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Search results for 'hackers'
17 January 2014

[Book] Smart Cities: Big Data, Civic Hackers and the Quest for a New Utopia

Smart-Cities-cover-197x300

Smart Cities: Big Data, Civic Hackers and the Quest for a New Utopia
by Anthony M. Townsend
W. W. Norton & Company
October 2013. 400 pages
[Amazon link]

Abstract

An unflinching look at the aspiring city-builders of our smart, mobile, connected future.

We live in a world defined by urbanization and digital ubiquity, where mobile broadband connections outnumber fixed ones, machines dominate a new “internet of things,” and more people live in cities than in the countryside.

In Smart Cities, urbanist and technology expert Anthony Townsend takes a broad historical look at the forces that have shaped the planning and design of cities and information technologies from the rise of the great industrial cities of the nineteenth century to the present. A century ago, the telegraph and the mechanical tabulator were used to tame cities of millions. Today, cellular networks and cloud computing tie together the complex choreography of mega-regions of tens of millions of people.

In response, cities worldwide are deploying technology to address both the timeless challenges of government and the mounting problems posed by human settlements of previously unimaginable size and complexity. In Chicago, GPS sensors on snow plows feed a real-time “plow tracker” map that everyone can access. In Zaragoza, Spain, a “citizen card” can get you on the free city-wide Wi-Fi network, unlock a bike share, check a book out of the library, and pay for your bus ride home. In New York, a guerrilla group of citizen-scientists installed sensors in local sewers to alert you when stormwater runoff overwhelms the system, dumping waste into local waterways.

As technology barons, entrepreneurs, mayors, and an emerging vanguard of civic hackers are trying to shape this new frontier, Smart Cities considers the motivations, aspirations, and shortcomings of them all while offering a new civics to guide our efforts as we build the future together, one click at a time.

Interview

Q. Professor Townsend, a recent favorable review of your new book in The New York Times described you as “the rare technologist who is in the know without being in the tank.” Are you indeed worried that “smart cities” could backfire in some way, compromising privacy, say, rather than helping us address environmental, social, and economic challenges?

A: Absolutely – there are considerable risks going forward. The penultimate chapter of Smart Cities bears the title “Buggy, Brittle and Bugged.” The technological underpinnings of smart cities are extremely complex, yet we are throwing them together at a blistering pace. This is how bugs like Y2K creep in. Design decisions are being made for expedience and cost, not quality and robustness.

Smart cities are also the perfect tool for mass surveillance. As we are finding out in the post-Snowden era, it is actually far worse than even the most paranoid critics feared. All of these risks can be managed, but no one in the smart cities community was really confronting them head on.

19 June 2009

Even the BBC believes that we are all hackers now

Tinkerers
My quest of understanding the mainstreaming of hacker culture is now also endorsed by the BBC:

“The maze of electronics on a typical circuit board can be difficult to decipher, but as hackers and tinkerers grow in number, an industry and web community have emerged to provide them with instructions to make their work simpler.”

Read full story

18 June 2009

We are all hackers now (ctd.)

Open source hardware
In my ongoing exploration of the theme “we are all hackers now” (also the title of a talk I will give on 29 June in Brussels), I once again found quite a lot of recently published supporting material.

We build the parts, you build the product
The creator of Zoybar, an open-source hardware platform that lets anyone invent their own instrument, talks about “decentralized innovation.”

Neil Gershenfeld (MIT) on the future of invention
By digitizing not just the communication of ideas but also the fabrication of things, the campus can now effectively come to the student.

Future of Open Source: Collaborative Culture and Hardware Hacking
Douglas Wok talks on the new open source culture, in which anyone with an internet connection can make their creations available to the public, unmediated by the old gatekeepers of mass media, whereas Ryan Paul discusses what the open source movement will generate now that it is extending its reach to the hardware industry.

The Repair Manifesto
The Dutch art collective Platform21 introduces The Repair Manifesto, which “opposes throwaway culture and celebrates repair as the new recycling.”
(via Design Observer)

Now think what all this could mean in emerging markets:

UN and HP bring technology training to youth in Africa and Middle East
The United Nations Industrial Development Organization and the technology company HP announced today the opening of 20 training centres in Africa and the Middle East to expand youth entrepreneurship and information technology education.

And finally there is the truly unbeatable video Arduino the Cat, Breadboard the Mouse and Cutter the Elephant, which I posted about a month ago on Core77.

