The spirit of London will prevail ..

There is an enchanting exhibit at Madame Taussads in London called ‘The Spirit of London’.

The spirit of London is a ride in a ‘black cab’ that takes you on a journey back in time through the history of London from Sir Francis Drake, Shakespeare, wars, famines, the blitz, the swinging sixties etc.

The point of that brief but magical ride is: The spirit of London prevails despite all that it encounters ...

Since the first time I saw it, many years ago, it has remained unchanged and I have seen it many times when I take visitors to Madame Taussads

Ironically, over the last three months, I happened to see the same ride thrice.

Once with my son, then with my sister when she was here from India and finally with my godson, when he was here from Germany.

After seeing it three times in as many months, I was getting a bit bored of it ..

But today, that ‘spirit of London’ has taken on a new meaning ..

The last week has witnessed unprecedented scenes of riots in London

The riot, as the great Dr Martin Luther King said, is the voice of the unheard ..

But the revered Dr King was referring to human rights and not the ‘right’ of the rioters to help themselves to designer shoes and HD TVs

Being born in India, and having seen real poverty, there is something strange about watching these rioters helping themselves to designer branded goods i.e. they are not helping themselves to ‘food’. (And in a curious twist, the homeless who probably do really lack food, are not rioting!)

In most parts of the world, poverty means ‘no food’.

These riots was not poverty driven

Strangely, in a span of a few weeks, we have gone from Royal weddings to riots.

But the spirit of London is strong in my view

As someone who runs a niche business in London, I am happy to call myselves a ‘capitalist’.

By that I mean, a capitalist is a ‘cathedral builder’ – someone who looks at a block of stone and adds value to it to build a cathedral.

And the strength of London, and its spirit, rests in that basic ‘creator’ ethos over the millennia

By capitalists, I mean the businesses like 150 year old House of Reeves, which was burnt down, but I am sure will rise from its ashes stronger with the support of the community and the small Turklish shopkeepers who defended their businesses

While even the likes of Robert Mugabe has taken it upon themselves to remind us that there are ‘no fires in Zimbabwe’ (but we should remind him that there are no free elections in Zimbabwe either!), this is a time to remind us of the spirit of London.

Finally, I cannot ignore the role of ‘mobile’ and ‘ad hoc networks’ in this riot.

What to make of the malevolent ‘flashmob’ driven by Blackberry messengers?

Mobile devices and technology are tools but they lead to fundamental changes in society (and I have been saying this in my books and blogs for a while – Would you hire a woman who maintained a f**k book in college and The girl named Facebook: The Russians (and the Egyptians and the Libyans and the Tunisians and ..) love their children too ).

Specifically, Internet related technologies are breaking down hierarchies and creating fluid, often ad-hoc networks, for better or for worse.

While our prime minister calls for a ‘fightback’ (and people in the UK will support any such efforts), the reality is: We are living in a new era where politicians are demonstrably less empowered.

What is the solution?

Maybe a decentralization of power and a reduction of hierarchy (aka – a more network oriented governance) – and there is already talk of that idea –  In this crisis, our cities need local leaders with real power and even ultimately to a more Swiss canton like system of government ?

This debate will continue but I believe that the spirit of London will prevail and will see us to a great Olympics in a year’s time

Image – Madame Taussads

Must read – Open Source – Sustainable Development by Nick Allott

Nick Allott writes a great blog (and it’s very long but well worth a read) on his blog about Open Source sustainable development

A synopsis is:

New software technology, whether PC or mobile, is now dominated by open source. Android, Chrome, Symbian , Webkit, Apache, Eclipse, Meego, Linux, Limo, Ubuntu, Mozilla, QT, Phonegap collectively and individually are powerful forces that determine not only the future directions of technology, but by implication the future successes of companies involved in any of the industries touched by these projects.

This article has a singular purpose: to explore what the shape and structure of a successful open source project looks like. And by success I mean not only, where is it today, but are the incentives there to sustain interest and development in the platform. For every open source success, there are many stagnating in a source code repository graveyard

In the context of webinos, the project I am currently working on, this is relevant for two reasons

1. We need to build on top of other open source operating systems. When we make the selection of which platforms to prioritise, we need to be aware of the risks and benefits of different open source project configurations
2. Webinos will itself be and open source project. When we construct the mechanics of its operations, we want to do so based upon best practice.

