The smart home needs a narrative

living room of the future

I was reading this post and was thinking living room of the future in my head.

So I get why Google has backed off the smart home moniker and instead begun labeling the connected home as “helpful.” It needs to dial back expectations to something it can deliver. That’s likely to consist of an assistant pulling in device data so it can remind you to lock your front door when you go to bed, or lowering the heat when you leave your home so as to save on electricity. Even things like Amazon’s Guard, which listens for glass breaking to determine if a burglar has broken in, is only of minimal interest to consumers.

Because while these are nice functions, they are not glitzy functions. And they are not going to persuade people concerned about privacy, longevity, added complexity, security, or costs to shell out for connected devices. Another good example of this ambivalence to the smart home could be seen on a panel about smart TVs, connected displays and voice. The panel featured executives from Warner Media and Fox representing the content business. Neither of them were able to offer a compelling reason for being at a show all about the IoT other than wanting to make it easy for people to access content around the house, in their car, and on their phone.

I’ve felt this lack of creativity for a while. Everyone who has been watching this space has. Maybe it’s because the first decade of the smart home has been such a messy free-for-all and we need some space to clean things up, lower expectations, and focus on making devices and integrations usable

That lack of creativity is felt everytime I look at the new silos which are being built. The whole thing is being driven in the wrong direction and ultimately into the ever so cold arms of surveillance capitalism.

Its currently difficult to imagine IOT without some kind of service which is either monetizing or hoovering up data. But its exactly that which holds everything back?

My Data: Public spaces / Private data

Mydata 2019 conference card

I’m back at Mydata this year, this time with more colleagues, Publicspaces.net and the Finnish public broadcaster YLE.

If you are at Mydata, our event is in Hall H from 14:00 – 15:45 on the opening day of Wednesday 25th September.

More and more people live their lives online, and we are encouraged to view the internet as a public space. However the personal data we bring to this space can be used in many inappropriate ways: Instagram stories are scraped to target advertisement; faces in family photographs are used to train the ML systems that will scan crowds for suspects; the devices we thought we owned end up owning us; and our browsing histories are stored and scanned by governments and private companies. This creates a tension for public service organisations as they try to deliver value to audiences and users online.

In this session experts from the BBC Research & Development, Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE, and PublicSpaces will consider how to resolve these tensions, and look at some specific interventions aimed at providing value to audiences and communities through the responsible use of private data in online public spaces.

The format will be four brief talks and a round table discussion.

Chair: Rhianne Jones (BBC)
PublicSpaces and an internet for the common good: Sander van der Waal (PublicSpaces)
The Living Room of the Future:  Ian Forrester (BBC)
How public service media can engage online; Aleksi Rossi (YLE)
Data Stewardship and the BBC Box:  Jasmine Cox/ Max Leonard (BBC)

If this interests you, don’t forget to add yourself to the London event with a similar name. Public Spaces, Private Data: can we build a better internet?

Public Service Internet monthly newsletter (Aug 2019)

The Cleaners film

We live in incredible times with such possibilities that is clear. Although its easily dismissed by looking at the state of democracy around the world and closer to home. To quote Buckminster Fuller “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.

With a focus on new models in business, technology, society, policy, processes, etc. I present my public service internet newsletter.

You are seeing more people thinking more critically about the power of public services to transform society again.

Don’t forget if you find this useful, you will find “Public Spaces, Private Data: can we build a better internet?” at the RSA London on 21st October  2019, right up your street.

Well-being the real metric which matters

Ian thinks: Sturgeon is part of a growing momentum, rethinking what’s important and coming to the conclusion; in the internet age our adoption of attention is very badly broken.
Found via Lianne

The Technology of Better Humans from the founder of the hashtag

Ian thinks: Chris Messina is always a good thinker and the idea of emotional technology by emotional intelligent entrepreneurs is very timely.

Facebook Libra deep dive with someone who knows what they are talking about

Ian thinks: After the dust has settled, a detailed look at Libra from the point of view of someone who understands Libra isn’t a cryptocurrency, no matter what others have said.

The founder of Scruff on breaking up with Google

Ian thinks: Eric gives a compelling rational why he stopped using Google ads; siding with his users against short term profit growth in favour of safety and the support of his users.