26 April 2009

“We are all hackers now”

The Future of Making
For months now, I have been running with this simple thesis in my head: “We are all hackers now”, and again, again and again I notice it getting confirmed.

The latest confirmation comes from The Institute for the Future, which for the last six months has been researching the “future of making,” exploring how the stuff of our world may be researched, invented, designed, manufactured, and distributed in the next ten years.

At last weekend’s Maker Faire, they released the results of their research in the form of a visual knowledge map, summarizing drivers, trends, and implications.

“Two future forces, one mostly social, one mostly technological, are intersecting to transform how goods, services, and experiences—the “stuff” of our world—will be designed, manufactured, and distributed over the next decade. An emerging do-it-yourself culture of “makers” is boldly voiding warranties to tweak, hack, and customize the products they buy. And what they can’t purchase, they build from scratch. Meanwhile, flexible manufacturing technologies on the horizon will change fabrication from massive and centralized to lightweight and ad hoc. These trends sit atop a platform of grassroots economics—new market structures developing online that embody a shift from stores and sales to communities and connections.”

Download the Future of Making Map

(via Boing Boing)

5 March 2014

Has privacy become a luxury good?

privacy

Julia Angwin, a senior reporter at ProPublica, writes in the New York Times about how it takes a lot of money and time to avoid hackers and data miners.

“In our data-saturated economy, privacy is becoming a luxury good. After all, as the saying goes, if you aren’t paying for the product, you are the product. And currently, we aren’t paying for very much of our technology.

Not long ago, we would have bought services as important to us as mail and news. Now, however, we get all those services for free — and we pay with our personal data, which is spliced and diced and bought and sold.”

But, she asks, do we want privacy to be something that only those with disposable money and time can afford?

5 March 2014

Reflecting on anthropology and design

savageminds

A few weeks back I wrote that Rachel Carmen Ceasar (@rceasara) is running a short series on Savage Minds that features interviews with design researchers, ethnographic hackers, and field work makers with their take on anthropology and design.

Besides her interview with Nicolas Nova, she has now published a couple more interviews:

Anne Galloway – designer, ethnographer, archaeologist
For Anne, the most interesting connection between anthropology and design can be found in how each practice enhances the other. Anthropology provides a kind of thick description that contextualises design processes and products, and design offers anthropology creative means of exploring and representing what it means to be human. She also enjoys the explicit combination of thinking, doing, and making—of blurring boundaries between analytical and creative practice, between rational and emotional experience.

Note Anne’s use of apps:
I record all my interviews with an app called Highlight, which I like because I can flag interesting points during the conversation and return to them later, without interrupting the flow. I do a lot of note-taking, using a regular paper notebook or an app called iA Writer (because that’s where I do most of my writing these days, including right now).”

Silvia Lindtner – DIY maker, hacker, and ethnographic design researcher
Can making and designing for a living also be critical? In which ways? How does critical design in production differ from the kind of critical design we know today?

14 February 2014

anthropology + design: nicolas nova

b-car2

Rachel Carmen Ceasar (@rceasara) is a doctoral candidate in the Joint Medical Anthropology Program at UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco (California, USA). She writes about the subjective and scientific stakes in exhuming mass graves from the Spanish Civil War and dictatorship in Spain today.

She is now running a short series on Savage Minds that features interviews with design researchers, ethnographic hackers, and field work makers with their take on anthropology and design.

For the first interview, she talks with design researcher and ethnographer Nicolas Nova.

Nicolas Nova is a design researcher, ethnographer and co-founder of the Near Future Laboratory. His work is about identifying weak signals as well as exploring people’s needs, motivations and contexts to map new design opportunities and chart potential futures. Nicolas has given talks and exhibited his work on the intersections of design, technology and the near-future possibilities for new social-technical interaction rituals in venues such SXSW, AAAS, O’Reilly Emerging Technology Conference and the design week in Milano, the Institute for the Future, the the MIT Medialab. He holds a PhD in Human-Computer Interaction from the Swiss Institute of Technology in Lausanne and has been a visiting researcher at the Art Center School of Design (Pasadena). He is also Professor at the Geneva University of Arts and Design (HEAD–Genève) and curator for Lift Conference, a series of international events about digital culture and innovation.

Upcoming interviews are with Kat Jungnickel (Lecturer at Goldsmiths), Daniela K. Rosner (PhD student at UC Berkeley’s School of Information), and Silvia Lindtner (a post-doctoral fellow at the ISTC-Social at UC Irvine and at Fudan University Shanghai).