The reality of open source projects is that they require significant investment: hundreds of thousands of man hours in many cases. And this investment is in most cases corporately sponsored. Corporates require a return on investment; whether you can see it or not the company investing effort into a collaborative initiative such as an open source project is doing so for financial gain. Moreover, corporates are “compelled” to compete; shareholders expect returns above the market norm.

These considerations are essential if we are to build a sustainable healthy, open source community.

A successful, sustainable open source community requires that multiple competing companies must continue to invest, on and ideally equal basis, into the collaborative activity.

In this article, therefore I am going to cover several points.

1. Go over some of the theoretical background on and why companies do (and don’t) invest in open source, and also look at the principle dimensions of how they are legally constructed
2. Business models: an effective collaborations of corporates, more so than individuals, requires that all parties are comfortable with each others motivations. Why am I engaged? Why are you engaged?
3. Finally, Ill look at some evaluation metrics – can we establish the parameters by which we can evaluate the probable sustainability of an open source project. And to validate this look at how different platforms measure up.

The full post at: Open Source – Sustainable Development

The launch event of my next book – Meditation in the Age of Facebook and Twitter : Personal development through social meditation – from shamanism to transhumanism

Meditation in the Age of Facebook and Twitter: Personal development through social meditation – from shamanism to transhumanism is a book about the evolution of meditation. The title, Meditation in the Age of Facebook and Twitter, is limiting and perhaps even a little misleading, because I hope the ideas I discuss in this book will outlive websites like Facebook and Twitter.

The book was announced on June 6, 2011 at the B B King Blues Club & Grill in Times Square, New York as part of The Realtime Report’s Realtime NY 11 conference and the official launch date is Jan 20 2011

The Realtime Report conference is an appropriate place to launch the book! We live in a ‘realtime’, ‘always-on’ world and these networks and connections impact our minds and, as I propose, the very nature of human evolution.

Most people accept that Meditation can bring about a lasting change in your life. At the simplest level, it can help you relax. But meditation, as we describe in this book, could be a lot more i.e. a technology that could lead to an exponential uptake in human intelligence and evolution.

The book draws on both the ancient and the modern taking a secular perspective

A friend who read an early draft of this book called it a ‘platypus of a meditation book’ in reference to the Duck Billed Platypus . The Duck Billed Platypus is an evolutionary ‘missing link’, an interim stage. Like the Platypus, this book is evolutionary bridge between meditation as it is understood today and the evolution of meditation as spirituality, technology and an understanding of our minds converge.

Meditation conjures up images of a monk-like existence divorced from everyday life. In contrast, I propose a different image, that of an air traffic controller, where your mind receives many inputs, the stakes are high and split second decisions and intuition are a part of the job.

While the stakes are less serious for us, we all relate to this situation and if meditation can help us solve the problem, it can have practical use in our increasingly complex lives

In this book, I propose that we are now entering the fourth age of meditation (following the previous ages of Shamanic meditation, Religious meditation and ‘Leaderful/Guru Led’ meditation). In the fourth age of meditation, meditation becomes a technology that will cause an exponential uptake in human intelligence and evolution. The starting point for this exponential uptake of human intelligence is our brain and our mind. More specifically, the exponential uptake of intelligence could be brought about by a connectivity and enhancement of minds through networks and technology. In that sense, meditation is a ‘transhumanist’ technology and networks are the underlying paradigm of the fourth age of meditation.

All networks, including neural networks and social networks, have a common theme. In the fourth age of meditation, we take a network based ‘two-sided view’ of meditation. On one hand, meditation is a disconnection from the emotional attachment to the flow of messages. This is the historical/ conventional understanding of meditation. But we also explore the other side of meditation i.e. the ‘connectivity’ aspect of meditation, with it’s fascinating possibilities.

The book shows you meditative techniques using brainwave technology.

It addresses questions like:

• How will our brain evolve through transhumanist meditation?

• How can we use technology to enhance our meditative state?

• What are the future implications for society, culture and spirituality?

• If we take the approach of ‘gedankenexperiment’(thought experiment), how would the world look like as we evolve?

• How would our Identity and relationship with the world change as we continue to change, evolve and enhance our minds through a fusion of meditation, networks and technology?

