"Internet of Things" entries

Design’s role is to bridge context gaps

Andrew Hinton on making context understandable, smart devices, and programming literacy.

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I sat down with Andrew Hinton, an information architect at The Understanding Group and author of the recently released O’Reilly book Understanding Context. Our conversation included a discussion of information architecture’s role in the context of the IoT, the complexities of context, and the well-debated “everyone should learn to code” argument.

Context, information architecture, and experience design

Information architecture (IA) has always been a critical part of creating great products and services, and many would argue that, until now, it hasn’t been given the attention or respect it deserves. The need for thoughtful IA is increasing as we enter the multimodal world of IoT. Whether you call yourself an Information Architect or Designer, you need to care about context. Hinton offers up this hidden motivation for writing Understanding Context:

“I’ll confess, the book is a bit of a Trojan horse to kind of get people to think about information architecture differently than maybe the way they assume they should think about it.”

I followed up with Hinton via email for a bit more on how we need to view IA:

“People tend to assume IA is mainly about arranging objects, the way we arrange cans in a cupboard or books in a library. That’s part of it, but the Internet has made it so that we co-exist in places made of semantic and digital information. So when we create or change the labels, relationships, and rules of those places, we change their environment. Not just on screens, but now outside of screens as well. And, to me, the central challenge of that work is making context understandable.”

Read more…

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What the IoT can learn from the health care industry

Federated authentication and authorization could provide security solutions for the Internet of Things.

Adrian Gropper co-authored this post.

Nyckel_erik_forsberg_FlickrAfter a short period of excitement and rosy prospects in the movement we’ve come to call the Internet of Things (IoT), designers are coming to realize that it will survive or implode around the twin issues of security and user control: a few electrical failures could scare people away for decades, while a nagging sense that someone is exploiting our data without our consent could sour our enthusiasm. Early indicators already point to a heightened level of scrutiny — Senator Ed Markey’s office, for example, recently put the automobile industry under the microscope for computer and network security.

In this context, what can the IoT draw from well-established technologies in federated trust? Federated trust in technologies as diverse as the Kerberos and SAML has allowed large groups of users to collaborate securely, never having to share passwords with people they don’t trust. OpenID was probably the first truly mass-market application of federated trust.

OpenID and OAuth, which have proven their value on the Web, have an equally vital role in the exchange of data in health care. This task — often cast as the interoperability of electronic health records — can reasonably be described as the primary challenge facing the health care industry today, at least in the IT space. Reformers across the health care industry (and even Congress) have pressured the federal government to make data exchange the top priority, and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology has declared it the centerpiece of upcoming regulations. Read more…

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Four short links: 13 March 2015

Four short links: 13 March 2015

Sad Sysadminning, Data Workflow, Ambiguous "Database," and Creepy Barbie

  1. The Sad State of Sysadmin in the Age of Containers (Erich Schubert) — a Grumpy Old Man rant, but solid. And since nobody is still able to compile things from scratch, everybody just downloads precompiled binaries from random websites. Often without any authentication or signature.
  2. Pinball — Pinterest open-sourced their data workflow manager.
  3. Disambiguating Databases (ACM) — The scope of the term database is vast. Technically speaking, anything that stores data for later retrieval is a database. Even by that broad definition, there is functionality that is common to most databases. This article enumerates those features at a high level. The intent is to provide readers with a toolset with which they might evaluate databases on their relative merits.
  4. Hello Barbie — I just can’t imagine a business not wanting to mine and repurpose the streams of audio data coming into their servers. “You listen to Katy Perry a lot. So do I! You have a birthday coming up. Have you told your parents about the Katy Perry brand official action figurines from Mattel? Kids love ‘em, and demo data and representative testing indicates you will, too!” Or just offer a subscription service where parents can listen in on what their kids say when they play in the other room with their friends. Or identify product mentions and cross-market offline. Or …
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Design to reflect human values

The O'Reilly Radar Podcast: Martin Charlier on industrial and interaction design, reflecting societal values, and unified visions.

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Editor’s note: Martin Charlier will present a session, Prototyping User Experiences for Connected Products, at the O’Reilly Solid Conference, June 23 to 25, 2015, in San Francisco. For more on the program and information on registration, visit the Solid website.