Black Hat & Defcon hacking conferences in 12-15 minutes

Ian thinks: Its fascinating to see the diversity of hacks and vulnerabilities in everything from security doors, printers, voting machines, cars and even canon DSLR cameras.

Why we need to think public transport even more in the age of driverless cars

Ian thinks: There is so much focus on individuals in driverless cars, however its public transport and last mile transport which can make the difference to peoples lives in our future cities.

You only need 1000 true fans?

Ian thinks: I have been revisiting alternative business models and was intrigued to re-read Kevin Kelly’s thoughts in the light of recent concerns over attention. Still holds weight I feel.

From Pixels to DNA, biotech needs a careful hand

Ian thinks: One place I certainly don’t want to see the “Move fast and break things” ideology is with genetic engineering.
Whole interview with Bryan Walsh

Have you ever thought about the people who moderation that other content?

Ian thinks: This slow moving documentary opens your eyes to the reality of content moderation and the absolutely awful side of the modern web we all use without too much thought.

The Mozilla Festival is finally moving out of London

Ian thinks: Mozfest moving out of London a few days before Brexit is ominous, however the strategy of moving location every few years is a good idea for all including Mozilla.
Learn more and get involved

Dada says there might be a problem?

Grandpa's Pocket Ledger & My Field Notes

Following on from the great work being done by the databox project team which recently appeared in BBC News, about the work (BBC R&D) have done with it including the living room of the future and BBC Box project. I was impressed to learn about the Dada wiki.

The Defense Against the Dark Artefacts (DADA) project is a collaboration between the Universities of Cambridge, Nottingham, and Imperial, addressing challenges in security and privacy related to smart home devices. These challenges result from the current, widely-adopted approaches in which cloud services underpin home IoT devices, where network infrastructure protection is minimal and little or no isolation is provided between attached devices and the data traffic they carry.

It addresses these challenges by:

  1. designing and implementing mechanisms for device traffic monitoring with a precise look at packet traces and device profiles;
  2. applying learning technologies to detect devices’ abnormal behavior;
  3. introducing techniques for dealing with traffic anomalies and restoring home network operability;
  4. putting the homeowner in the center of management by informing them of possible security threats and offering a choice of defences.

This although I used the wrong technology, this was what I was pointing towards in my blog titled your home needs a blockchain. All the things in Human Data Interaction – Legibility, Agency and Negotiatability all apply if Dada was a databox application.

Interestingly Dada isn’t the only one in this field. Recently Princeton released IOT inspector to do something similar.

Today, we release Princeton IoT Inspector, a open-source tool that lets you inspect IoT traffic in your home network right from the browser. With a one-click install process, you can watch how your IoT devices watch you within minutes of setup.

However IOT inspector is a tool for inpection, while Dada is a tool and place to upload data for analysis to benefit the research community. Of course you don’t have to upload the data and maybe do the analysis locally (this would fit the Databox model perfectly). There is a privacy policy of course, but I expect this will be expanded in the near future.

We understand that any uploaded device trace might contain personal application data. While we need to analyse the uploaded traces to extract IoT features in order to form ML training datasets, we do not aim to analyse nor store your personal data. Therefore, the processed traces are anonymised and all sensitive application payload is removed before the actual analysis starts.

After analysis is done, our servers store the anonymised trace and the extracted features such as packet headers, addresses, ports and payload size (but not the payload itself).

Of course uploading the data for research purposes could be incredible useful. For example imagine you bought a device which is already in the Dada database. You check the device and it seems to be sending a lot of traffic odd places. You check the version number, firmware, etc but its consuming a lot of traffic which is odd. Maybe it was hacked/hijacked? With a public database, its possible to check. Even better with a databox application, it could be done automaticlly if the user(s) allow it.

Some of you maybe thinking this is insane stuff but can I remind you of the house that spied on me and the follow up which armed people with tools.

Even Mozilla went as far as to create a buyers guide to help people choose IOT devices with more information that whats usually available to you in the shop or without proper research. Now theres loads of stories about IOT hijacking by hackers (hummmm possible) and more likely from the companies who make the hardware to bring new features… 

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A spy under the tree for the holidays?

The Observer on IOT and spying

Quite enjoyed Guardian’s piece about the raff of home iot devices coming to the home these holidays.