The book also studies social meditation augmented by technology as an on going exploration. Working with Neurosky headsets (see the cool technology behind this at Neurosky brainwave technology) we are creating a collaborative, technology based meditation concept using the Neurosky APIs. Think of it as a ‘game’ where you can synchronize with each other in a group

If you want to stay in touch and also receive the first chapter after the launch event, please email me at ajit.jaokar at . The book will be launched in August in Europe and October in North America

Why the two sided business model does not apply to telecom operators

I have been thinking of this since I attended the LTE world summit in Amsterdam.

The two sided business model has been used by many in the industry, especially @Telco2, to point to a potential gold mine for Operators by comparing to the Web.

While the concept has been popularised recently by Telco2, the two sided business model is a generic idea in macro-economics and in this post, I am going to consider the two sided business model from first principles.

I believe that it is wishful thinking to consider that the two sided business model applies to Telecom Operators.

Two-sided markets , also called two-sided networks, are economic platforms having two distinct user groups that provide each other with network benefits. Credit cards are one such example: Consumers prefer credit cards honoured by more merchants and merchants prefer cards carried by more consumers.

When applied to Telecom Operators, the two sided business model is perceived to have two sets of customers: The downstream customers (millions of consumers) and the smaller set of ‘upstream’ customers – specifically verticals such as healthcare, retail, media etc

However, when we look back at the definition of the Two sided business model, the Operative word is to ‘gain network effects’ i.e. the platform, in this case, the Operator, is supposed to facilitate network effects on both sides

The reason I question the feasibility of the two sided to Telecom Operators is: I do not see how the Operator provides network effects on either side.

A classic example of network effects is the fax machine or the telephone. The more people own a fax machine or a telephone, the more valuable it is to each owner. In other words, every subsequent user adds value to the whole system.

Do we really believe that subsequent users of the Telco platform add value to all other users of the platform?

Now, consider the ‘other’ side.

When considering network effects(fax machine concepts) to two sided business models, the members of each group exhibit a preference regarding the number of users in the other group (cross-side network effects). If firms account for the fact that adoption on one side of the network drives adoption on the other side, they can do better.

We are not seeing any examples of such behaviour (cross side network effects) when the Telecom Operator is a platform

So, not only is the Telecom Operator platform not demonstrating scale (on it’s own side of the platform) but nor is it demonstrating cross side network effects on the ‘other side’.

Let’s consider a concrete example: Network APIs (when applied to Operators)

Yes, network APIs have value to the customer but they do not provide network effects.

Contrast this to Apple and it’s developer ecosystem

Here, we do see a two sided business model ..

By many standards, that ecosystem is also ‘closed’ (ex approval of apps) but, critically, it DOES achieve scale on both sides of the platform (In this case, developers and consumers).

In contrast, the Operator as a platform is (relatively) closed, fragmented and not globally interconnected. The Telco platform is confined in most parts to one country or a group of countries where the customers are not necessarily constrained to using the Telco app (ex they could get the same service from an app from the device maker or from downloading the app from the web on to their phone). The same applies to all such ‘upstream’ customers – ex Retail, health care etc etc in relation to the Operator.

The fallacy lies in applying the ideas of the two sided business model to the Network Operator just because ‘Google / Facebook etc are doing it’. .

Ironically, the Apple developer ecosystem succeeds even when it is closed precisely because it manages to use the principles of the two sided business model to create network effects

Taking a more formal, mathematical approach in the paper Two-Sided Markets: A Progress Report – pdf Jean-Charles Rochet Jean Tirole conclude that

Because all markets involve transactions between two (or more) parties and therefore are potential two-sided markets, it is useful to circumscribe the scope of two-sided-markets theory.
The first objective of the paper has been to propose such a definition: A market is two-sided if the platform can affect the volume of transactions by charging more to one side of the market and reducing the price paid by the other side by an equal amount; in other words, the price structure matters, and platforms must design it so as to bring both sides on board.

Jean-Charles Rochet and Jean Tirole ‘s formal mathematical analysis makes a lot of sense to me because it takes network effects into account and in that context, I cannot see how these ideas apply to Telecom Operators.

To conclude:
The idea of a two sided business model is intertwined with the idea of creating network effects.

The two concepts (two-sided business models and network-effects) cannot be separated.

