Socialising the Internet of Things
Are the digital and social forces, with which we have become so familiar, even stronger when placed directly into the context of the things we use every day?
In a round-about way, I guess these were the core questions we folk at Imagination were looking to address during our “Socialising the Internet of Things” session for Social Media Week.
Rather than just talk about it, we put it to the test with a mini social experiment over coffee and cookies before our panel debate.
Every one of our attendees – and they came from far and wide – was given a smart badge (more on the making of those badges on this blog soon), which tracked his or her movements and interactions around our lobby space.
I’m not going to pretend that the experiment was super-sophisticated. It wasn’t. Each delegate was assigned to one of three teams; red, green and blue, and told to find team-mates, identifiable by the blinking of the badges when like-colours met.
It was a first iteration, but it did yield some robust data that told us which badges interacted, for how long and where.
And it demonstrated in a basic, tangible way the possibilities that Internet of Things opens up as it becomes less and less intrusive (we’ll be able to do away with our funky but sizeable badges before too long!).
“The potential around this becomes especially interesting, as the technology becomes ambient,” said panellist and Imagination Head of Technology, Kel Phillipson.
And he’s right. Imagine a world where objects in your office and home talk to each other, react to your mood and act accordingly with minimal/no input from you. The clever folk at Ericcson already have.
This is the stuff that our speakers on the day are doing, as well as talking about. And it is so refreshing to see.
Be it Dave Patten’s connected orchestra at the Science Museum, Mark Coyle’s “torchy” camera built to record every step of the 2012 torch relay or the University of Dundee’s Jon Rogers creating a 100 kilo juke box monster that can only play five tracks (by his own admission “the most rubbish iPod ever”), these are all high-impact, inspiring and lovable examples of things taking on social status and playing a memorable part in our lives.
There are pitfalls to overcome of course. These took little time to surface in the panel debate.
What about privacy and security? As things take on identities and personalities of their own, do they become legally accountable for their actions?
And how do we make sense of all the data/noise that is created by these things?
Rogers said it best: “Let’s get loads of people and data and play it through a xylophone; it’s not an album I’m going to buy.”
Without question, there is a significant curation challenge here and we didn’t find all the answers in our short social experiment on Wednesday. We learned that their were 238 unique badge interactions in 20 minutes, that the blue team inter-connected best and that the green team were the social butterflies and that badge 54 (we will preserve anonymity!) spent longest with his/her hand in the cookie jar.
But, for the long-term prosperity of the Internet of Things, we’ll need to do better than that.
And we will.
I’m sure Nasa has some answers. The personal highlight of my day came when I discovered that this US technology mothership was observing our small, but well-intentioned endeavours all the way from Washington, and nodding its approval of our humble (less than space age) badges, by Tweet.
Proof perfect that the future of the Internet of Things, and all of its social implications, rests with all of us.
Our panel were:
@ileddigital - Jon Rogers, University of Dundee
@markcoyle65 - Mark Coyle, BBC
@davepatten - Dave Patten, Science Museum
@kelfish - Kel Phillipson, Imagination
@watsui - Katie Streten, Imagination
@alextrickett - Alex Trickett, Imagination
Feel free to join the conversation on Twitter #SMWsocialobjects