Kat Jungnickel is a sociologist interested in maker culture, DiY / DiT (do-it-together) technology practices, gender and mobilities and inventive methods. Her current work investigates the impact of (digital) technologies and material practices in knowledge transmission and the potential different stories hold for understanding social worlds.

Daniela K. Rosner is currently finishing her doctorate at UC Berkeley’s School of Information and holds a B.F.A. from the Rhode Island School of Design in Graphic Design and a M.S. in Computer Science from the University of Chicago. Through fieldwork and design, she reveal and create surprising connections between technology and handwork. She is also an assistant professor in UW’s Department of Human Centered Design and Engineering (HCDE), and co-directs the TAT Lab with Beth Kolko.

Silvia Lindtner is a post-doctoral fellow at the ISTC-Social (the Intel Science and Technology Center for Social Computing) at UC Irvine and at Fudan University Shanghai. She researches, writes and teaches about DIY (do-it-yourself) maker culture, with a particular focus on its intersections with manufacturing and industry development in China. Drawing on her background in interaction design and media studies, she merges ethnographic methods with approaches in design and making. This allows her to provide deep insights into emerging cultures of technology production and use, from a sociological and technological perspective.

2 January 2014

Using ethnography to build internet freedom tools for real people

30c3_logo

In our new dystopian world of pervasive surveillance, most people are at a loss what to do. The tools that allows us to maintain a semblance of privacy are really, really hard to use. Most of us won’t even try and just accept our fate, with resignation and some bitterness.

Michael Brennan is one of these people trying to change that.

He gave a talk a few days ago at the 30th Chaos Communication Congress [30c3] by the Chaos Computer Club [CCC] on how we can use ethnography and human-centered design to build more effective tools that can be used by individuals from all around the world to circumvent censorship and surveillance and communicate safely and anonymously.

Few hackers will disagree that users are not given enough consideration when building Internet Freedom Tools designed to circumvent censorship and surveillance. But how do we do it? This talk outlines a framework for a user-focused approach to the Development and Impact of Internet Freedom Tools through using ethnography, human-centered design, and the practice of research-based product definition. This talk is intended for developers, researchers, and journalists who seek to understand how better tools can be developed to protect anonymity and provide unfettered access to the Internet.

Internet Freedom Tools (IFTs) are developed to solve the technical challenges of anonymity, privacy, security and information access. Focus on these technical challenges rather than the user of an IFT can lead to overlooking the motivations, needs and usability issues faced by user communities. Further, IFTs may solve a technical challenge for users, and yet fall short when it comes to user experience. There is a disconnect that must be remedied for IFTs and the people who use them to realize their full potential.

This talk seeks to provide new insights to developers and users in need of knowledge on how they can better address relevant problems, create appropriate solutions and help users with IFTs. This talk explains to the audience what tools are available for user-focused design. It also walks through a framework to guide the development of IFTs that is grounded in ethnographic methods and human-centered design, and how this framework is being used to conduct an IFT user community.

This work is currently being conducted by SecondMuse and Radio Free Asia through the Open Technology Fund.

ADDENDUM: But, what is “Ethnography”? What are “User Communities”?

  • Ethnography is defined as the study of culture and human motivation through qualitative research. Ethnographic practices complement usability studies by tapping into needs and motivations of people and users to give the “why” behind certain actions observed solely through conducting usability research. This method includes interviews, observing specific behaviors and understanding the material culture and surrounds of a target group.
  • A community is defined as a group of users that can be defined by geography, culture, shared experiences, or shared challenges. User is defined as someone who is currently utilizing a particular IFTs such as Tor, RedPhone, CryptoCat, and/or other privacy, security, anonymity and access enhancing technologies and methodologies created by developers or users themselves. A user may also be defined as a potential user of such technologies and tools.
2 November 2013

Publication: Smart Citizens (by FutureEverything)

futureeverything

Smart Citizens
Edited by Drew Hemment and Anthony Townsend
Future Everything
2013, 96 pages

This publication aims to shift the debate on the future of cities towards the central place of citizens, and of decentralised, open urban infrastructures. It provides a global perspective on how cities can create the policies, structures and tools to engender a more innovative and participatory society. The publication contains a series of 23 short essays representing some of the key voices developing an emerging discourse around Smart Citizens.

