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Monthnotes for July 2017

August 8, 2017 | By | No Comments

July was short work month: I’m just coming back online from a vacation that started in mid-July. We spent the time on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees and across Basque Country. Gorgeous and highly recommended!

Ordesa Valley

Ordesa Valley

Ordesa Valley

Ordesa Valley / Torla

A quick note: I’ll be doing the fall planning over the next few weeks, and as of now there’s some availability. If you’re looking into expanding your markets, creating new products, or understanding the environment of connected products & users better, get in touch now. First come, first serve!

So what happened last month and what’s coming up?

Writing, talks, media

Stories Connecting Dots

Podcast: Stories Connecting Dots

Markus Andrezak of überproduct kindly invited me to his excellent podcast Stories Connecting Dots. This is episode 12, titled “Ethics for The Internet of Things”. (Read my blog post.)

We had a lovely, intense chat about ethics for the internet of things (IoT) space, how to start new projects, and lots more.

Quoting from the show notes:

That lead to getting to know the community around the Internet of Things, which again led to organising the first Thingscon in Berlin. An epic experience in starting a conference, low on budget, high on energy and even the attention of Bruce Sterling.
During the conversation, you will hear a lot about how Peter sees the world. And as I did not choose Peter by chance, you will hear a lot of things on
  • how to start things off
  • how to open things up for a larger community
  • how to be inclusive
  • how to have impact as a person or a small boutique
  • how to work in early phases once things are in genesis so that your impact may still be there when things grow to utility

Learn more about this episode and subscribe to the podcast (RSS, iTunes)!

Markus decided to split up our chat into two episodes because we covered a lot of ground. Where this one focused on the topics above, the next one is going to be all about Shenzhen.

Future-proofing your org / forecasting, IoT, AI

Recently I gave a presentation for a large retailer on how to future-proof the organization. I focused on forecasting as a method, Joi Ito’s motto Compasses over Maps, and an eclectic selection of signals from the world of IoT, AI, and humans & machines working side by side.

It’s somewhat anonymized/cleaned up from concrete references. It’s also an elusive, rarely spotted set of slides in German!

ThingsCon Report: The State of Responsible IoT

Thanks to Bruce Sterling, our ThingsCon report on the State of Responsible IoT was featured on WIRED. Yay!

Bruce Sterling featured our report on WIRED
Bruce Sterling featured our report on WIRED

Read our ThingsCon Report: The State of Responsible IoT.

View Source: Shenzhen

At the most recent ThingsCon Salon Berlin, Shenzhen was featured heavily.

Among other things, we screened The Incredible Machine’s documentary of their quest to build a smart lock as part of a more responsible bike sharing service. This film was created as part of our joint research trips to Shenzhen that I also documented in View Source: Shenzhen.

So for context, I gave a brief introduction to Shenzhen.

My slides and the recorded talk:

Here’s The Incredible Machine’s documentary:

Learn more about View Source: Shenzhen.

Trustmarks for the Internet of Things

I’ve been working on two projects directly related to trust in IoT. I wrote up some thoughts on the underlying issues and challenges that are relevant to both here.

Trust and Expectations in IoT
Trust and Expectations in IoT

So what are the two projects?

The #iotmark initiative, co-founded by Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino and Usman Haque (both friends, collaborators, and ThingsCon alumni) tries to develop a consumer label for IoT products. Follow along and get involved at iotmark.wordpress.com. Together with Laura James of UK charity Doteveryone, my role is to look into governance structures. Some early thoughts about the kickoff event here.

For Mozilla, I’ve been doing research into the potential of trustmarks for IoT. The report should be done by the fall and will be published in full. (Disclosure: My partner Michelle Thorne works for Mozilla.)

ThingsCon

July was a big ThingsCon month!

With four ThingsCon events (Amsterdam, Berlin, Cologne, Darmstadt), we have a new record of events per month.

Above, you’ve already seen the publication of the video documentary that came out of our recent Shenzhen trips.

Our non-profit structure was approved in Germany (an e.V.) and just received its tax number. This being Germany, the tax number unlocks all the next steps, like opening a bank account, and essentially being able to conduct any official business.