If you’ve so far withstood the temptation to install a smart speaker in your home, worried about the potential privacy pitfalls and a bit embarrassed about the notion of chatting aimlessly to an inanimate object, brace yourselves. This Christmas, the world’s biggest tech giants, including Amazon, Google and Facebook, are making another bid for your living room, announcing a range of new devices that resemble tablets you can talk to.

It was a real welcome surprise to read/hear Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino too. Her new book Smarter Homes: How Technology Will Change Your Home Life is pretty much on the money.

“It’s very clear what they’re trying to do: sell you more stuff through third-party use of your own information,”

The fear about whether or not such devices are actually always on causes some users to relegate their smart speakers to corridors. “Think about where in the home you want to use these things, particularly if you think they might be listening all the time,”

I had the joy of capturing some of Alexandra’s early thoughts while putting together the ethics of personal data video interviews back in 2015.

I think the only thing missing from the article is a link to Mozilla’s buyers guide, which charts in a friendly consumer fashion whats actually going on underneath the surface of the iot devices we may get over the holiday period.

Worm attacks over unsecured protocals

Philips Elevation Ambilight+hue

Bruce Schneier isn’t the only person worried about this type of attack. I already turned off external access to my Hue lights following the IOT bot net news.

This is exactly the sort of Internet-of-Things attack that has me worried:

“IoT Goes Nuclear: Creating a ZigBee Chain Reaction” by Eyal Ronen, Colin OFlynn, Adi Shamir and Achi-Or Weingarten.

Abstract: Within the next few years, billions of IoT devices will densely populate our cities. In this paper we describe a new type of threat in which adjacent IoT devices will infect each other with a worm that will spread explosively over large areas in a kind of nuclear chain reaction, provided that the density of compatible IoT devices exceeds a certain critical mass. In particular, we developed and verified such an infection using the popular Philips Hue smart lamps as a platform. The worm spreads by jumping directly from one lamp to its neighbors, using only their built-in ZigBee wireless connectivity and their physical proximity. The attack can start by plugging in a single infected bulb anywhere in the city, and then catastrophically spread everywhere within minutes, enabling the attacker to turn all the city lights on or off, permanently brick them, or exploit them in a massive DDOS attack.

What are hyper-reality experiences?

perceptive-media-ethics-dreams-hyper-reality-44-638

I talked previously about mixed reality but the consensus seems to be VR+AR = Mixed Reality… it looks like that ship has sailed and no matter what I say nothing will bring that back. So I have started talking about hyper-reality when discussing perceptive media across objects and things.

You could say its like a theatre cast in your living room and starts to answer some of the questions about perceptive media killing the shared experience. Theres already people hacking things to media, BBC R&D even experimented a long time ago in this area with the famous dalek example and of course the Perceptive Radio was just the start. The second version of the perceptive radio, did actually include more connectivity options to reach out and interact with devices in the local space such as Philips Hue lights, bluetooth devices, etc. It seems so simple but the big difference is they are reacting to the media rather than being thought about at the script/narrative level. With object based media (media+metadata) we can get to level much richer and interesting than ever imagined perviously.

Imagine what would happen if the director/writer could start to specify these type of experiences, the same way a director chooses to show certain characters in certain light, angles, etc. However the big difference is it can be contextual, flexible and scalable for 1 or many more people. How about that for a shared experience?

Of course this  brings up many ethical questions, data dilemmas, and questions about graceful degradation and progressive enhancement for media experiences. But I’m going to side step that in my blog for now. There are too many questions and research is well underway.

Ethics of personal data videos

Hyper-reality (or shall I call it hyper narratives, certainly can’t call it hypermedia) extends the narrative into the real world. This is fascinating because;

I contest this is closer to alternative reality gaming and the very popular immersive theatre works such as sleep no more. A problem with both is the scalability and consistency of experience, but whats great about them is the unique and shared experiences.

The Verge recently did a whats tech podcast which talks about immersive theatre, alternative reality games and the logical future of this stuff. Like the psychtech podcast episode 44, it highlights a lot of my current thinking and how all these things are connected. I always said the Internet of things needs a narrative because right now it all feels to service/utility. Even Google’s home project lacks that human-like narrative.

Internet of things needs a narraive

Some will sniff at this blog post but hyper-reality is the best word I can think of to explain what happens when you mix media objects, physical things, storytelling and context together.

