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Posts in category 'Ubiquitous computing'

22 April 2013

Low2No smart services workbook by Experientia

smartservices

As part of Experientia’s involvement in the award winning Low2No project in Helsinki and in particular its strategy towards demand management and behavioral change, we are proud to announce that Dan Hill (former ARUP and Sitra, now Fabrica) has just reminded us of last year’s long review (and a download link) of the Low2No smart services workbook created by Experientia and ARUP:

“This aspect explores the potential of contemporary technologies – particularly those increasingly everyday circling around phrases like social media, “internet of things”, “smart cities” and so on – to enable residents, workers, visitors and citizens in general to live, work and play in and around the block in new ways. These are predicated on the same low-carbon outcomes that drives the Low2No project in general, but also a wider “triple-bottom line” approach to sustainability, which might include beneficial social and economic outcomes, as well as environmental. We’d had this element in from the start, from the Arup-led consortium’s original competition submission in 2009, and today we’re sharing some of the work-in-progress as it developed, in the form of the “informatics workbook” developed by the design team, as a tool in the design process.”

Thank you, Dan.

12 April 2013

#wethedata

wethedata

Right now, data may be what we intentionally share, or what is gathered about us – the product of surveillance and tracking. We are the customer, but our data are the product. How do we balance our anxiety around data with its incredible potential? How do we regain more control over what happens to our data and what is targeted at us as a result?

We The Data is born of a partnership between a group of friends, TED Fellows, and some visionaries at Intel Labs. Brought together by a common belief that ‘the internet is an organism in the process of being born’ and that we all have an important role in the data revolution, these groups worked together to seed what was to become a movement, #wethedata.

“WE THE DATA is a hub of conversation, news, and events celebrating innovative communities who are each focused on democratizing data in their own way. Our goal is to spark synergy among people and organizations who are tackling a nexus of interdependent Core Challenges and collectively giving rise to the Gutenburg press of our era: flows of data that are at once more fluid and more trustworthy, new and more accessible tools for analysis and visualization, and vehicles of communication and collaboration that help communities come together to gain a voice, mobilize resources, coordinate action, and create the ventures of the future.”

(thanks, Todd!)

12 April 2013

Insights from network data analysis that yield field observations

museum

As part of Ethnomining, the April 2013 Ethnographymatters edition on combining qualitative and quantitative data, edited by Nicolas Nova, Fabien Girardin describes his work with networked/sensor data at the Louvre Museum in Paris.

Based on this inspiring case study, he discusses the overall process, how mixed-methods are relevant in his work, and what kind lessons he learnt doing this.

Fabien Girardin @fabiengirardin is Partner at the Near Future Laboratory, a research agency. He is active in the domains of user experience, data science and urban informatics.

12 April 2013

Designing better experiences through data

better-experiences-data-small

Access to big data is growing at an incredible pace. With increased information from various sources available on smartphones and tablets, many companies now realize winning services will be those that transform big data elements into personalized data experiences.

The key to creating great service experiences lies with uncovering data and using it in meaningful contexts that have real benefits to users.

Recent advances in wearable tech, location-based data and sensors are driving greater interest by consumers in personalized data experiences. Google Glass and the Nike FuelBand are pushing boundaries on what users can expect inside the services of tomorrow.

For designers, however, data presents a very interesting challenge: How can we better understand the value of data and leverage it to make digital experiences more meaningful?

Jason Napolitano, service design lead at Fjord, provides some examples of emerging companies that are embracing the conceptual power of data to create truly breakthrough services.

4 April 2013

Steamrolled by Big Data

big-data-swarte

“Some problems do genuinely lend themselves to Big Data solutions,” writes Gary Marcus in The New Yorker.

“But not every problem fits those criteria; unpredictability, complexity, and abrupt shifts over time can lead even the largest data astray. Big Data is a powerful tool for inferring correlations, not a magic wand for inferring causality. The field has thus far apparently yielded only modestly improved weather prediction, and had little, if any, impact on challenges such as getting computers to program themselves.” [...]

“The more complex a problem is, and the more particular instances differ from those that came before, the less likely Big Data is to be a sure thing.