Hence, the two sided business model does not apply to telecoms because there is no evidence that the Operator platform can nurture scale on both sides of the platform (cross-side network effects)

Image: the roman god Janus – who can see on both sides – but is mythical :)
Image source: flickr

This network based API feature could be a game changer .. but I doubt the Telcos can deliver it ..

@peggyanne invited me to a tweetchat today, What are the key issues and trends in the mobile app economy? my first.

It was a great experience with some good, insightful conversation and great people in the discussion

After the chat, I thought of this:

I would love this network based API feature but I doubt the telcos can deliver it ..

The feature is: Use network based APIs to tell me in advance the cost of a service OR tell me immediately afterwards the cost of the service.

- How much did the last web session cost?

- How much will this MMS cost?

- How much will this photo cost to upload?

If that happened, it would be a true game changer

Operators would be truly solving a customer problem and would get the customer on their side.

Services like Facebook would have to work with network APIs to help customers better

Services that hog network bandwidth would be transparent

All would benefit

I am pessimistic though

It would require genuine interconnect between operators and transparency and a desire to act rather than react ..

That’s why I doubt Operators could deliver this ..

But if they could, it would be a game changer ..


Why did Gartner fail to spot 77 million devices and what it means for prediction methodologies ..

In a recent analysis, Gartner failed to spot 77 million devices from emerging Indian and Chinese manufacturers

Unverified sources in the Guardian article point to a leaning towards: preserve the growth rates; to hell with the actual numbers. and . Thing is, real executives got real compensation based on our numbers ..

Then again, over at Fortune, Philip Elmer-DeWitt was contacted by someone who says they used to work at Gartner, and analysed the PC market – “but the methodolgy is the same for phones”. (You can find their comment below the main article, timed at 11.29; the comments run in reverse chronological order.)

S/he says, inter alia:

“So, in 3Q98, I analyzed the “choke points,” those parts of the supply chain where the channel narrowed enough to get a definitive count. At the time, it was OS, processor, graphics, and hard drive. As I recall, I found 20 million processors with no homes. The market at the time was about 100 million, so this was a 20% discrepancy.

“The process that ensued was a marvel of obfuscation. The leader of the Tracker team figured out a way to rationalize away all the extra units (e.g., multiprocessor servers, inventory, speculation, etc.). It was politically impossible to force the extra units on the regions because it would introduce gross distortions to the historical trends.

So, the mantra became, preserve the growth rates; to hell with the actual numbers. Even the growth rates are fiction. The fudge is in the “others” category, which is used as a plug to make the numbers work out. In fairness, we did do survey work, calling around, and attending white box conferences and venues to try to get a feel for that market, but in the end, the process was political. I used to tell customers which parts of the data they could trust, essentially the major vendors by form factor and region. The rest was garbage.

The industry itself was aware of these issues, but agreed to maintain the fiction because it was convenient. Most vendors kept their own numbers, but referred to IDC for public purposes. Thing is, real executives got real compensation based on our numbers. There were other games played, but that’s for another time.”

This is familiar territory. The analyst forecasts for Location based services in early 2000s are now laughable

“Successful plays in mobile data will ultimately exploit that which makes wireless unique. There is an element inherent to wireless that wired networks, by definition, will never possess – untethered mobility. Mobility, and hence location, is therefore a critical attribute to be exploited by all involved in the wireless value chain,” said Cliff Raskind, Sr. Industry Analyst with Strategy Analytics.

My view is:

Analysts can work on incremental trends

These are nice to ‘model’

These models have their accompanying assumptions

Mainly to protect the analysts anatomy ..

But ..

Disruptive trends are not incremental ..

The cannot be modelled by applying an incremental formula to a historical trend

Thats why LBS trends were so wrong(Google, foursquare etc are the big winners for LBS) and thats why the unconfirmed report in the Guardian “So, the mantra became, preserve the growth rates; to hell with the actual numbers” about Gartner’s methodology is so interesting .. more so because much of the industry analysis is geared towards what the industry(in this case Operators) want to hear

But its not only Gartner ..

The process which analysts use to ‘predict’ works only under incremental conditions where it has limited utility for sure, but the methodology fails to detect disruptive trends

See also: With the warp speeds of android, can Klingons win or do we need faster features?