Building virtual worlds is nice, augmenting the real world is better. However in my mind the future is those who explore the cross over of things, devices and media. Can you imagine the incredible levels of immersion?

 

Data portability and the internet of things

Nabaztag on the Microwaves
I can’t help but laugh and partly shake my head at the crazy things which are being networked. You only have to follow internet of shit to get this.

I said heck no when a friend who I’d expect more thought from, suggested I should get one of the internet connected door locks; following my thoughts about Airbnb hosting. Not sure if they were being ironic or serious.

It comes as almost no shock, when reading the time that Tony Fadell sold me a container of hummus.

On May 15th a critical Nest product will go dark. I’m shocked this isn’t bigger news.

I don’t mean that the Nest product will reach end-of-life for support and updates. No, I mean that on May 15th they will actually turn off the device and disable your ability to use the hardware that you paid for.

Google/Nest’s decision raises an interesting question. When software and hardware are intertwined, does a warranty mean you stop supporting the hardware or does it mean that the manufacturer can intentionally disable it without consequence? Tony Fadell seems to believe the latter. Tony believes he has the right to reach into your home and pull the plug on your Nest products.

This littarly tingle’s of ethics of data; as I lumped data portability in the class of ethics a while ago. Theres been a few scary stories such as Berg cloud, the end of aibos and the famous nazbaztag saga. This is just the start, imagine when its your whole home system like in the example of Nest

Is the era of IoT bringing an end to the concept of ownership? Are we just buying intentionally temporary hardware? It feels like it. I own a Commodore 64 that still works.

The point is perfectly made. We have moved into a world of renting and/or licencing. I have many things which past their support date ages ago. For example my old Nexus 7 2012 edition, still runs and even has the latest Android 6.0 operating system on it. My pacemaker is coming up on 9 years old and there was a beta update 6 months ago! Even my Pebble smartwatch just recently got a update. And I can go back far further with other devices and machines. Heck my original Xbox and Playstation 1 still run and work..

Interesting to see Tony Fadell has stepped down too…

Barbie will be the hacker’s number one stocking filler this year

I guarantee you… Forget the wifi pineapple, its all about barbie.

Why? Well anybody who understands technology knows why… But everybody else has just caught up.

But I absolutely love this picture of Barbie in the corner thinking about what she did. Like she has been a little naughty and taking some time to think about things.

 

The global connected village at Mozfest

Mozfest 2014

In two weeks time (November 7-8th) I’ll be spacewrangling once again in for Mozfest 2015.

Sometimes I think I must be crazy but its always amazing how everything comes together on the weekend. You are literately fielding the water with your hands into channels, but far down the river, it all collects into a massive lake of tranquillity and calm.

This year, we are not just running an area, like last year. Oh no that was too easy (I of course joke) nope this year its the global (connected) village which is about 5-6 connected spaces.

What is the Global Village? A collection of self-contained but interconnected places from around the world where participants at Mozfest meet, learn and tinker with tomorrow’s places. The Global Village cultivates leading practitioners to build, teach and advocate for an Internet of things that empowers its users.

Turn off your screen. Close your book. End that meeting. Pick up a sketchpad, a pair of scissors, a hot-glue gun, some parcel tape and come cry “If We Build It They Will Come.” This is a springboard for tomorrow and welcoming place for those inclusive citizens and communities.

The spaces each take a part of the home (note I say home not house) and are then run by friends of  For example our big space which connects to all the others is a library (or even study if you restrict it down to a house). Each unique space will explore the future of that space and challenge the typical notions which make up the future home. The spaces will be littered with provocations and there will be themes around narrative, diversity, inclusion, connection,  wellness and humanity.

If you don’t have a ticket for Mozfest 2015 yet, its time to get one before they sell out.

Afrofutures in Manchester next week

060/365: Afro Halo

Manchester is running Afrofutures next weekend

Afro Futures UK, a collective of researchers, artists, programmers and activists exploring new ways of examining blackness and futurism. We are hosting an  FREE all day Afrofuturist Conference and Exhibition on 10th October 2015 at MADLAB with a special rosta of speakers and workshops from the USA, Europe Africa and the UK.

http://www.northernsoulpowerhouse.xyz/playlista-cubic-garden-aka-ian-forrester-bbc-rd-senior-firestarter/

http://www.northernsoulpowerhouse.xyz/playlista-cubic-garden-aka-ian-forrester-bbc-rd-senior-firestarter/

http://www.northernsoulpowerhouse.xyz/playlista-cubic-garden-aka-ian-forrester-bbc-rd-senior-firestarter/

A world written by one slice of a very big pie

Diversity in the digital sector, its the thing which I and many many others are banging about. In recent times, I have been thinking about this a lot and even more in regards to the Mozilla Festival.