In the years to come, scientists and engineers will develop a clearer picture of the circumstances in which Big Data can and can’t make a big difference; for now, hype needs to be tempered with caution and a sensitivity to when humans should and should not remain in the loop. As Alexei Efros, one of the leaders in applying Big Data to machine vision, put it, Big Data is “a fickle, coy mistress,” inviting, yet not without risk.”

2 April 2013

Why data without soul is meaningless

nansense

As we move towards a quantified society, one shaped by data, we start to dismiss things that are unquantified, writes Om Malik of GigaOm. Empathy, emotion and storytelling — these are as much a part of business as they are of life.

“The problem with data is that the way it is used today, it lacks empathy and emotion. Data is used like a blunt instrument, a scythe trying to cut and tailor a cashmere sweater.” [...]

“What will it take to build emotive-and-empathic data experiences? Less data science and more data art — which, in other words, means that data wranglers have to develop correlations between data much like the human brain finds context. It is actually not about building the fanciest machine, but instead about the ability to ask the human questions. It is not about just being data informed, but being data aware and data intelligent.”

2 April 2013

The hidden biases in Big Data

hiddenbias

Data and data sets are not objective, writes Kate Crawford, principal researcher at Microsoft Research, in the Harvard Business Review.

They are creations of human design. We give numbers their voice, draw inferences from them, and define their meaning through our interpretations. Hidden biases in both the collection and analysis stages present considerable risks, and are as important to the big-data equation as the numbers themselves.

She argues that the next frontier is how to address these weaknesses in big data science.

“Social science methodologies may make the challenge of understanding big data more complex, but they also bring context-awareness to our research to address serious signal problems. Then we can move from the focus on merely “big” data towards something more three-dimensional: data with depth.”

20 March 2013

Smart homes: our next digital privacy nightmare

smart-appliances

The hyper-connected smart home of the future promises to change the way we live. More efficient energy usage, Internet-connected appliances that communicate with one another and cloud-enhanced home security are just some of the conveniences we’ll enjoy. It’s going to be amazing. It will also open up major questions about privacy. John Paul Titlow reports on ReadWriteWeb.

“Every time we connect another one of our household appliances to the Internet, we’re going to be generating another set of data about our lives and storing it some company’s servers. That data can be incredibly useful to us, but it creates yet another digital trail of personal details that could become vulnerable to court subpoenas, law enforcement requests (with or without a warrant) or hackers.”

Meanwhile, OvenInfo, the oven review site by Reviewed.com, is running a five-part series about smart appliances and connected homes. Where they are now, how they got here, and most importantly, whether they’ll earn a place among our smartphones and tablets as an everyday part of our lives. So far, three have been published:

1. What is a smart appliance?
The next generation of “smart” appliances will likely connect to your phone, negotiate rates with the power company, and even communicate with other appliances.

2. The history of smart appliances
Everything seems to be trending toward highly automated households, controlled by a mobile device. What’s different now is that this trend is being pushed not merely by what’s possible, but by technologies that are practical and already integrated into our daily lives.

3. The business of smart appliances
Smart appliances are not big business yet—at least not within the scope of the entire industry. In 2012, smart appliances sales totaled a modest $613 million, a fraction of the worldwide bottom line. But that isn’t stopping a few manufacturers from trying to make the future of smart appliances happen right now.

4. The future of smart appliances
Touchscreens and Twitter are fine, but smart appliances will need to save time and money.

5. How to buy a smart appliance right now
Smart appliances still can’t do your laundry on their own, but a few good models are ready for a place in your home.

1 March 2013

The Google Glass feature no one is talking about

 

The Google Glass feature that (almost) no one is talking about is the experience – not of the user, but of everyone other than the user, writes Mark Hurst in a thought provoking post.

“Anywhere you go in public – any store, any sidewalk, any bus or subway – you’re liable to be recorded: audio and video. Fifty people on the bus might be Glassless, but if a single person wearing Glass gets on, you – and all 49 other passengers – could be recorded. Not just for a temporary throwaway video buffer, like a security camera, but recorded, stored permanently, and shared to the world.” [...]

“Now add in facial recognition and the identity database that Google is building within Google Plus (with an emphasis on people’s accurate, real-world names): Google’s servers can process video files, at their leisure, to attempt identification on every person appearing in every video. And if Google Plus doesn’t sound like much, note that Mark Zuckerberg has already pledged that Facebook will develop apps for Glass.