Image: rajkumar1220 on Flickr

The converged future of the Web, Cloud, mobility and sensors: A polymath approach

I am an inventor.I became interested in long term trends because an invention has to make sense in the world in which it is finished, not the world in which it started Ray Kurzweil

The title of this blog was inspired by the quote from Ray Kurzweil who could be considered one of the few polymaths today. In an age of specialization, there are very few polymaths who can see many different domains and more importantly can see the interconnections between these domains.

In a recent talk, I used this quote and then proceeded to elaborate the interconnections between the Web, Cloud and Sensor networks. So, I am trying to outline a converged vision and then work backwards to ‘connect the dots’ so to speak that point to the vision i.e. how would a polymath (someone like Ray Kurzweil) do this?

This blog is based on that talk.

The blog is really a collection of key links / interconnections and trends that I see today which point to a converged future in the evolution of the Web, Cloud, Mobility and sensor networks.

So, the talk combined both long term trends (evolution of the Web, Cloud, Mobility and sensors) but also short term trends that I see today which point to that future.

What would this converged vision look like?

Here are some pointers. Some initial notes for what this vision could mean

1) I used the analogy of a magic want based on a childhood favourite cartoon character Wendy the good little witch to illustrate the idea that interconnect for Internet of things could be achieved via the Cloud by using sensor based mobile devices – kind of like waving the phone as a magic wand to trigger sensors via the cloud which will trigger new services … If we swish our phone and all these new services are triggered off, then the vision of converged services is fulfilled. If we ‘swish’ and nothing happens, we have effectively failed to get convergence and interoperability

2) Secondly, If all media were to be converged, then I would have a ‘wikipedia’ button on my Sky Remote
I don’t need two government funded TV channels – I need a wikipedia button on my Sky remote ..

3) But against this is the privacy equation which I summarize in the Silence of the Chips

So, if we then work backwards, there are some key areas which impact this vision:

1) The Ecosystem and Open source

2) Connected devices + Sensors

3) Web + Web run time

4) Privacy

5) Capturing context

I then worked back to see which are the key trends in these areas that I see today.

This is the content of the talk and this post.

The Ecosystem and Open source

Shrinking value of twitter ecosystem ..
When twitter starts to assert itself in it’s ecosystem, the value of it’s ecosystem declines

facebook uses open source to scale
Facebook is using a whole range of open source technologies to scale.
LAMP stack + Memcached: memory object caching system: Hadoop develops open-source software for reliable, scalable, distributed computing : Cassandra: Distributed storage system for managing structured data: Hive: data warehouse infrastructure built on top of Hadoop : HipHop: which transforms PHP source code into a highly optimized C++.: Scribe: Facebook logs approximately 25 terrabytes of data a day. so Facebook developed Scribe to log data streamed in real time from a large number of servers: Thrift: Thrift provides a framework for scalable cross-language services development in C++, Java, Python, PHP, and Ruby.

open source givers and takers
There is a mismatch between Open source givers and takers
while 69 percent of the companies Accenture surveyed plan to increase their open source investment in the next year, only 29 percent plan to contribute back to the open source community.


On Aug 10, 2010, machines outnumbered humans as subscribers for both AT&T and Verizon human subscribers for ATT and VZW – Aug 10,2010

Trailer for arduino documentary gets 75,000 views in a day

HP CenSE, IBM Smarter cities and Pachube

The data explosion Mayer (Google) 5 exabytes of data online in 2002, which had risen to 281 exabytes in 2009.
That’s a growth rate of 56 times over seven years.
Partly, she said, this has been the result of people uploading more data.
The average person uploaded 15 times more data in 2009 than they did just three years ago.
Speed (real-time data);
Scale (“unprecedented processing power”);
Sensors (“new kinds of data”).

The European Parliament takes the view that Internet of Things will be intrinsically linked to the trust
“(The European Parliament) takes the view that the development of new applications and the actual functioning and business potential of the Internet of Things will be intrinsically linked to the trust European consumers have in the system, and points out that trust exists when doubts about potential threats to privacy and health are clarified“

AT&T sees M2M as high value bits
AT&T said it was providing connectivity to everything from dog collars that broadcast a pet’s location to pill bottles that will remind you to take your. The irony here is that M2M connectivity in many ways represents the dumb pipe future that AT&T is so worried about but AT&T executives explained that the number of bits sent via the network are high-margin bits and the machine-to-machine clients have very low churn. Total wireless operating margin rose for the carrier to 44.5 percent.