This year one of the ambitions in Mozfest is…

How can we leverage the web to include more people, across gender, class, race and age? How can we be humble yet proactive in overcoming real discrimination and exclusion?

On a related note… , sent me a tweet to his idea to put together a digital diversity alliance.

I do want to make the digital world diverse, I am seriously worried about where we are going. There are signs that things will get better for some but its clear we need to look diversity not just one segment of the whole pie. I understand this is incredibly hard but its so important that the aim is the moon not just the upper atmosphere.

Mr Robot says Fcuk society

Recently I watched Mr Robot and a few other films (I promise no spoilers) but it emphasize the problem with a mono culture for me.

A young computer programmer (Malek) who suffers from social anxiety disorder and forms connections through hacking. He’s recruited by a mysterious anarchist, who calls himself Mr. Robot.

The problem with the mono culture around the digital industry is in my mind self evident. This is bad but its going to get way worst

As software makes its way into more services and those services in turn become a larger part of our lives through law, economics, social norms plus practically through the internet of things, synthetic biology, etc. It’s important to think about software as having an opinion of some kind.

Larry Lessig

Lawrence Lessig wrote a fantastic book called code: and other laws of cyberspace. Where be talked about code as law because the law is always playing catch up to the code, algorithms, systems and ultimately opinions baked into the code. Imagine trying to reason with a drone carrying guns, when you naturally act outside of the parameters set by somebodies idea of how people should act (or is that the American police force now?). Reminds me of a colleague at work who during BarCampMediaCity somebody thought was drunk and should be told to leave. But anybody who knows him, knows thats his natural state.

united colours of benetton advert
Ah Remember those united colours of benetton adverts? Maybe Tech needs more these…?

Sounds extreme but the example is pointing at the same thing. Its unconscious bias and unfortunately its being baked into software, hardware and the services we use. But unlike us its not got the chance to recognise the bias and correct its self (as such).

THIS IS BAD!

Why am I not taking Toby up on his ask?

Simple

You have time to help create the best Digital Diversity Alliance in the whole wide world.  It’s not a full-time job but we need committed individuals brimming with passion and drive.

I am time poor, I have a lot of things happening including helping out at a dyslexia group in Manchester and I’m trying to commit to less stuff till I get things in a reasonable state. Its a shame but I need to be honest with myself and its not fair on those who can do a equal or a better job but can also dedicate more attention than myself. Hate to be the one hold back such a great alliance.Take good fortune Toby and if I can help in future, I certainly would like to feed into the alliance in some way. I’d like to start this by encouraging you to float the idea in a workshop at Mozfest 2015. Equally if you too would like to have a less bleak, diverse and collaborative future. Contact Toby in his post

Quantified relationships?

https://twitter.com/TonyChurnside/status/565482176566001664

Tony asks my view on pplkpr.

pplkpr is an app that tracks, analyzes, and auto-manages your relationships. Using a smartwatch, pplkpr monitors your physical and emotional response to the people around you, and optimizes your social life accordingly.

Its a interesting project/art project. I don’t think it would work so well but I seen it all before in QSEU13 with Fabio who records every single person he talks to.

Well at least its not a complete system, it works with other wearable devices.

pplkpr has been extensively tested with the Mio wristband, but any Bluetooth LE (also called Bluetooth Smart or Bluetooth 4.0) device that transmits heart rate in real time will work. This includes the Polar H7 chest band and the Zephyr HxM.

What data is personal to you?

Alex data ethics

On International data privacy day, BBC R&D has posted a video asking a bunch of smart people what data is personal to them?

As I have been working on the project for quite sometime, I can happily say there is a lot more to come. Including ways to feedback. Go check have a look and see if you agree with the opinions of our industry experts?

You might have seen the theme of the work in the blog post ethics of data and what we setup at Mozilla Festival. Expect more in the future…