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Posts in category 'Ubiquitous computing'

16 July 2012

How Google is becoming an extension of your mind

plus-badge

Stephen Shankland thinks that Google is becoming an extension of your mind, an omnipresent digital assistant that figures out what you need and supplies it before you even realize you need it. He also thinks that should both excite and spook you.

“Think of Google diagnosing your daughter’s illness early based on where she’s been, how alert she is, and her skin’s temperature, then driving your car to school to bring her home while you’re at work. Or Google translating an incomprehensible emergency announcement while you’re riding a train in foreign country. Or Google steering your investment portfolio away from a Ponzi scheme.

Google, in essence, becomes a part of you. Imagine Google playing a customized audio commentary based on what you look at while on a tourist trip and then sharing photo highlights with your friends as you go. Or Google taking over your car when it concludes based on your steering response time and blink rate that you’re no longer fit to drive. Or your Google glasses automatically beaming audio and video to the police when you say a phrase that indicates you’re being mugged.

Exciting? I think so. But it’s also, potentially, a profoundly creepy change. For a Google-augmented life, you must grant the Googlebot unprecedented privileges to monitor your personal information and behavior. What medicine do you take? What ads did you just glance at while walking by the bus stop? What’s your credit card number? And as Google works to integrate social data into its services, you’ll have to decide how much you’ll share with your contacts’ Google accounts — and the best way to ask them to share their data with your Google account.”

Shankland worries that “handy new features will arrive in a steady stream of minor changes that are all but imperceptible until one day I wake up and realize that Google has access to everything that makes me who I am.” His solution? “Shifting toward paid services could ensure Google is better motivated to please users rather than exploit their most personal information for the benefits of advertisers.”

Read article

12 June 2012

Augmented sensing through smartphones

wahoo_heart_rate_sensor

So how are we doing to augment our senses through digital technologies?

Here are some of the products currently on the market that allow people to augment their sensing (and sense-making) through external sensors, with result summaries visualised on smartphones and the web:

Health and healthy living: AsthmaSense, DigiFit, FitBit, Up
Sleep: Lark Sensor (WSJ article), WakeMate, Zeo
Sports: Nike+ (running), Strava (cycling), Wahoo
Home energy: Nest Learning Thermostat
Plants (!): Koubachi

It feels like a lot more is to come.

19 May 2012

After ethnography, and other papers by Iota Partners

iota

Iota Partners is a new Chicago-based venture of Rick Robinson and John Cain (with whom Experientia partner Jan-Christoph Zoels once worked at Sapient) that deals with user experience research, sensor-based data, and smart modelling.

The papers section on their website is worth exploring in some depth. Here are some of them:

After ethnography
This paper is based on the transcript of Rick E. Robinson’s talk “After Ethnography,” which he presented at a Telefonica-sponsored conference on user-centered design in Madrid, in December 2010. Bringing together a series of points Rick calls his “tiny arguments” it forms a larger assessment of the state and future of user research.

Nice work
This sample chapter comes from a book in progress by Rick E. Robinson that will bring together many of Rick’s talks and writings on the theory and practice of user research. Based on a talk Rick gave at an internal research colloquium for senior staff members at a major technology company—an audience already familiar with Rick’s previous work at E-Lab—the talk focused on creating an effective research practice and on working with the idea of models.

Valuable to Values: How “User Research” Ought to Change
“Valuable to Values: How ‘User Research’ Ought to Change,” written by Maria Bezaitis and Iota Partner Rick E. Robinson, originally appeared in Design Anthropology: Object Culture in the 21st Century (Springer Vienna Architecture, 2010) edited by Alison J. Clarke, a professor at University of Applied Arts Vienna, and a student of anthropologist Daniel Miller when she did her graduate work at University College, London. It covers a lot of ground. Some history. Some reflection. A healthy dose of unsolicited advice to several different fields of research. Enjoy.