“Privacy was once free. Publicity was once ridiculously expensive.
“Now the opposite is true: You have to pay in a mix of cash, time, social capital, etc. if you want privacy.”

Ping wants to make privacy an asset so does Diaspora; Facebook continues to go the other way By allowing your friends to check you in at a location ; Quit facebook day – only 34,000 users vowed to “quit Facebook” and remember, committing to quit and actually quitting aren’t the same thing.

Privacy violation vs privacy harm – Dr Ryan carlo

FTC – “We’ve put too much burden on the consumers to understand these policies,”

There are other ways in which data benefits society
There are other ways in which data benefits society.
benefits as: Shopping, Relationships(dating), Business deliveries(ex courier services), Maps, Education(schools), Politics(openlylocal), Society (social and spatial relationships through location data), War (wikileaks), Advertising, Linked data and the future.

Danah Boyd Privacy Is Not Dead
The way privacy is encoded into software doesn’t match the way we handle it in real life. The reason for this disconnect is that in a computational world, privacy is often implemented through access control. Yet privacy is not simply about controlling access. It’s about understanding a social context, having a sense of how our information is passed around by others, and sharing accordingly. As social media mature, we must rethink how we encode privacy into our systems.

Web run time, HTML5 and the evolution of the Web

The power of HTML5 Arcadefire

Hardware acceleration

Chromium labs – open source browser that Chrome is based on

Chrome web store

But imagine if Verizon offered Chrome OS netbooks at a subsidized price if you buy a data plan.

Cloud-to-Device Messaging — Through an API, (from froyo)

Google TV – developer ecosystem(also browser driven?)

Web TV The race for £117bn global TV advertising market


One of the best definitions of mobile context from my good friend C Enrique Ortiz

A Revised Taxonomy of Social Networking Data Bruce Schnier

Bruce Schnier’s taxonomy of social data Service data, Disclosed data, Entrusted data, Incidental data, Behavioral data and Derived data

So, thats how I see the vision and the trends today which point to that vision. Comments welcome

Image: Ray Kurzweil

Mobile devices and privacy: Should we focus of changing behaviour of people OR changing behaviour of devices?


@phillippabiggs Telecom economist & accountant at UN in Geneva says:
BEST read of today: RT @ajitjaokar #Mobile devices & #privacy: Should we focus on changing ppl’s behaviour OR devices?
Many thanks Phillippa :)


The many privacy related issues raised by the Web will be amplified in the world of mobility and even more so, in a world dominated by sensor networks. Current thinking seems to converge on one important conclusion: through the combined interaction of law, technology and Internet literacy, people should be in a position to control how their own personal information is made available and used for commercial (or other) purposes.

In this post, we explore the feasibility of users managing their own data .. i.e. if we indeed want users to manage their own data, what are the issues involved in making this happen? We also look at an alternative i.e. allowing devices to mirror social privacy norms. Hence, I see the discussion as ‘Changing user behaviour to incorporate new device functionality’ OR ‘Changing device behaviour to mirror privacy expectations in human interactions

Privacy and management of data – A background

Today facebook has become the lightning rod for privacy and they continue to push the issue with new products like “check ins” where facebook allows others to “tag” or check you in at a location, provided you are Facebook friends. Predictably, this has drawn fire from organizations like the ACLU – American Civil Liberties Union when they say Facebook Places: Check This Out Before You Check In. And we see new products and services that are launched to protect user privacy. For example The Fridge aims to be a service that shares content with a group i.e. if you belong to a group everyone can see it. You don’t have to ‘friend’ everyone and by the same token, no one outside the group can see it. Cataphora’s freeware “Digital Mirror” helps to gain an understanding of what we might look like to other people online.

The complexity and benefits of social networking data

Discussions about Privacy generate a lot of ‘heat but little light’. The concerns of data management are known and everyone has a view on it. Everyone wants to be protected and most people have a perception of being ‘exploited’ by companies. But social network data is complex. Noted security expert Bruce Schneier recently published a revised taxonomy of social networking data. It can be summarized as:

Service data is the data you give to a social networking site in order to use it. Such data might include your legal name, your age, and your credit-card number.