Finally, consider the speech-to-text software that Google already employs, both in its servers and on the Glass devices themselves. Any audio in a video could, technically speaking, be converted to text, tagged to the individual who spoke it, and made fully searchable within Google’s search index.” [...]

“Let’s return to the bus ride. It’s not a stretch to imagine that you could immediately be identified by that Google Glass user who gets on the bus and turns the camera toward you. Anything you say within earshot could be recorded, associated with the text, and tagged to your online identity. And stored in Google’s search index. Permanently.

The really interesting aspect is that all of the indexing, tagging, and storage could happen without the Google Glass user even requesting it. Any video taken by any Google Glass, anywhere, is likely to be stored on Google servers, where any post-processing (facial recognition, speech-to-text, etc.) could happen at the later request of Google, or any other corporate or governmental body, at any point in the future.”

By the way, some people are filming a documentary using Google Glass in New York right now.

1 March 2013

In a world of connected devices, focus on what they do

connection

Stacey Higginbotham reports on a the GigaOM Internet of things meetup in San Francisco a few days ago:

“All of the participants agreed that the connected device wasn’t the product; the service was. Ideally, the Internet of things should fade into the background; what matters is what it allows people to do.” [...]

“The other design factors people must take into consideration are that these are not devices made for the screen, but devices that need to be integrated into everyday life, according to Roberto Tagliabue, executive director and software designer at Jawbone. It’s also important to think about the difference between a service and an app that might hope to have the user’s full attention.

“Ask when and how we can be relevant to the user,” Tagliabue said. “It’s not about their full attention, but now, how we can improve their life.”

28 February 2013

How teachers are using technology at home and in their classrooms

KidTablet

A survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project of teachers who instruct American middle and secondary school students finds that digital technologies have become central to their teaching and professionalization. At the same time, the internet, mobile phones, and social media have brought new challenges to teachers, and they report striking differences in access to the latest digital technologies between lower and higher income students and school districts.

The survey finds that digital tools are widely used in classrooms and assignments, and a majority of these teachers are satisfied with the support and resources they receive from their school in this area. However, it also indicates that teachers of the lowest income students face more challenges in bringing these tools to their classrooms:

Mobile technology has become central to the learning process, with 73% of Advanced Placement (AP) and National Writing Project (NWP) teachers saying that they and/or their students use their cell phones in the classroom or to complete assignments

More than four in ten teachers report the use of e-readers (45%) and tablet computers (43%) in their classrooms or to complete assignments

Teachers of low income students, however, are much less likely than teachers of the highest income students to use tablet computers (37% v. 56%) or e-readers (41% v. 55%) in their classrooms and assignments

Similarly, just over half (52%) of teachers of upper and upper-middle income students say their students use cell phones to look up information in class, compared with 35% of teachers of the lowest income students.

> See also this FT blog post

26 February 2013

The future of lying

fingerscrossed

Someone told Intel’s futurist Brian David Johnson that technology could do away with all lying in the future. He was horrified by the idea and wrote this:

The Future of Lying – Can society survive if computers can tell fact from fib?

“There are really two kinds of untruths. First, you have the bad lies, the ones we tell to actively deceive people for personal gain. These are the lies that hurt people and can send you to jail. At the other end of the spectrum are the white lies, the little lies we tell to just be nice—“social lubricant,” as Tony puts it. “It’s like when you bump into someone and say, ‘Oh, I’m sorry.’ You’re really not sorry, but you say it so you can both just move on. These kinds of lies just keep our days moving forward. They keep the friction down between people so that we can get done what we need to do in a world full of people.” You know, the kind of fibs that keep us humans from killing one another.

Between deception and comfort lies a vast expanse of bullshit. Bullshit isn’t lying. Princeton professor Harry Frankfurt explains in his book On Bullshit that the bullshitter’s intention is neither to report the truth nor to conceal it. It is to conceal his or her wishes. Bullshit can be the gray area between doing harm to someone (taking advantage) and making them feel better (white lies). It comes down to a question of intent. Are you bullshitting to be nice, or are you bullshitting to deceive and gain an advantage?

This Liars’ Landscape is helpful because it makes us examine how we could use technology to make people’s lives better while at the same time not making them less human.”

