Taginterview

Monthnotes for July 2017

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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.

Interviewed for Stories Connecting Dots

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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”.

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)!

Interview: ThingsCon & responsible IoT on RBB

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RBB Kulturradio RBB, a public broadcast radio in Berlin, invited me to chat about smart homes and responsible IoT. So I put my ThingsCon hat on and headed over to their studio earlier today. You can listed to the stream (in German) over on their website:

RBB Kulturradio Tagesthema: Wie intelligent sollen unsere Geräte werden?

A few things were noteworthy to me.

  • Of course a short show like this (with two interview partners and call-in listeners) can only ever scratch the surface.
  • IoT in general and smart homes are areas both simultaneously so vague and concrete that everybody has an opinion and projects all kinds of hopes and fears. (Which is why I advocate breaking IoT discussions down into the most concrete areas—or arenas—possible.)
  • Lots of fears are of course proxies in which one particular technology or feature stand in for a larger personal or societal fear, like unemployment through automation, loss of control, or invasions of privacy.
  • Somewhat unexpectedly to me, Roombas featured prominently. The show’s host, at least one caller, and I all have a Roomba at home and it seems it’s one of the most relatable, most universally considered “useful” appliances in the connected home. That is, if you want to include a Roomba as part of the connected home suite – after all, most models aren’t connected to anything. However in conversations before, during, and after the show people mentioned the issues with the complexity of formerly extremely easy-to-use appliances like connected TVs or radios.

This show is as consumer-oriented a show as there could be rather, so listeners are unlikely to be involved in shaping IoT as practitioners. So we didn’t get to talk much about ethical or responsible IoT as much as I’d hoped to. But it’s also very clear that the topics we’ve been tackling with ThingsCon are arriving in the most mainstream circles, and that there’s a lot of work to do.

Users/consumers/citizens don’t really trust connected systems, and maybe they shouldn’t. Or rather, they shouldn’t unless they know these systems have been designed deliberately to be responsible, ethical, and built for humans. Which is exactly what the ThingsCon community works towards.

During the interview I also mentioned labels or trust marks for connected products/services/systems. A consumer-readable, simple labeling systems to allow for better informed decisions is, in my mind, essential going forward. I’ll certainly try to poke at this and see if we can make something happen, one way or another. I think this won’t be easy, but is far from impossible given the right partners—and I’m confident we can find them.

Berlin’s Baristas: Shawn Barber

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Berlin’s coffee scene has been exploding over the last few years. It’s fantastic! So I figured it’s time to go to some favorite baristas and ask them a few questions. Starting this mini series Berlin’s Baristas today is Shawn Barber, who (along with his partner in crime Chris Onton) kindly provides me with a delicious cup of flat white just about every day.

 

Companion Coffee logo

 

Tell us about yourself and your shop!

My name is Shawn Barber I am co-owner of Companion Coffee. I’ve been working with coffee for 10 years. Mostly in Canada where I first learnt about coffee and went on to help various businesses open cafes or to develop their current offering. I opened Companion in January of 2013 with long time friend and collaborator Chris Onton. We shared a lot of similar ideas about coffee, service and ethics. Tired of working for places we struggled to get behind ethically we wanted to branch out to do our own thing that we could be proud of. Companion is a Berlin based coffee and tea business with a focus on quality traceability. We offer training as well as our range of directly sourced tea to other cafes, catering for events, and operate a small cafe in Kreuzberg.

 

Chris hard at work providing coffee for a few hundred people at UIKonf 2014.

 

What brought you to Berlin?

I came to Berlin years ago as a tourist and ended up sticking around to help kick start the non-existent Berlin coffee scene. With my consulting background I was offered a gig to help local a business man realize his dream of owning a cafe. Once that was over and I was back in Canada I found myself missing Berlin and it’s laid back ways. When I got an email asking if I would consider returning to put together a coffee roaster I jumped at the opportunity. Shortly after returning I left that project to do Companion.

What is your signature drink?

I don’t know if I really have a signature drink… At the Cafe we offer a rotating selection of espresso from various roasters. I think over thirty high end roasters in the last year alone. So I guess I pride myself on a well extracted espresso.

 

 

Your current…

…favorite roast? I have a hard time picking a favourite roast or roaster. I will say that in the last few months Workshop from London and Square mile (also London) have been putting out some very consistent product. German based I like JB Kaffee and Five Elephant. I am also very excited about a Paris based roaster called Belleville who have been getting better and better ever since opening about ten months ago.

 

…favorite piece of kit? Well, I always like a good grinder. I think its the most important instrument in making good coffee. The new Nuova Simonelli grinder called Mythos 1 is brilliant.

 

…coffee at home? I do filter coffee at home. I use a Baratza grinder and a Hario V60 with a Bona Vita temp-controlled gooseneck kettle and naturally a set of scales.

I also drink a lot of tea at home. Something I have been really getting into the last year is quality tea. Not in a classic history based “let’s drink tea man” but in a more serious scales and thermometer sort of way. I really respect the process of tea and see it getting a lot more attention in the years to come as a culinary item.

A memorable experience with a customer?

I have to say at our shop we are very lucky to have a lot of great customers. We are not that easy to find and have a pretty limited offering. As a result most people who come do so for exactly what we do well. One great moment that pops to mind was on a consulting gig. We had helped them set up a coffee bar in their office about a month before and done a series of trainings. I went by to make a change to their grinder and ended up having one of the best espressos I’ve had all year made for me by one of the guys.

Any announcements or notes you’d like to share?

I don’t know if I really have any announcements… One thing I am really excited about is tea. We are waiting for new packaging to be designed for our tea and once it’s complete we will have six new teas on offer. These are teas I’m really pumped about and feel will mature and evolve our current offerings.

 

Learn more about Companion:

Interview: Apotheken Umschau / Volle Kontrolle über mich

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Apotheken Umschau

File under “unexpected media appearance”: A few weeks ago I was interviewed about personal analytics and the Quantified Self by a good old institution in the German media sphere, Apotheken Umschau. It’s one of those magazines that fly very much under the radar, yet have an incredible circulation of about 10 million printed copies (and 20 million reach): You can pick them up for free at any pharmacy, so they’re pretty much everywhere even if you’ll never see anyone reading it. Mysterious, eh?

Anyway, long story short, along with other familiar faces like Florian Schumacher of the QS Munich meetups I got to give my two cents on personal analytics. As the magazine is aimed squarely at a mainstream, non-technical audience, it’s all pretty much on the surface of things (which also explains how I turned into what looks like a stock photo), but it’s these opportunities to spread the word outside our bubble and immediate networks that I always enjoy – this is where stuff gets applied to real lives, after all.

So if you live in Germany, for two weeks you can pick up a copy for free at the pharmacy near you.