Contributors include:

  • Dan Hill, Smart Citizens pioneer and CEO of communications research centre and transdisciplinary studio Fabrica on why Smart Citizens Make Smart Cities.
  • Anthony Townsend, urban planner, forecaster and author of Smart Cities: Big Data, Civic Hackers, and the Quest for a New Utopia on the tensions between place-making and city-making on the role of mobile technologies in changing the way that people interact with their surroundings.
  • Paul Maltby, Director of the Government Innovation Group and of the Open Data and Transparency in the UK Cabinet Office on how government can support a smarter society.
  • Aditya Dev Sood, Founder and CEO of the Center for Knowledge Societies, presents polarised hypothetical futures for India in 2025 that argues for the use of technology to bridge gaps in social inequality.
  • Adam Greenfield, New York City-based writer and urbanist, on Recuperating the Smart City.

FutureEverything is an art and digital innovation organization based in Manchester, England, founded in 1995 around an annual festival of art, music and digital culture. The organization runs year-round digital innovation labs on themes such as open data, remote collaboration, urban interface and environmental mass observation. FutureEverything presents an international art and innovation award, The FutureEverything Award, introduced in 2010.

5 September 2013

Pew: 86% of USA adults make efforts to hide digital footprints online

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Pew Research Center found that 86 percent of surveyed adult Internet users in the U.S. have made efforts to obscure their “digital footprints” — which could include simple measures like clearing cookies in your browser or something more involved like encrypting your email, writes Ingrid Lunden on TechCrunch.

Some 55 percent have taken this one step further by trying to block specific people or organizations — services like Disconnect.me, for example, have built an entire business on creating these tools.

These efforts are not directed solely at state or government groups — despite all the recent attention from the PRISM revelations and the government’s role in gathering data.

“[Users'] concerns apply to an entire ecosystem of surveillance,” writes Lee Rainie, Director of the Pew Research Center’s Internet Project and one of the report’s authors. “In fact, they are more intent on trying to mask their personal information from hackers, advertisers, friends and family members than they are trying to avoid observation by the government.”

> See also this Fast Company article

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.

22 June 2012

Anthropologist Gabriella Coleman studying hacker culture

coleman

As a grad student in anthropology, Gabriella Coleman was warned that studying the culture of computer hackers would make it hard to get a job teaching in a university. She went ahead anyway, becoming one of the first academics to explore the meaning and implications of the open source movement in software.

Coleman now holds an endowed chair in scientific and technological literacy at McGill University in Montreal, and is currently researching the digital activism of the hacker collective Anonymous for a new book.

In an interview with Fast Company, she discusses why software wants to be free, why hacker culture matters for the rest of us, and whether traditional academic disciplines are still relevant.

26 March 2012

Samsung criticised for lack of privacy protection on HD-TV’s

Samung-UN65ES8000-with-face-recognition-copyright-istock-photo

Samsung’s 2012 top-of-the-line plasmas and LED HDTVs offer new features never before available within a television including a built-in, internally wired HD camera, twin microphones, face tracking and speech recognition, writes HD Guru. While these features give you unprecedented control over an HDTV, the devices themselves, more similar than ever to a personal computer, may allow hackers or even Samsung to see and hear you and your family, and collect extremely personal data.

“While Web cameras and Internet connectivity are not new to HDTVs, their complete integration is, and it’s the always connected camera and microphones, combined with the option of third-party apps (not to mention Samsung’s own software) gives us cause for concern regarding the privacy of TV buyers and their friends and families.

Samsung has not released a privacy policy clarifying what data it is collecting and sharing with regard to the new TV sets. And while there is no current evidence of any particular security hole or untoward behavior by Samsung’s app partners, Samsung has only stated that it “assumes no responsibility, and shall not be liable” in the event that a product or service is not “appropriate.””

Read article

18 April 2011

Tech mogul? Nope. Any old hack will do.

Maker
The Washington Post describes the world and the impact of everyday hackers who use social networks, do-it-yourself-then-show-it-off Web sites, cheap parts from China, and blissfully simple microprocessors to modify or invent new electronic products for their houses, cars, offices and back yards.

“Recent studies show consumers now spend more money tweaking and inventing stuff than consumer product firms spend on research and development. It’s more than $3.75 billion a year in Britain, and U.S. studies under way now show similiar patterns. Makers are even morphing into entrepreneurs, with some of the best projects, including Kleinman’s, raising money for commercial development of self-funding Web sites such as Kickstarter, where anyone with a credit card can chip in to back cool ideas.