25 February 2013

Isobel Demangeat on the UX of augmented reality

 

A bit of an older talk, but still quite interesting:

Isobel Demangeat, UX researcher at Qualcomm Corporate R&D Cambridge (UK), spoke at MEX in December 2011 on the nuances of short-range mobile interactions through augmented reality. Her in-depth talk shares the results of ongoing studies at Qualcomm’s labs in Cambridge, UK, bringing a much needed user-centred design perspective to the hype around AR.

23 February 2013

Designing empathy into an open Internet of Things

jessi_baker

The mobile technology of tomorrow may be real-time, always on and algorithm driven in its characteristics, writes designer Jessi Baker, but there is a real opportunity to design, create and promote open, empathetic systems allowing the Internet and connectedness to not only empower us to act as a global society, but to embed this in our every action, forging more than communication, but empathetic, social connections, between us, our lives and actions and other people, societies and environments.

22 February 2013

The curious cult of the connected thermostat

nest

Nick Hunn, CTO at Onzo, a “smarter than normal” Smart Energy start-up, criticizes the service model of the Nest thermostat:

“A basic programmable thermostat in the US costs under $20, not the $250 price tag of the Nest. As such, Nest appeals to those who like buying technology and form rather than function – it’s no surprise that it sells as an accessory in Apple Stores in the US. It has all of the glamour and pizzazz of Apple products, but with a worrying limitation – it is just hardware – there’s no service model. In other words, it’s a bit like an iPhone without an App Store.” [...]

“[Also] this new generation of connected wireless thermostats has an Achilles’ heel – they need someone to support the web service for their life, which may be ten to twenty years, and I can’t see where that’s been factored in.” [...]

“This is an issue with every new connected device that comes to market – who will keep the servers running? It’s not so much of a problem for fast moving consumer products, which will get replaced regularly. But it is very big problem for home infrastructure products like smart thermostats.”

22 February 2013

How will big data change design research?

bigdatatg-Cartoon

Will design researchers (and our models and explanations) be replaced by data tables and “experience actuaries” that tell us what to build, for whom, and what it should be like? Artefact’s Dave Mc Colgin doesn’t think so.

“In our field of designing products and experiences, the ‘why’ stays at the center of our process and creativity. Many designers work mostly on new products and services for which there may not yet be reliable data available. To do this work, we need to understand whether insights from the past are applicable to new people and contexts. While Big Data can inform designers on how to improve once they put something out there, it is design research that provides principled guidance towards good solutions all along the way. Big Data can’t help us do that right now.

However, Big Data can augment design in other ways. It provides us with new resources when determining which people our products should be made for. Its ability to find patterns and correlations allows us to reach a broader set of research participants. Over time, it can deepen our understanding of human behavior, interaction and preferences, making our designs better and our ability to understand and predict the outcome of our work more accurate.”

14 February 2013

First outputs from Intel research centre on sustainable connected cities

connectedcities

The Intel Collaborative Research Institute for Sustainable Connected Cities – a cooperation between University College London (UCL), Imperial College London and Intel – was launched in May 2012, which a focus on how to enable future cities to be more connected and sustainable. Their activities entail investigating, developing and deploying adaptive technologies that can optimize resource efficiency, and enable new services that support and enhance the quality of life of urban inhabitants and city visitors. Their approach is interdisciplinary, combining methodologies from computer science, the social sciences, interaction design and architecture to improve how cities are managed and maintained in order to ensure and enhance citizen well-being.

The Institute is directed by Duncan Wilson of Intel, assisted by Charlie Sheridan. Other people involved include David Prendergast (Intel senior researcher and anthropologist), Yvonne Rogers (UCL Professor of Interaction Design and Director of the UCL Interaction Centre), Licia Capra (UCL Reader in Pervasive computing), and Johannes Schöning (professor of computer science with a focus on HCI at Hasselt University, Belgium).

According to an initial overview article, the focus of the Institute is to be human-centred:

“Our perspective in the Sustainable Connected Cities Institute is to be human- centred. We have wide-ranging expertise and background in user experience, interaction design, ethnography, together with research in the built environment, commerce, engineering, anthropology, the arts, and social psychology. We also work as inter-disciplinary teams that can make a real change to enrich and extend city dwellers lives.” [...]