18 April 2012

The Smart City starts with you

Smart_City

Wired UK has published a guest post by Usman Haque, founder of Pachube.com and director at Haque Design + Research and CEO of Connected Environments, where he argues that current Smart Cities initiatives are looking for a one-size fits all, top-down strategic approach to sustainability, citizen well-being and economic development, and that their strategies focus on the city as a single entity, rather than the people — citizens — that bring it to life.

“Any adequate model for the smart city must focus on the smartness of its citizens and encourage the processes that make cities important: those that sustain very different — sometimes conflicting — activities. Cities are, by definition, engines of diversity so focusing solely on streamlining utilities, transport, construction and unseen government processes can be massively counter-productive, in much the same way that the 1960s idealistic fondness for social-housing tower block economic efficiency was found, ultimately, to be socially and culturally unsustainable.

We, citizens, create and recreate our cities with every step we take, every conversation we have, every nod to a neighbour, every space we inhabit, every structure we erect, every transaction we make. A smart city should help us increase these serendipitous connections. It should actively and consciously enable us to contribute to data-making (rather than being mere consumers of it), and encourage us to make far better use of data that’s already around us.”

Read article

13 April 2012

European Commission consults on rules for “Internet Of Things”

 

The “Internet of Things” (IoT) is a future in which everyday objects such as phones, cars, household appliances, clothes and even food are wirelessly connected to the Internet through smart chips, and can collect and share data.

The European Commission wants to know what framework is needed to unleash the potential economic and societal benefits of the IoT, whilst ensuring an adequate level of control of the devices gathering, processing and storing information. The information concerned includes users’ behavioural patterns, location and preferences.

The Commission wants to ensure that the rights of individuals are respected and is launching a public consultation inviting comments by 12th July 2012.

Read press release

6 April 2012

Ambient Devices CEO Pritesh Gandhi on ‘glanceable’ data

ambient-interview-60-300

Chris Ziegler of The Verge had a chance recently to chat with Ambient co-founder and CEO Pritesh Gandhi to hear about the company’s past, present, and future.

“We’re perpetually bombarded with information, 24 hours a day. That’s just our connected reality now, and there’s very little hope of escaping it. On Valentine’s Day, I penned an editorial on how I believe that the secret to distilling this information — the key to preventing humans from collapsing under the ever-growing weight of this data — has been right under our noses for years.

They’re called “glanceable” devices, and Massachusetts-based Ambient Devices has been developing them for over a decade. The company spun out of a project at MIT’s famed Media Lab with the goal of integrating data points into our lives in a natural, organic way. Ambient’s path to building a real business has been an unusual one, producing oddities likes the Orb — a glass sphere capable of glowing different colors to indicate a temperature, stock price, or anything else the user can dream up — and the Umbrella, whose handle would glow when rain was in the forecast.

These days, Ambient has largely turned its attention to bigger customers, focusing on power companies who can deliver glanceable products to end users that help them trim their energy costs. But will we ever see something like the Umbrella again?”

Read interview

4 April 2012

Transformative UX – Beyond Packaged Design

SAP

Markus Latzina, SAP AG, and Joerg Beringer, SAP Labs, LLC. have republished an article they have written for Interactions Magazine on the Transformative User Experience.

“Instead of designing for many discrete applications, the Transformative User Experience approach aims to natively support a larger variety of task flows by replacing application boundaries with elastic, situational environments that allow transitions between different task states. Imagine businesspeople who work collaboratively on a large display to discuss business issues and make decisions (see Figure 1). This display must be able to surface relevant content. During the discussion, content may be moved, clustered, annotated, or synthesized to analyze information and capture insights. Areas on the display might represent certain task contexts typical for knowledge-intensive work, such as prioritizing, querying, inspecting, and displaying analytical information.”

Read article

> Check this video to find out more about the SAP User Experience team

2 January 2012

AI will change our relationship with tech

cammm

Genevieve Bell, interaction and experience research director at Intel Labs, has published a guest post on the BBC website on how artificial intelligence will change our relationship with tech.

