevant I think, I’ve reworked the company website to better reflect the types of work I’ve been doing these last few months and aim to continue doing. There were some seriously outdated things there.

The two core areas I’d sum up as strategy and research.

As a boutique strategy, research & foresight company we help guide our clients’ strategies regarding business, product, and research.

This top-level description now explicitly includes research and foresight, for reasons.

Maybe more notably I’ve introduced a dedicated research section because it’s something I’ve been doing with collaborators in almost all recent projects, but that basically wasn’t reflected at all on our website. Needless to say, I favor qualitative over quantitative.

To lead and advance the field, you need to look ahead and understand what’s on the horizon—and what’s possible. In future-facing areas like emerging tech, quantitative data doesn’t cut it: We provide—and help you apply—foresight & qualitative research so you stay ahead of the curve. This includes a wide range of methods and types of input and output. Because we are tapped into the backchannels of a large network of leading experts and collaborators, we have a powerful and fine-tuned radar for the near future.

You can find most of it on thewavingcat.com.

I’m curious to hear what you think!

ThingsCon

We launched ThingsCon report on the state of responsible IoT (see above), and are preparing a whole wave of ThingsCon Salons for July: Amsterdam, Berlin, Cologne & Darmstadt are all ready to roll.

The salons are also a great occasion to catch a screening of the View Source: Shenzhen video documentation that The Incredible Machine has been producing throughout our two Shenzhen trips!

The impact of a community also grows with its footprint. In that sense we’d like to get more ThingsCon chapters online: More cities, more local communities, all working together.


This map shows where ThingsCon events happened in the past or are currently planned.

Over on the ThingsCon blog we wrote:

ThingsCon is a complete community effort, driven largely by volunteer work. And that’s a feature, not a bug! This community has a seat at the table because lots of us show up when important decisions are made, and when the future of this industry is discussed.

Also:

We’re hoping that by the end of 2017, we’ll see 15 new chapters, including 5 in the global South! Combined with the existing chapters, this could easily make for a total of 50 more events just this year.

It’s easy to get involved. Let’s go!

Zephyr Berlin

Holiday season is coming up. We still have a (small & shrinking) stack of ultimate travel pants. Get yours now!

While we’re looking into (potentially! no promises!) running one more small batch, we’re super curious to learn how people have modded, hacked or repaired their Zephyrs. If you have, send us a pic, will ya?

Writing, talks, media

At DevOpsCon, I had the pleasure to talk Shenzhen with Stephanie Koch. Our session was called Shenzhen: IoT going rogue and we had a full house:

Photo by Markus Andrezak (Thank you, Markus!)

I also had a blast of a time discussing the challenges and opportunities of IoT and security at the Transatlantic Digital Debates with a group of smart fellows from both sides of the Atlantic.

Speaking of smart fellows: Together with Meike Laaff I ran a 3 day weekend workshop with stipendiaries of Heinrich-Böll-Foundation on the future of work and how digital, AI, IoT and adjacent technologies impact how we work, and how we think about work.

As for writing, in addition to the two reports listed at the top of this post I wrote:

What’s on the horizon?

Some writing, lots of research to be published later this year. I’ll also be speaking at ThingsCon Salon Berlin (about our Shenzhen trip), and at Das ist Netzpolitik! Also, we have 4 ThingsCon Salons coming up in July alone! Right after, in mid-July, I’ll be off on a vacation for a few weeks. If you’d like to talk about projects for after, ping me!

Trust and expectations in IoT

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One of the key challenges for Internet of Things (IoT) in the consumer space boils down to expectation management: For consumers it’s unreasonably hard to know what to expect from any given IoT product/service.

This is also why we’ve been investigating potentials and challenges of IoT labels and are currently running a qualitative online survey—please share your thoughts! The resulting report will be published later this year.

I think the quadrant of questions anyone should be able to answer to a certain degree looks somewhat like this (still in draft stage):


“Trust and expectations in IoT by The Waving Cat / Peter Bihr (image available under CC by)”

Let’s go through the quadrants, counter clockwise starting at the top left:

Does it do what I expect it do do?
This should pretty straightforward for most products: Does the fitness tracker track my fitness? Does the connected fridge refrigerate? Etc.

Is the organization trustworthy?
This question is always a tough one, but it comes down to building, earning, and keeping the trust of your consumers and clients. This is traditionally the essence of brands.

Are the processes trustworthy?
The most tricky question, because usually internal processes are really hard, if not impossible, to interrogate. Companies could differentiate themselves in a positive way by being as transparent as possible.

Does it do anything I wouldn’t expect?
I believe this question is essential. Connected products often have features that may be unexpected to the layperson, sometimes because they are a technical requirement, sometimes because they are added later through a software update. Whatever the reason, an IoT device should never do anything that their users don’t have a reason to expect them to. As an extra toxic example, it seems unreasonable to expect that a smart TV would be always listening and sharing data with a cloud-service.

If these four bases are covered, I think that’s a good place to start.