We’re in conversations with local teams about (hopefully) founding several new ThingsCon chapters in Asia and Africa. This is super exciting to me! More on that soon. I’d love to see more chapters around the world, especially in the global South.

Zephyr Berlin

Get yourself a pair of Zephyr Berlin pants now—there’s only a few left.

We’re back in tinker mode. We prototyped new, extra-deep pockets. This was by far the most requested feature.


A few extra centimeters of depth.


Deep pockets are deep.

I'm pushing down the phone in the pocket so you can see the outline a little all the way down. Those are deep pockets!
I’m pushing down the phone in the pocket so you can see the outline a little all the way down. Those are deep pockets!

By the way, if you already have a pair and would like to upgrade, there’s no need to replace your current one: We had this change done by our local tailor and would encourage you to do the same. It’s easy, it’s just a few bucks, and most importantly it means keeping your clothes in use longer.

We’re still looking for examples of how people have modded, hacked or repaired their Zephyrs. If you have, send us a pic, please?

What’s on the horizon?

Outside the ongoing client projects there are a bunch of conference presentations coming up that I’m very much looking forward to:

I’ll be speaking at the conference Das ist Netzpolitik!. At the request of the organizers, even in German! The preliminary title of my presentation: Das Internet der Dinge: Rechte, Regulierung & Spannungsfelder.

Also, I’ll be at SimplySecure’s Underexposed conference to talk about The Internet of Sneaky Things.

Last but not least, I’m planning to head to Mozfest later this fall, too, for all of the stuff related to IoT labels and trustmarks mentioned above.

23 Jul

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ThingsCon Salon Berlin July videos are up!

July 23, 2017 | By |

On 14th July we had another ThingsCon Salon Berlin. You can learn more about upcoming ThingsCon events here.

Here’s the presentations!

Gulraiz Khan

Gulraiz Khan (@gulraizkhan) is a transdisciplinary designer who works on civic engagement. As an urbanist, he is interested in developing grassroots engagement methods that can help communities thrive through political and environmental flux. He is currently working as a Lecturer in Communication & Design at Habib University in Karachi, Pakistan. Prior to this, he received an MFA in Transdisciplinary Design from Parsons The New School for Design in New York. He also serves at the Assistant Director for The Playground, the Centre for Transdisciplinarity, Design and Innovation at Habib University.

Peter Bihr

Peter Bihr (@peterbihr) gave a few remarks about the trip and available for an informal chat about Shenzhen.

Screening of View Source: Shenzhen

We screened the brand new video documentary about the ThingsCon trip to Shenzhen. Produced by The Incredible Machine with support from the Creative Industry Fund NL, this is the video counterpart to the written View Source: Shenzhen report we just published and shows the journey that The Incredible Machine had when trying to build a smart bike lock in Shenzhen.

Hope to see you soon at a ThingsCon event near you!

23 Jul

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14 Jul

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ThingsCon Salon Berlin & Shenzhen

July 14, 2017 | By |

Last night we had the third ThingsCon Salon Berlin (see all ThingsCon events).

To set up the Berlin premiere screening of The Incredible Machine‘s Shenzhen video documentary, I shared some impressions from the hardware ecosystem in Shenzhen, Huaqiangbei market, and our experience there. The slides consist mostly of photos, but I hope you’ll enjoy them.

The documentary is based on our recent joint trips to Shenzhen, as is the report I wrote about it, View Source Shenzhen.

Here’s the documentary, too:

14 Jul

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Future-proofing your org / forecasting, IoT, AI

July 14, 2017 | By |

Recently I gave a presentation for a large retailer on how to future-proof the organization. I focused on forecasting as a method, Joi Ito’s motto Compasses over Maps, and an eclectic selection of signals from the world of IoT, AI, and humans & machines working side by side.

It’s somewhat anonymized/cleaned up from concrete references. It’s also an elusive, rarely spotted set of slides in German!

05 Jul

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Defining an #iotmark for consumers

July 5, 2017 | By |

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.

///

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.

29 Jun

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Monthnotes for June 2017

June 29, 2017 | By |

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!