“I think in 2012 we will start to see signs of change in our relationships with devices.

Here I do not just mean more forms of new interfaces and new interactions. This is less about gesture and voice recognition and more about machines that are contextually and situationally aware.

And there is lots of serious technology in the works to make that happen – networking technology that knows when to switch networks to make sure your voice-over-IP call does not drop; cameras that know how to make you look your best, smart devices that actually learn about your likes and dislikes and make better choices to delight and surprise you.”

Read article

22 December 2011

The Internet gets physical

internet_physical

NY Times technology reporter Steve Lohr writes on how consumer-based Internet technologies are morphing into new uses in energy conservation, transportation, health care, traffic management and food distribution.

Low-cost sensors, clever software and advancing computer firepower are opening the door to new uses in energy conservation, transportation, health care and food distribution. The consumer Internet can be seen as the warm-up act for these technologies. [...]

“We’re going to put the digital ‘smarts’ into everything,” said Edward D. Lazowska, a computer scientist at the University of Washington. These abundant smart devices, Dr. Lazowska added, will “interact intelligently with people and with the physical world.”

Read article

22 December 2011

An evolution toward a programmable universe

larry_smarr

With a harvest of data from a wired planet, computing has evolved from sensing local information to analyzing it to being able to control it. Larry Smarr, founding director of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology, explores what this means.

“As Mike Liebhold and his colleagues at the Institute for the Future have discussed, computing will have evolved from merely sensing local information to analyzing it to being able to control it. In this evolution, the world gradually becomes programmable.

At the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology, we are using this vision to better understand the coming digital transformation of health, energy, environment and culture. We are experimenting with sensors to monitor electricity use in homes, buildings and data centers; the data can then be analyzed and used to control lighting, heating, cooling, appliances and computers to make them more energy-efficient.”

Read article

7 December 2011

Arup: The technology-enabled city is an untapped source of sustainable growth

New economics of cities
Information Marketplaces: The new economics of cities
Author: Arup, The Climate Group, Accenture and Horizon, University of Nottingham
Publication date: 28 November 2011

The technology-enabled city is an untapped source of sustainable growth.

“Written in partnership with The Climate Group, Accenture and Horizon, University of Nottingham, this report investigates how technology can be used in cities to meet the growing challenges of expanding urbanisation.

The technology-enabled city is an untapped source of sustainable growth and represents a powerful approach for tackling unprecedented environmental and economic challenges.

By unlocking technology, infrastructure and public data, cities can open up new value chains, spawning innovative applications and information products that make sustainable modes of city living and working possible.

While smart initiatives are underway in urban centres around the world, most cities have yet to realise the enormous potential value from fully-integrated, strategically-designed smart city development programmes.

Now is the time for government and business leaders to recognise the value created by smart city thinking.”

24 November 2011

Demanding devices: design and the Internet of Things

Design and the Internet of Things
On Tuesday 22 November, NESTA in London organised an event that looked at the challenges of designing for an Internet of Things.

The speakers: pioneers Usman Haque, founder of Pachube, and Matt Jones, formerly at the BBC, Dopplr and Nokia, and now a principal at design agency BERG.

Videos:
Part 1: Usman Haque (17:20)
Part 2: Matt Jones (18:58)
Part 3: Q&A (26:49)

3 November 2011

Jawbone releases UP, a wristband for tracking your wellness

UP
Priced at $100, the device is a leap for Jawbone. And its aimed at nothing less than making its wearers happier and healthier. Fastco Design reports.

“The UP wristband is meant to be worn 24 hours a day. When you’re awake, its accelerometer monitors your movement–whether you’re running, walking, or climbing stairs–and then sends that data to the app, which shows how many calories you’ve burned. When you’re asleep, the UP monitors your sleep stage, by tracking subtle fluttering wrist movements (a natural occurrence during REM sleep, which is similar to eyelid flutter). When its time to wake up, the wristband vibrates slightly, and times its alarm to the best phase of your sleep cycle. And finally, the UP smartphone app allows you to take pictures of your food and log your meals.