Designing for the Internet of Things is requiring designers and engineers to expand the boundaries of their traditionally defined roles. In this Radar Podcast episode, O’Reilly’s Mary Treseler sat down with Martin Charlier, an independent design consultant and co-founder at Rain Cloud, to discuss the future of interfaces and the increasing need to merge industrial and interaction design in era of the Internet of Things.

Charlier stressed the importance of embracing the symbiotic nature of interaction design and service design:

“How I got into Internet of Things is interesting. My degree from Ravensbourne was in a very progressive design course that looked at product interaction and service design as one course. For us, it was pretty natural to think of product or services in a very open way. Whether they are connected or not connected didn’t really matter too much because it was basically understanding that technology is there to build almost anything. It’s really about how you design with that mind.

“When I was working in industrial design, it became really clear for me how important that is. Specifically, I remember one project working on a built-in oven … In this project, we specifically couldn’t change how you would interact with it. The user interface was already defined, and our task was to define how it looked. It became clear to me that I don’t want to exclude any one area, and it feels really unnatural to design a product but only worry about what it looks like and let somebody else worry about how it’s operated, or vice versa. Products in today’s world, especially, need to be thought about from all of these angles. You can’t really design a coffee maker anymore without thinking about the service that it might plug into or the systems that it connects to. You have to think about all of these things at the same time.”

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Four short links: 25 February 2015

Four short links: 25 February 2015

Bricking Cars, Mapping Epigenome, Machine Learning from Encrypted Data, and Phone Privacy

  1. Remotely Bricking Cars (BoingBoing) — story from 2010 where an intruder illegally accessed Texas Auto Center’s Web-based remote vehicle immobilization system and one by one began turning off their customers’ cars throughout the city.
  2. Beginning to Map the Human Epigenome (MIT) — Kellis and his colleagues report 111 reference human epigenomes and study their regulatory circuitry, in a bid to understand their role in human traits and diseases. (The paper itself.)
  3. Machine Learning Classification over Encrypted Data (PDF) — It is worth mentioning that our work on privacy-preserving classification is complementary to work on differential privacy in the machine learning community. Our work aims to hide each user’s input data to the classification phase, whereas differential privacy seeks to construct classifiers/models from sensitive user training data that leak a bounded amount of information about each individual in the training data set. See also The Morning Paper’s unpacking of it.
  4. Privacy of Phone Audio (Reddit) — unconfirmed report from Redditor I started a new job today with Walk N’Talk Technologies. I get to listen to sound bites and rate how the text matches up with what is said in an audio clip and give feed back on what should be improved. At first, I though these sound bites were completely random. Then I began to notice a pattern. Soon, I realized that I was hearing peoples commands given to their mobile devices. Guys, I’m telling you, if you’ve said it to your phone, it’s been recorded…and there’s a damn good chance a 3rd party is going to hear it.
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Four short links: 23 February 2015

Four short links: 23 February 2015

Self-Assembling Chairs, Home Monitoring, Unicorn Horn, and Cloud Security

  1. MIT Scientists and the Self-Assembling Chair (Wired) — using turbulence to randomise interactions, and pieces that connect when the random motions align. From the Self-Assembly Lab at MIT.
  2. Calaosa free software project (GPLv3) that lets you control and monitor your home.
  3. Founder Wants to be a Horse Not a Unicorn (Business Insider) — this way of thinking  —  all or nothing moonshots to maximise shareholder value  —  has become pervasive dogma in tech. It’s become the only respectable path. Either you’re running a lowly lifestyle business, making ends meet so you can surf all afternoon, or you’re working 17-hour days goring competitors with your $US48MM Series C unicorn horn on your way to billionaire mountain.
  4. Using Google Cloud Platform for Security Scanning (Google Online Security) — platform vendors competing on the things they can offer for free on the base platform, things which devs and ops used to have to do themselves.
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Five things to consider before offering new technology as a cloud service

Entrepreneurs must apply the same decision-making processes used when starting any infrastructure company.

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Editor’s note: Shahin Farshchi will cover these topics and more in an upcoming free webcast, Building Value Into Hardware Start-ups, on April 9 at 10 a.m. PT. Find out more, and reserve your spot.

There are many compelling reasons to package new technology as a cloud service. Connected devices come in many forms: dongles, phones, tablets, televisions, cars, and even buildings. Intel is offering “connected buttons,” and others are introducing connected jewelry and accessories. Internet connectivity is also available through many channels: satellite, cellular, WiFi, bluetooth, and hybrid meshes. The plethora of powerful, beautiful connected devices, coupled with ubiquitous connectivity, creates an incredible channel for delivering novel services.