Major companies such as Ford are, after years of resisting inventor gadflies, inviting makers to submit product tweaks. “This is the democratization of technology,” said K. Venkatesh Prasad, a senior engineering executive at Ford.

“Policymakers and economists always assumed that consumers just consumed and that they don’t innovate,” said Eric von Hippel, who studies technological innovation and makers at MIT’s business school. “What’s clearly happening now is that all of a sudden it’s easier for us to make exactly what we want.””

Read article

29 May 2009

Tinkering to the future

Alex Soojung-Kim Pang
Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, researcher director at the Institute for the Future, is working on a book on the end of cyberspace – which he thinks will come as the internet moves off desktops and screens and becomes embedded in things, spaces and minds. So what lies beyond cyberspace, he asks in an essay he wrote for Vodafone’s Receiver magazine. We might find out if we tinker hard enough …

“Tinkering is growing in importance as a social movement, as a way of relating to technology and as a source of innovation. Tinkering is about seizing the moment: it is about ad-hoc learning, getting things done, innovation and novelty, all in a highly social, networked environment.

What is interesting is that at its best, tinkering has an almost Zen-like sense of the present: its ‘now’ is timeless. It is neither heedless of the past or future, nor is it in headlong pursuit of immediate gratification. Tinkering offers a way of engaging with today’s needs while also keeping an eye on the future consequences of our choices. And the same technological and social trends that have made tinkering appealing seem poised to make it even more pervasive and powerful in the future. Today we tinker with things; tomorrow, we will tinker with the world.”

Read full story

(In short, we are all hackers now).

13 May 2009

Everybody’s a manufacturer: era of user-generated devices

DBoard (openmoko)
Further on my earlier theme of “we are all hackers now“, here is a long feature on user-generated devices by Fumitada Takahashi and Phil Keys in the Nikkei Electronics Asia magazine (Japan).

“User-Generated Devices (UGD), allowing people to enjoy themselves making their own equipment with friends, are making a showing in the electronics industry, fueled by the outsourcing of development and manufacturing, open constituent technologies, and other trends. Only companies capable of discarding the paradigm of volume production will be able to evolve apace with this new dimension in user participation.”

The article cites Sir Howard Stringer, chief executive officer (CEO) of Sony. In an interview with Stringer, he endorses customer understanding and open technology:

“Consumers today are a lot different from how they were 20 years ago. They aren’t passive any more. The spread of the Internet has given them the power to dictate how products are used, and an increasing number of people are discovering new ways to have fun, such as by creating their own content.

A diverse range of electronics will be connecting to the Internet in the near future, tapping Web-based services, and we have to think about what we need to do to make our customers – the king – like our products. I think the key to this lies in watching our customers. If a Sony employee were to ask me what a reasonable market price might be for distributing video to the home, I would tell him, “Don’t listen to me; watch our customers.”

Understanding customers will also help us uncover hidden customers. The Wii from Nintendo Co Ltd of Japan is an excellent example. They didn’t develop any unique technology; they just realized that there was potential demand out there for something different from conventional games, and thought about how to satisfy different demands from different age groups.”

Read article: part 1 | part 2 | part 3

(via Pachube)

26 August 2008

Privacy in an age of terabytes and terror

Privacy
Scientific American magazine (SciAm) devotes the whole September issue to privacy in an age of rapidly developing technology.

Privacy in an age of terabytes and terror
Introduction to SciAm’s issue on Privacy. Our jittery state since 9/11, coupled with the Internet revolution, is shifting the boundaries between public interest and “the right to be let alone”.

How loss of privacy may mean loss of security
Keynote essay by Esther Dyson
Many issues posing as questions of privacy can turn out to be matters of security, health policy, insurance or self-presentation. It is useful to clarify those issues before focusing on privacy itself.

Internet eavesdropping: a brave new world of wiretapping
As telephone conversations have moved to the Internet, so have those who want to listen in. But the technology needed to do so would entail a dangerous expansion of the government’s surveillance powers.

Tougher laws needed to protect your genetic privacy
In spite of recent legislation, tougher laws are needed to prevent insurers and employers from discriminating on the basis of genetic tests.

Beyond fingerprinting: is biometrics the best bet for fighting identity theft?
Security systems based on anatomical and behavioral characteristics may offer the best defense against identity theft.