Disclosed data is what you post on your own pages: blog entries, photographs, messages, comments, and so on.

Entrusted data is what you post on other people’s pages. It’s basically the same stuff as disclosed data, but the difference is that you don’t have control over the data once you post it — another user does.

Incidental data is what other people post about you: a paragraph about you that someone else writes, a picture of you that someone else takes and posts. Again, it’s basically the same stuff as disclosed data, but the difference is that you don’t have control over it, and you didn’t create it in the first place.

Behavioral data is data the site collects about your habits by recording what you do and who you do it with. It might include games you play, topics you write about, news articles you access (and what that says about your political leanings), and so on.

Derived data is data about you that is derived from all the other data. For example, if 80 percent of your friends self-identify as gay, you’re likely gay yourself.

There are other ways in which data benefits society. 10 ways data is changing how we live lists the benefits as: Shopping, Relationships(dating), Business deliveries(ex courier services), Maps, Education(schools), Politics(openlylocal), Society (social and spatial relationships through location data), War (wikileaks), Advertising, Linked data and the future.

And I have also said before in the The fallacy of the Better mousetrap: Privacy advocates want to have their cake and eat it too you can’t have it both ways! i.e. publish your content/data and then ask for a share of profits! The future is likely to get more complex in a world dominated by mobility and sensor networks as I point out in The Silence of the chips

Changing User behaviour v.s. Changing device behaviour

How realistic is the idea of people maintaining their own data? i.e. changing user behaviour?

This sounds very seductive until you realize

a) That there is an extra step (inertia) to overcome in managing my data. This will be in multiple sites(facebook, MySpace etc)

b) Much of the data about me is not owned by me(ex comments about me created by other people)

c) The real concern often is metadata i.e. data insights derieved by a site based on collective analysis of multiple people which is then retrospectively applied to individuals. Data is owned by individuals, metadata is owned by the site

d) In a world of Mobility and sensor networks (see silence of the chips above), the ability to individually permit or deny sensors to monitor information about people is probably unfeasible. What are the implications in that case?

The option is for us to maintain our behaviour but to have devices change according to society’s privacy norms

Danah Boyd raises an important point when she says that: Privacy Is Not Dead – The way privacy is encoded into software doesn’t match the way we handle it in real life. The reason for this disconnect is that in a computational world, privacy is often implemented through access control. Yet privacy is not simply about controlling access. It’s about understanding a social context, having a sense of how our information is passed around by others, and sharing accordingly. As social media mature, we must rethink how we encode privacy into our systems.

And Instead of forcing users to do that, why not make our social software support the way we naturally handle privacy?

Thus the question for me is: Is it realistic to expect users to take responsibility for their own data? OR should we make our social software support the way we naturally handle privacy? So, should we focus of changing behaviour of people OR changing behaviour of devices? The privacy concerns we are seeing are just the tip of the iceberg and I think this question would apply more to mobile and sensor data going forward.

I realise of course that this could be a false dichotomy but I feel that if we spent more efforts on making our devices mirror social norms of privacy, we could have a greater chance of success rather than changing the behaviour of people.

Image source: knowldentitlow

Book review: Interconnecting Smart Objects with IP: The Next Internet by Jean-Philippe Vasseur and Adam Dunkels

This blog is a book review of Interconnecting Smart Objects with IP: The Next Internet by Jean-Philippe Vasseur and Adam Dunkels.

I read this book from cover to cover and highly recommend it. Ironically, I did not find the one thing I bought the book for which is the only addition I would suggest in subsequent versions (more on that later). So, here are my thoughts about this book


I have an interest in Smart Objects/Internet of Things/Machine to Machine from two distinct perspectives. Firstly, from an interest in mobility (my business) since so many new devices have sensors and that’s a trigger to a new class of applications. Secondly, from a PhD / research perspective. I also am a big believer in smart objects and spent part of my holiday learning things about Smart Objects

However, if you are not convinced about the potential of Smart Objects/Internet of Things then consider this:

McKinsey recommends the growing Internet of Things as one of the top eight technology-enabled business trends that were profoundly reshaping strategy across a wide swath of industries

HP plans to deploy a trillion mobile sensors

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao coined a curious equation Internet + Internet of Things = Wisdom of the Earth and China is making serious policy and strategic investments for the Internet of Things (I am speaking at – Global Internet of Things conference – Beijing – China Nov 23 to 25 – 2010 )

This brings us to the book

Why the book is needed?