We will develop and exploit pervasive and sensing technologies, analytics and new interfaces, putting humans at the centre of technological developments. Our approach is to address four main themes:

  • City Experience: How do we enhance the City Experience and communicate services?
  • City as a Platform: How do we create the digital platform of the city from sensor/edge to cloud?
  • Sustaining Sustainability: How to sustain behavioural change?
  • Connecting the Invisible City: How do we visualize the Human-Environment Interface?”

Meanwhile the Institute has published its first research papers and articles:

Toward a real-time city health monitor
A common metaphor to describe the movement of people within a city is that of blood flowing through the veins of a living organism. We often speak of the ‘pulse of the city’ when referring to flow patterns we observe. Here we extend this metaphor by hypothesising that by monitoring the flow of people through a city we can assess the city’s health, as a nurse takes a patient’s heart-rate and blood pressure during a routine health check. Using an automated fare collection dataset of journeys made on the London rail system, we build a classification model that identifies areas of high deprivation as measured by the Indices of Multiple Deprivation, and achieve a precision, sensitivity and specificity of0.805, 0.733 and 0.810, respectively. We conclude with a discussion of the potential benefits this work provides to city planning, policymaking, and citizen engagement initiatives.

Smart Citizens in the Data Metropolis
Article with some insights on the discussions around smart citizens and community engagement. It was original published in the website of the Centre of Contemporary Culture of Barcelona.

Reflecting on the Institute, Mandeep Hothi, programme leader at the Young Foundation, writes:

“Much of the institute’s outputs will be relevant to local government. For example, a recent study shows a link between measures of multiple deprivation and patterns of passenger flow on public transport in London.Researchers propose that this data could become an early warning system for identifying areas of high deprivation, helping local government to better target its resources.

Data sensors such as Oyster card readers are becoming ubiquitous and the availability of real-time data is going to vastly increase.

It is important that the applications that emerge are co-created with local citizens, using ethnography and design as the starting point. Not only will this maximise usefulness, it should ensure technologists and officials respect issues such as personal privacy and autonomy.”

7 February 2013

Book: Beyond Smart Cities

bsc_cover_sm

(Wow, it covers Turin!)

Beyond Smart Cities: How Cities Network, Learn and Innovate
Tim Campbell
Routledge, 2012

The promise of competitiveness and economic growth in so-called smart cities emphasizes highly educated talent, high tech industries and pervasive electronic connections. But to really achieve smart cities — that is to create the conditions of continuous learning and innovation — this book argues that there is a need to understand what is below the surface and to examine the mechanisms which affect the way cities learn and then connect together.

This book draws on quantitative and qualitative data with concrete case studies to show how networks already operating in cities are used to foster and strengthen connections in order to achieve breakthroughs in learning and innovation. Going beyond smart cities means understanding how cities construct, convert and manipulate relationships that grow in urban environments. The eight cities discussed in this book — Amman, Barcelona, Bilbao, Charlotte, Curitiba, Portland, Seattle, and Turin — illuminate a blind spot in the literature. Each of these cities has achieved important transformations, and learning has played a key role, one that has been largely ignored in academic circles and practice concerning competitiveness and innovation.

With Forewords by Dr Joan Clos, Executive Director, UN-Habitat, and Wim Elfrink, Executive Vice President and Chief Globalization Officer, Cisco

CONTENTS
1- Overview
2- The Slow Emergence of Learning Cities in an Urbanizing World
3- Cities as Collective Learners: What Do We Know?
4- A Gamut of Learning Types
5- Light on a Shadow Economy: City Learning in 53 Cities
6- Informal Learners—Turin, Portland and Charlotte
7- Technical Learning: Curitiba and City Think Tanks
8- Corporate Styles: Bilbao, Seattle and Others
9- Clouds of Trust in Style
10- Taking Stock: Why Some Cities Learn and Others Do Not
11- Turning the Learning World Upside Down— Pathways Forward in Policy and Research

THE AUTHOR
Tim Campbell has worked for more than 35 years in urban development with experience in scores of countries and hundreds of cities in Latin America, South and East Asia, Eastern Europe, and Africa. His areas of expertise include strategic urban planning, city development strategies, decentralization, urban policy, and social and poverty impact of urban development. He is chairman of the Urban Age Institute, which fosters leadership and innovation between and among cities in areas of strategic urban planning, urban policy and management, sustainable environmental planning, and poverty reduction. Campbell retired from the World Bank in December 2005 after more than 17 years working in various capacities in the urban sector. Before joining the Bank, he worked for over 13 years as a private consultant and university professor. His consulting clients included private sector firms, governments, and international organizations. He taught at Stanford University and the University of California at Berkeley. He lived in rural and small town Costa Rica for two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer.