Hotmail, Salesforce, Workday, and many other software-as-a-service companies have fared well by offering their applications directly through Internet browsers. DropBox and Box, while creating tremendous media attention, have yet to prove they can offer storage services profitably on the cloud. Amazon doesn’t disclose the economics of its Amazon Web Services business in detail, though one would expect the opposite to be true if it were a lucrative business. ASICMiner and KNCMiner are leveraging their proprietary hashing chips to offer bitcoin mining as a service. Nervana is leveraging its proprietary chips as a service for deep learning. As more entrepreneurs attempt to harness the cloud as a powerful distribution channel for their novel technologies, here are a few factors to consider. Read more…

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The Intimacy of Things

At what layer do we build privacy into the fabric of devices?

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Attend Solid 2015 to explore the convergence of privacy, security, and the Internet of Things.

In 2011, Kashmir Hill, Gizmodo and others alerted us to a privacy gaffe made by Fitbit, a company that makes small devices to help people keep track of their fitness activities. It turns out that Fitbit broadcast the sexual activity of quite a few of their users. Realizing this might not sit well with those users, Fitbit took swift action to remove the search hits, the data, and the identities of those affected. Fitbit, like many other companies, believed that all the data they gathered should be public by default. Oops.

Does anyone think this is the last time such a thing will happen?

Fitness data qualifies as “personal,” but sexual data is clearly in the realm of the “intimate.” It might seem like semantics, but the difference is likely to be felt by people in varying degrees. The theory of contextual integrity says that we feel violations of our privacy when informational contexts are unexpectedly or undesirably crossed. Publicizing my latest workout: good. Publicizing when I’m in flagrante delicto: bad. This episode neatly exemplifies how devices are entering spaces where they’ve not tread before, physically and informationally. Read more…

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A bigger and different way of looking at the IoT

Tim O’Reilly’s Solid Conference keynote highlights the capabilities that will let us shape the physical world.

Tim O’Reilly has recently focused on the connection between humans and the Internet of Things (IoT). It’s a topic he’s written about and talked about, and it’s also at the heart of our explorations into interaction design and connected devices and experience design and the Internet of Things.

O’Reilly’s keynote address at the Solid Conference in 2014 explored the human-IoT link. The talk expanded the scope of the IoT, making it clear this isn’t just about individual devices and software — we’re creating “networks of intelligence” that will shape how people work and live.

The talk has become an essential resource for us as we’ve investigated the blurring of the physical and virtual worlds. That’s why we decided to put together a text-friendly version of the presentation that’s easy to scan and reference. And since we think it’s so useful, we’ve made the text version publicly available.

You can download your free copy of “Software Above the Level of a Single Device: The Implications” here. Read more…

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There is room for global thinking in IoT data privacy matters

The best of European and American data privacy initiatives can come together for the betterment of all.

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of posts exploring privacy and security issues in the Internet of Things. The series will culminate in a free webcast by the series author Dr. Gilad Rosner: Privacy and Security Issues in the Internet of Things will happen on February 11, 2015 — reserve your spot today.

Please_Josh_Hallett_FlickrAs devices become more intelligent and networked, the makers and vendors of those devices gain access to greater amounts of personal data. In the extreme case of the washing machine, the kind of data — who uses cold versus warm water — is of little importance. But when the device collects biophysical information, location data, movement patterns, and other sensitive information, data collectors have both greater risk and responsibility in safeguarding it. The advantages of every company becoming a software company — enhanced customer analytics, streamlined processes, improved view of resources and impact — will be accompanied by new privacy challenges.

A key question emerges from the increasing intelligence of and monitoring by devices: will the commercial practices that evolved in the web be transferred to the Internet of Things? The amount of control users have over data about them is limited. The ubiquitous end-user license agreement tells people what will and won’t happen to their data, but there is little choice. In most situations, you can either consent to have your data used or you can take a hike. We do not get to pick and choose how our data is used, except in some blunt cases where you can opt out of certain activities (which is often a condition forced by regulators). If you don’t like how your data will be used, you can simply elect not to use the service. But what of the emerging world of ubiquitous sensors and physical devices? Will such a take-it-or-leave it attitude prevail? Read more…

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