OpenIoT Design Sprint Anstruther


Spent a week on at an OpenIoT design sprint hosted by Mozilla and the University of Dundee in Anstruther, Scotland. The themes that emerged were around connectivity (or lack thereof), user research, and working with local communities:

  • Fisheries Museum (community home)
  • Farmers (clever countryside)
  • Teens (covert communication)

Here’s a quick overview of the project descriptions and some photos of the prototypes. My apologies for the quality of the photos; they were snapped on my phone for some quick documentation. You’ll find more (and likely better) photos on Twitter, Instagram, and the participants’ blogs. (Search for OpenIoT and Anstruther.)


Fisherman’s IoT


We spent a week in Anstruther, Scotland for an #OpenIoT design sprint organized by Mozilla and the University of Dundee. Here are some thoughts reflecting on our work there.

The Reaper is a traditional fishing vessel from Anstruther, Scotland. Built in 1902 as a sail boat, and retrofitted with an engine 14 years later, it continued its career as an active fishing boat until the late 1950s. Now the Reaper is a museum boat (museum’s Reaper page), maintained by the Scottish Fishery Museum in Anstruther.

I believe we can learn quite a bit from boats like the Reaper for the way we design contemporary #IoT systems, services, and products.

Learning about historic boats
The Reaper’s deck. More specifically, the Reaper’s capstan.


poetic/social/playful objects


Jorge Luis Borges’ poetic objects, Jyri Engestrom’s social objects, playful objects in the tradition of the more recent IoT explorations like Usman Haque’s addicted toaster or maybe the Ugle, a networked wooden owl that allows you to send a color message.

Borges, referring to a kind of literature of the fictional world of Tlön, whose language consists “ideal objects” which are “convoked and dissolved in a moment, according to poetic needs”. Second degree objects, combinable by an author in levels of complexity challenging comprehension, yet fleeting, ephemeral. Engestrom, using data points as a focal point that connects people. Digital, possibly lasting (for now). Haque, playing with perceptions of things, anthropomorphizing everyday objects that are connected, interactive, conveying playfulness.

(Bruno Latour’s Parliament of Things, re-surfacing in Adam Greenfield‘s notion of a Thing of Things (thing used here in the sense of assembly, as presented at the OpenIOT Assembly), also seem to be relevant in this context, although I’m not entirely sure how, beyond the more obvious power — and hence policy — implications.)

There’s a strong connection there, between these three types of objects and their interplay, yet to be explored, a meaning I’ve been trying to surface, so far unsuccessfully.

Gut-feeling: Where you cross the (admittedly blurry) lines between two or more of these types of objects it gets interesting. Take Alex D-SGood Night Lamp (GNL), both social and playful object. One could argue that its rapid prototyping-based nature taps right into Borges’/Tlön’s ephemeral poetic objects as well. The Ugle would probably also fit right at the intersection of social & playful, after all much like the GNL it represents an ambient social signal with low-key interactivity. David Bausola‘s Weavrs (like this one) are definitely playful, if purely digital in their current manifestation, and work around social objects in Engestrom’s sense – data points, images, blog posts, geo data. In other words: URLs.

How can we tap more into all three? What happens at the overlap of the Venn diagram of poetic/social/playful objects?

10 photos.


HMP London

Damien Hirst at Tate Modern


The Internet at #openiot

GoodNightLamp and WhereDial. Demo time at #openiot

city session at #openiot

Wrap up at #openiot. Good day! Next up: The Fox.


Type A Machines Series A at Noisebridge


Phew, what a week. 1. HMP London (whatever that is) 2. Damien Hirst at the Tate Modern 3. Wired 4. The Internet 5. Alex demoing the Good Night Lamp 6. part of my session for the internet of things bill of rights (cities) 7. discussing the internet of things bill of rights at the OpenIoT Assembly 8. heading from SF to London 9. checking out a 3D printer at Noisebridge 10. Golden Gate Bridge

#openIOT assembly and the city


At the OpenIOT Assembly I just stepped in for Mark Shephard and hosted a group discussion about how to apply the (currently draft status) Internet of Things Bill of Rights to the context of cities.

Just a part of our city session #openiot

We collected the full session notes in a gdoc, but below you’ll find the key points as I tried to summarize and cluster them.

It’s a big topic, or rather a cluster of related topics, and we didn’t find many answers but more questions. That was expected and doesn’t mean the session failed. It does however show that we need to dig deeper into any of the fields listed below, as well as a number of others. It also became clear quite quickly that there are no bodies currently in place to coordinate the efforts and represent user/citizen rights in this context. As Adam pointed out: There is room for a whole group of new NGOs to tackle all these issues.

Please note that this is a work in progress, and that it is my interpretation of what we talked about. It is very likely to be edited heavily both for style and content. If you’d like to get involved, the best way is to a) read on on the OpenIOT Assembly website and b) join the discussion list.

  • Accessibility

    • Data should be accessible to the creators/citizens to create value for all parties, not just the capturing party.
    • We need licenses to be legal/human/machine readable, preferably also with simple to recognize icons, so everybody understands the implications of licensing, privacy etc. Creative Commons model might serve as inspiration.
    • Privacy rules and standards need to adapt to local communities/cultures. Defining interoperable families of rights and permissions is key (Creative Commons model).
    • Licenses and families of licenses shall be designed to be interoperable to allow for regional and cultural adaption, and to allow for layering/stacking of licenses in more complex services.
  • Privacy

    • Privacy rules and standards need to adapt to local communities/cultures. Defining interoperable families of rights and permissions is key (Creative Commons model).
    • Trying to find the balance between the interest of public, citizen and commercial interest, the citizens’ rights enjoy priority over commercial interest. Safeguards for citizens’ rights should allow for maximum public good. The details depend on context (for example medical v transportation data).
    • Information sharing in the public space should be granular, giving the citizen control to go from “private” to “some openness” to “public”. APIs should reflect this.
    • Citizens should be notified when their data is captured, and be able to consent (opt in/opt out) of systems wherever possible, particularly in commercially exploitable contexts.
    • We urge designers to build services with privacy in mind, particularly with later aggregation and combination of other data sets in mind.
  • Portability

    • Citizens own the data they contribute to. They have the right to opt out of commercial use of their data, and can state how they want their data to be used.
    • Users/citizens should always know what data is collected about them, and be allowed to delete the data they contributed to whatever extent is possible.
    • If possible, services should be designed to allow to opt out retroactively after our actions were recorded.
  • Licensing

    • We need licenses to be legal/human/machine readable, preferably also with simple to recognize icons, so everybody understands the implications of the license. Creative Commons model might serve as inspiration.
    • Principle: The citizen as creator of data should be empowered in any way possible.

city session at #openiot

Thanks to the participants – too many to list completely, but I have at least some of the names: Martin Spindler, Erik van der Zee, Marc Pous, Matt Biddulph, Adam Greenfield, Shane Mitchell, Hariharan Rajasekaran, Nick O’Leary. Again, the list is taken from the session notes and likely to grow.

Update: You can now endorse the IoT Bill of Rights, aka Statement of the Open Internet of Things Assembly.