The cleverest features, however, are a bit more subtle. The UP isn’t meant to be a passive health-monitoring device–if so, it would be hard to see how people would keep using it, given how often, for example, diets fail. Instead, it’s meant to constantly nudge you into better behavior. For example, you can set the wristband to vibrate when you’ve been sedentary for too long–a reminder to keep moving around. There are also challenges you can take on, such as running or walking a certain distance each day, or biking to work three times a week. Users can track their progress as they go along, and they can choose challenges created by others (including professional trainers and public-health experts).”

Read article

(see also this Wired article)

26 October 2011

The Internet of Things comic book

IoT Comics
The Danish Alexandra Institute has just released a comic book called “Inspiring the Internet of Things,” which explains the benefits of networking everyday objects – as well as the ethical issues – through 15 illustrated scenarios. The PDF version is available for free download.

“We need a new medium to com- municate the idea of the Internet of Things, its challenges, its problems and its benefits; encouraging people to think about this new disruptive technology.

There are few things better than telling a story with pictures.

This “comic book” is aimed at everybody. Everybody can look at the stories that are being told and form an opinion. Use them as a basis for deep discus- sions or just as inspira- tion; agree or disagree and anything in between – but talk about it.”

(via ReadWriteWeb)

23 September 2011

Reflections on the internet of things and yet another revolution

Matter
The internet of things and yet another revolution
The “internet of things” is viewed as the next big thing, but when will it allow people to create their own stuff, asks Russell M Davies on the BBC website.

“It’s a world where everything is smart – smart cities, smart grids, everything prefaced by smart. It’s a world of sensors in bridges so the bridge can report when it needs maintenance. This world where everything reports on its status to some kind of mothership is close to coming upon us.

It falls down, though, when it starts to think about people, and when it starts to design for how people will get involved in this infrastructure. It is not a bad or stupid world, it is just slightly boring. There is none of the texture or magic or specialness of life in it.” [...]

“It is not about the thing, it is about the satisfaction of making it and the relationships which surround it. That is what will be so transformative and bewitching about the next technological revolution.

It will not be about media and screens, it will be about our lives and the objects we surround our lives with.”

My problem with the “Internet Of Things”
My problem with the “Internet Of Things” is the Things, writes Matt Jones of Berg London (formerly Nokia Design and Dopplr).

“Matter is important.

To which you quite rightly cry – “Well, duh!”

It is something we are attuned to as creatures evolved of a ‘middle world’.

It is something we invest emotion, value and memory in.

Also, a new language of product is possible, and important as the surface of larger systems.”

1 September 2011

Human plus Machine

The future of human-machine interaction
In the next ten years, smart machines will enter virtually every domain of our lives, including assisting doctors during surgery, fighting on battlefields, building things in factories, and assisting in classrooms, nursing homes, and offices. As machines augment and replace humans in various tasks, their largest impact may be less obvious: their presence among us will change how we see ourselves, forcing us to confront the fundamental question of what we humans are uniquely good at. What is our competitive advantage, and where is our place alongside these machines?

Download essay by Marina Gorbis, Executive Director, Institute for the Future

29 July 2011

Review: Paul Dourish & Genevieve Bell – Divining a digital future (2011)

Divining a Digital Future
Michiel De Lange has published a very long and somewhat critical review of the book Divining a Digital Future: Mess and Mythology in Ubiquitous Computing by Paul Dourish and Genevieve Bell.

“In Divining a Digital Future D&B reiterate many arguments made in earlier work, provide them with more flesh, and formulate some future directions for ubicomp. To be sure this is not a bad thing, neither for those who wish to read a book on the current state of affairs in ubicomp, nor for ubicomp researchers who wish to enlarge the scope of their own practice. The book attempts to foster an anthropological sensitivity among its (presumed) CHI readership. Fundamentally, their proposition to approach technology (and urbanism) through an ethnographic lens is highly relevant in my view. Imagine what the future of our cities look would like if it were the sole concern of coders and engineers? Indeed, we should never forget Jane Jacobs’ lesson that livable and lively cities are about people.