3 February 2013

Talking, walking objects

simon

The future is rich with sensor-based, animated devices to give us affirmation, coach us and just plain keep us company. Smart Design’s Carla Diana gives a good overview in this opinion piece for the New York Times.

“As products become smarter, their behaviors will mean they essentially have continuing conversations with us, whether they include verbal exchanges or not. Just like we read subtle cues from our pets (we see a dog’s ears and believe that he feels sad, guilty or excited), we’ll read emotion from our products, perceiving nuances of dialogue and a sense that the object is “alive.” [...]

With this throng of sentient objects in our lives, we’ll have to negotiate a whole new set of relationships. Will we adore our new products as if they were pets, doting on them and anticipating their greetings? Or will all this lively communication create an annoying cacophony of gadgets? My hope is for the former, but it will depend on the designers’ ability to devise interactions that consider emotional value as important as any other product attribute.”

3 February 2013

Nicholas Carr on taking Clay Shirky’s ‘cognitive surplus’ idea to its logical, fascistic extreme

bigdata

Max Levchin [one of the Silicon Valley elite—computer scientist, cofounder of PayPal, buddy of Peter Thiel, Yahoo director, restless entrepreneur, big thinker, venture capitalist, angel] gave the keynote Iat DLD13 in Munich recently, where he argues that “the next big wave of opportunities exists in centralized processing of data gathered from primarily analog systems” (think Über, neighborhood security, therapists, the human mind).

Yes, this approach has risks, but, he says, “as a species, we simply must take these risks, to continue advancing, to use all available resources to their maximum”. “The way to deal with risk is of course some form of insurance. Modeling loss from observed past events is hardly news, but dynamically changing the price of the service to reflect individual risk is a big deal. My expectation is that next decade we will see an explosion of insurance and insurance-like products and services — leveraging those very same network effects of data, providing truly dynamic resource pricing and allocation.”

In conclusion, Levchin believes “that in the next decades we will see huge number of inherently analog processes captured digitally. Opportunities to build businesses that process this data and improve lives will abound.”

The Big Brother consequences of this efficiency madhouse are obvious and Nicholas Carr couldn’t take it anymore:

“Levchin refers to “humans” as “analog resources,” a category we share with “cars, houses, etc.” The tragedy of analog resources is that they’re horribly underutilized. They spend a great deal of their time in idleness. Look out into the analog world, and you see a wasteland of inefficiency. But computers can fix that. If we can place sensors and other data-monitoring devices on all analog resources, including ourselves, then we can begin to track them, analyze them, and “rationalize their use.” [...]

This is Clay Shirky’s “cognitive surplus” idea taken to its logical, fascistic extreme.” [...]

This is the nightmare world of Big Data, where the moment-by-moment behavior of human beings — analog resources — is tracked by sensors and engineered by central authorities to create optimal statistical outcomes. We might dismiss it as a warped science fiction fantasy if it weren’t also the utopian dream of the Max Levchins of the world. They have lots of money and they smell even more. [...]

It’s the ultimate win-win: you get filthy rich by purifying the tribe.”

Evgeny Morozov is worried as well about the marketing dangers of the Big Data craze.

So, asks GigaOm’s Mathew Ingram in his summary of the debate, “is the world of big data one in which information about us allows us to personalize services and benefit from that personalization, or is it one in which our data is used against us by companies and governments?”

“The common thread in both of these dystopian visions is a world in which our data is transmitted without our knowledge, and/or used against us in some way. Where Levchin seems to see an efficient exchange of data between user and service, one with benefits for both — and presumably a level (and secure) playing field in terms of who has access to it — Carr and Morozov see companies and governments misusing this data for their own nefarious purposes, while we remain powerless.

What makes it difficult to argue with either one is that we’ve already seen the building blocks of this potential future emerge, whether it’s Facebook playing fast and loose with the privacy settings of a billion people, or companies aggregating information and creating profiles of us and our activities and desires. What happens when the sensor-filled future that Levchin imagines becomes a reality? Who will be in control of all that information?”