There is an interesting quote attributed to Albert Einstein where Einstein tries to explain radio communications by comparing it to a cat

You see, wire telegraph is a kind of a very, very long cat. You pull his tail in New York and his head is meowing in Los Angeles. Do you understand this? And radio operates exactly the same way: you send signals here, they receive them there. The only difference is that there is no cat.”

The Smart Objects/Internet of Things world gets very very complex and rich because there is potentially a ‘cat’ (radio) in everything! However, this domain also suffers from the ‘hammer and the nail problem’ as I see it (If you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail. Abraham Maslow ). Not only do the various terms (Smart Objects/Internet of Things/Smart Grids) have different meanings, people actually choose specific meanings generally aligned to their own point of view. Hence, for instance for SAP, ‘Internet of Things’ would be RFID/Supply Chain etc etc.

Hence, you need a very comprehensive book covering the entire issue in depth from multiple angles. Especially today since the era of Smart Objects/Internet of Things/Machine to Machine is very much upon us.

In that context, this is one of the best reference books on the subject of smart objects and here is why

FIRST PRINCIPLES: The authors approach the subject from first principles. They define Smart objects as items which contain a sensor/ actuator; a tiny microprocessor; a communication device and a power source. They consider a very ‘textbook’ definition of Internet of Things (Smart objects connected by IP) and discuss the case where there may not necessarily need to be an ‘Internet’ (IP enablement) of Smart objects (i.e. a network of smart objects can develop without necessarily connecting to the Internet). Having said this, the book is about ‘Interconnecting smart objects with IP’ i.e. all about IP – which suits my own personal ethos of championing the Internet

FOCUS ON CONCEPTS: The general approach is to discuss the concepts of the Internet(TCP/Routing etc) and then apply to ‘Smart Objects) and LLNs(low powered and lossy networks which are networks of highly constrained smart objects interconnected by fairly unstable, low speed links which could be intermittent. The limitations could be based on processing power, memory, energy (battery), and their interconnects are characterized by high loss rates, low data rates, hostile physical environments and instability. This makes the book ‘complete’ and hence and ideal reference

AN OVERALL EMPHASIS ON THE NEXT INTERNET: Expect lots of IP but also the evolution of IP including lwIP TCP/IP Stack, IPv6 , ipso alliance etc

AN EMPHASIS ON OPEN STANDARDS AND OPEN SOURCE: Jean Philippe Vasseur is the co-chair of IETF ROLL (Routing Over Low power and Lossy networks) working group and Adam Dunkels is the creator of the Contiki Operating system for Smart Objects . So, the book has excellent pedigree in this regard

GOOD COVERAGE OF APPS: Smart Grids, Industrial Automation, Smart cities, Home automation, Building automation, Health care and Supply chain.

DEPTH OF COVERAGE: Overall very good depth as you can see from the table of contents

What could be improved?

Ironically, I bought this book wanting to explore privacy and Smart Objects. I have been involved in regulatory discussions on this topic and it also has a leaning to my PhD work. In the EU there is discussion of The silence of the chips and my concern is – if we are not pragmatic we could end up ‘silencing the chips’ even before the industry develops since ubiquitous computing no longer becomes ‘seamless’ if you have to manually intervene to allow / deny individual sensors. I also first stumbled upon Contiki in that context(and hence this book) and maybe in future I will contribute a privacy framework to Contiki myselves if I can convince my supervisor of the idea :) ha ha!

But overall, this is an excellent book .. And I enjoyed reading it and would highly recommend it.

You can read more at their web site The next Internet and buy the book at Amazon

Great news – Trailer for Arduino Documentary Gets 75,000 Views in 1 Day

This is awesome news!

I spent my holiday learning about Arduino and I am a huge fan/ believer in Arduino and today I see that the Trailer for Arduino Documentary Gets 75,000 Views in 1 Day

Its great to see Arduino get so much traction and there was a clear need for an open source hardware and software product for the Internet of Things! Expect more posts on this topic and subject in general. The link for trailer below

TRAILER Arduino: The Documentary (available on HD) from gnd on Vimeo.