I also appreciate their relational view of ubicomp as intricately bound up with the messiness of everyday life, their concern with its multiplicity of forms and shapes, and their attention for fringes (edges, periphery, margins). Important too in my view is that D&B implicitly question the notion of ‘the everyday’. The everyday does not consist of stable pre-given categories (home, mobility, etc.) that can be supplemented with ubicomp. It arises from socio-cultural performances and is continuously negotiated. Still, they could have stated this even more explicitly, because ‘the everyday’ is so often unproblematically assumed as a self-explanatory term in both technology and urban studies.

That being said, D&B’s focus is too much directed inward in my view. D&B dish up insights from urban ethnography, sociology and human geography to a ubicomp audience. The ubicomp crowd may find this refreshing; those more familiar with these ‘soft’ disciplines will already consider such insights well-accepted. As said above, what I feel is lacking from their approach is a clear vision how ubicomp can reciprocate to an understanding of the intricacies of techno-urban practices. What can ethnography and urbanism learn from ubicomp?”

Read review

29 July 2011

Art that interacts if you interface

Talk to Me
The New York Times reviews Paola Antonelli’s “Talk to Me” show at the Museum of Modern Art.

“At its best “Talk to Me” makes you aware of how our relationship to design has become more emotional and intuitive. Ms. Antonelli points out that “we now expect objects to communicate, a cultural shift made evident when we see children searching for buttons or sensors on a new object, even when the object has no batteries or plug.”

And the show is certainly a brave undertaking for a design department that’s still strongly associated with 20th-century modernism. It’s a big step from a Corbusier chair to an iPhone, or as Ms. Antonelli puts it, “from the centrality of function to that of meaning.”

But from a viewer’s perspective MoMA’s messianic embrace of smartphones in galleries is enervating. Call me a reactionary, but I’m convinced that looking, not scanning or tweeting, is still the primary purpose of a museum visit.”

Read article

28 July 2011

Are we becoming too analytical?

Network data
Or, why did Google PowerMeter fail?

In his latest post, James Landay questions whether over-analysis of data gets in the way of designing a product that truly understands the needs of its users. He provides several examples of when the data needs trumped design and user needs, which then results in “Product Failure Due to Over Reliance on Self Data Analysis”.

“The biggest reason I believe these two products [Google PowerMeter and Google Health] have not taken off is their reliance on the belief that simply giving people their data and letting them analyze it is the way to improve behavior (both for health and for the environment). The user interfaces for both products have an analytical take on information design — for instance they focus on showing people graphs of their data [...]

As I spoke with members of the Google team, I was surprised at the lack of knowledge of behavior change theories from psychology as well as much of the user interface design work that had been done by researchers in this space over the past ten years.”

A post worth reading also for those interested in the topic of smart metering and behavioural change.

Read article

(via Tricia Wang)

13 July 2011

A wearable wristband to track health, fight obesity

Jawbone's Up
Jawbone announces Up, a wearable wristband to track health, fight obesity. A combination of a sensor-infused wristband and a smartphone app will provide nudges for healthier living, based on your behavior.

“Just an hour ago on stage at TED Global, Jawbone announced the grand project they’ve been quietly working on for years: A wearable band called Up, which is infused with sensors and connected to computer-based software, allowing you to track your eating, sleeping, and activity patterns. [...]

The Up is intended to monitor your movement 24 hours a day. The connected, smartphone-based software will then be able to tell how much you’ve been sleeping and how much you’ve moved. Up will then combine that data with information about your meals, which you enter simply by taking pictures of using your smartphone camera. Then, the smartphone program will supply you with “nudges” that are meant to help you live healthier, day by day. For example, if you haven’t slept much, when you wake up the app might suggest a high-protein breakfast and an extra glass of water.”

Read article