Digital surveillance: tools of the spy trade
Night-vision cameras, biometric sensors and other gadgets already give snoops access to private spaces. Coming soon: palm-size “bug-bots”.

How RFID tags could be used to track unsuspecting people
A privacy activist argues that the devices pose new security risks to those who carry them, often unwittingly.

Data fusion: the ups and downs of all-encompassing digital profiles
Mashing everyone’s personal data, from credit card bills to cell phone logs, into one all-encompassing digital dossier is the stuff of an Orwellian nightmare. But it is not as easy as most people assume.

Cryptography: how to keep your secrets safe
A versatile assortment of computational techniques can protect the privacy of your information and online activities to essentially any degree and nuance you desire.

Do social networks bring the end of privacy?
Young people share the most intimate details of personal life on social-networking Web sites, such as MySpace and Facebook, portending a realignment of the public and the private.

Does an advertiser know you clicked on this story?
Facebook, Yahoo, and Google come under fire for allowing advertisers to follow online consumer behavior to create targeted messages.

International report: what impact is technology having on privacy around the world?
ScientificAmerican.com, with help from our international colleagues, highlights privacy and security issues in China, Japan, the Middle East, Russia and the U.K.

How I stole someone’s identity
The author asked some of his acquaintances for permission to break into their online banking accounts. The goal was simple: get into their online accounts using the information about them, their families and acquaintances that is freely available online.

Pedophile-proof chat rooms?
Can Lancaster University’s Isis Project keep children safe online without invading our privacy?

Industry roundtable: experts discuss improving online security
Experts from Sun, Adobe, Microsoft and MacAfee discuss how to protect against more numerous and sophisticated attacks by hackers; security professionals call for upgraded technology, along with more attention to human and legal factors.

(via Bruno Giussani)

30 October 2007

Mobile banking must overcome consumer doubts

Mobile banking
The San Jose Mercury News reports on why users need convincing that mobile banking is convenient and secure.

“South Bay residents Curtis McGovert, Dave Ritter and Leon Mendiola have at least three things in common. They own cell phones. They bank at Wells Fargo. And they didn’t realize that they effectively have an ATM in their pockets that they now can use to do some of their banking – anytime, anywhere.

Make that four things in common: As intriguing as “mobile banking” sounds to each of them, none is dying to try it. They either don’t see a clear need for it or worry that it’s vulnerable to hackers.

“I’m just a basic user,” said McGovert, a 33-year-old personal trainer from Milpitas. “I’m not into all the high tech. I’m old school.”

And there, in a nutshell, is the challenge that banks face as they race to roll out the next big thing for on-the-go consumers. To succeed, they must show customers it’s convenient and easy to use their cell phone to check balances, transfer money and watchdog their finances even if they’re miles from a computer.”

Although a good introductory article to the issue, it doesn’t contain a word on Africa, where mobile banking has taken off quite spectacularly and where mobile banking services are much more innovative than in the Bay Area.

Read full story

25 August 2007

Europe’s children are internet and mobile savvy and are well aware of the possible risks

Children
The latest European Commission Eurobarometer survey strikes me because it is so obvious: children are not as vulnerable online as their parents fear. The picture that comes through is one of surprising sophistication:

“They are well aware of the problems of viruses, hackers, paedophiles and online scams, and most claim that threatening text messages are no different to any other form of bullying and admit to being victims and perpetrators.

The older children get lighter supervision from their parents. But they recognise that parents are right to supervise them and only 12-14 year-old girls get angry when Mum wants to read what they’ve said in an email.

Children worry about damaging the family computer with a virus, running out of credit on their mobiles, becoming internet addicts and damaging their eyesight or losing sleep if they stay online too long.

They know not to give out their email address or mobile number to strangers and never to agree to a meeting with a stranger, although some admit to breaking these rules or know of friends or apocryphal friends of friends who have.”

The study covered children (age groups 9-10 and 12-14) in 29 countries (the 27 member states plus Iceland and Norway) and was based on group discussions.

- Download study (pdf, 540 kb, 77 pages)
- Read short article

(via textually.org)

19 October 2005

New York Times Magazine on human computer interaction

Life_hackers
Can anyone find a way to make your constantly beeping and dinging computer leave you alone and let you work?

A long story in the New York Times Magazine explores HCI, the study of office work and the nascent field of interruption science.

Read full story