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connected world

08 Nov


An easy guide to applying the #IOTmanifesto

November 8, 2015 | By |

The #IOTmanifesto is a great set of guidelines for designing connected products and services. (Read more about it on

Trying to make it more actionable (rather than just aspirational), the IOTmanifesto team created this cheatsheet that gives a bit of support in how to best apply the manifesto in everyday life, like say in a client meeting.

IoT Manifesto at Mozfest 2015

You’ll notice the color coding of the different phases of product design that the 10 guidelines of the manifesto. To make it a little easier to skim and read, here’s the list broken down into these phases (concept/design/implementation) and rearranged.

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07 Nov


#Homelab Kitchen at Mozfest

November 7, 2015 | By |

At this year’s Mozfest, Alexandra (designswarm) and I teamed up and, with support from the excellent Marcel & Harm (The Incredible Machine) joined the BBC R&D Homelab with #homelabkitchen, creating our own kitchen area at Mozfest’s Global Village. I was wearing the ThingsCon hat mostly, whereas Marcel & Harm focused on the IoT Manifesto and how to apply the insights to the kitchen in particular.

We set it up as a series of workshops to explore questions around domesticity, gender roles, and overall needs around a 21st century home and kitchen.

We also used the occasion to launch, where we’ll continue to explore these quesitions.

Below, some impressions from day 1.

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27 Oct


The key to a truly smart city is decentralization

October 27, 2015 | By |

Earlier this year, as preparation for some research & policy input for the German government, we dug into the current state of research around connected cities.

The lense we applied was that of how a smart city would impact societal life, responsive government, and of course the power balance between citizenry, administration, large companies and the infrastructure itself.

While our report is yet to be released, I just read a piece by Paul Mason in The Guardian where he takes a critical stance on smart cities and identifies some major changes we can expect when heading for a smart city (emphasis mine):

The privacy issues [with smartphones that by design are also tracking devices] are dealt with by limiting the flow of data between public and private sectors, and by making the individual the centre of the information flow. But in a smart city, you need data to flow freely across sectors that, in the commercial world, would normally be separate. The energy system needs to know what the transport system is doing. And the whole thing needs to be run like a “God game”: the city government, not the individual, must exercise control.

This idea of the need for (and opportunity inherent in) a central control instance certainly is an inherent premise of the vision that smart city vendors often try to push. (Why Mason seems to buy this I cannot tell – otherwise his piece is very critical and thorough.) It’s not a premise we need to accept and in fact I think we mustn’t accept.

A truly smart city for me requires decentralization, openness, democratic oversight, and the ability for bottom-up innovation.

A centralized coordinating and controlling instance – the central instance of a “God game” – is the opposite and as such a barrier to, rather than a requirement for, the smart city.

Current “pure play” smart cities like Masdar or Songdo may be “smart” in the sense that they use lots of data and adapt to it – thriving cities they are not.

And (again quoting Paul Mason) Madrid is going exactly that hopeful road:

Manuela Carmena asked advisers: what are the social problems we want technology to solve? The result was the vision of a “non-neoliberal smart city”, incorporating three principles not welcome in the world of high-profit tech companies: openness, democratic participation and a clear policy that data generated from public services should be publicly owned. “Rather than keep funding proprietary systems with public money, support open-source collaborative technologies,” Carmena was advised. Instead of beginning with the transport system, the first deployment of new technology should allow citizens to “raise issues of corruption, equity in the distribution of resources and open the question of access to power”.

This is pretty much what I’d also recommended.

Concretely, I’d recommend to build the Connected City Policy after the principles that governed the early days of the open internet: Openness, decentralized architecture, bottom-up innovation, and Postel’s law (the so-called robustness principle).

Then we can build the city as a platform that is decentralized, open source, and hackable; That empowers citizens and enables private enterprises to innovate; And that is especially responsive and resilient through inclusivity, diversity, peer-review, and human-centric design.

20 Oct


Understanding the Connected Home: Shared connected objects

October 20, 2015 | By |

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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19 Oct


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

October 19, 2015 | By |

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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12 Oct


Understanding the Connected Home: VUCA in the connected home

October 12, 2015 | By |

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

VUCA – volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity – is a framework to analyze military situations. It’s since been adapted to management/strategic thinking as well as foresight. We’ll make the case that VUCA can offer some valuable insight into the connected home.

First, a look at the four components of VUCA as explained by Wikipedia:

  • V = Volatility. The nature and dynamics of change, and the nature and speed of change forces and change catalysts.
  • U = Uncertainty. The lack of predictability, the prospects for surprise, and the sense of awareness and understanding of issues and events.
  • C = Complexity. The multiplex of forces, the confounding of issues and the chaos and confusion that surround an organization.
  • A = Ambiguity. The haziness of reality, the potential for misreads, and the mixed meanings of conditions; cause-and-effect confusion.

The connected home is a new space we don’t yet understand

We believe that as of today, we have only the earliest understanding on how connectivity in our living environment will change our lives. Hence, applying frameworks designed for strategic analysis and foresight might yield insights.

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08 Oct


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

October 8, 2015 | By |

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.