Exploring a Human-Centric IoT:

ThingsConLab Working Session at #ThingsConAMS

JustThings Foundation’s showcase of ‘good’ IoT at ThingsConAMS

Beside many other conversations and workshops, ThingsConAMS held the chance for us to introduce a few new projects the go beyond the conference realm and push forward our vision of ‚fostering a human-centric and responsible Internet of Things‘.

To that end, we introduced the ThingsCon Lab, an „open-academic endeavor to connect research and exploration of human-centric connected technologies and interfaces between universities and cities around the globe“. In our 2-h working sessions we refined the focus and scope of the the Lab, discussed potential topics and pitfalls, and laid down the next steps for early 2017.

To get an idea about what ThingsCon Lab is all about (and about the current state of concept and focus) feel free to skip through my opening slides.

In a nutshell, our session focused on three main topics:

1. Approach

We doubled down on our „open-academic“ approach, meaning we explicitly aim to include and connect academic researchers from university and scientific institutes and practitioners, applying our findings (and questions) to their work, products, and design processes. Secondly, an inherent multi-disciplinarily within the research and academic end of TCL is crucial — and wonderfully reflected by the participants of our session, ranging from Computer Sciences, AI, Product & UX Design, Engineering, to Philosophy, Psychology, Sociology, and Cultural Science. The ThingsCon Lab aim to encompass all these disciplines and foster a fruitful dialogue and exchange among them.

2. Topics & Questions

Secondly we discussed interesting and prominent topics, and more precisely potential research questions. We started of with our four initial themes of 1. interface design / ux, 2. security <-> privacy, 3. IoT in the context emerging markets & leapfrogging, 4. managerial and business implications of building connected hardware — and dove deeper, including the field of methodology when researching the IoT (how to handle (user) data)

We tried to narrow those further down by discussion some of the following questions:

  • „How should interfaces in the IoT change and adapt? What should stay the same?“
  • What impact does the IoT have on people, societies, and communities?
  • How can ambient and intelligent environments in the IoT look like? How should they, in order to promote a human-centric perspective?
  • To what extent does human-centric design differ from user-centric design? Ho can it be applied?

3. Next steps

To keep up the momentum and come up with a realistic and sustainable working mode, we went agreed on three opportunities to do so:

  1. Physical Meet Ups
    Starting in early 2017 (potentially at the University of Applied Sciences Amsterdam) we aim to keep up the discussion by meeting up physically and plan for a roadmap of subsequent sharing events, focused on ThingsCon Lab (with another one hopefully coming up at the Technical University of Darmstadt)
  2. Community Building
    Even though tools can be tricky, we also found that some kind of backchannel to allow for dialogue, exchange, and knowledge sharing would be very expedient. We’ll try out our existing Slack group for that matter and see how it goes. (Very open for alternative / additional suggestions here)
  3. Accessibility
    Eventually we agreed that ThingsCon should stay a very open and accessibly community — also and especially for students. It would be wonderful to provide some kind of funding, scholar, or fellowship to researchers and students pursuing related questions — either by involving them in ThingsCon’s event, and/or by offering funds to dive into a specific research question in particular. Again, open for ideas here, let’s see what we can do!

I’m very looking forward to keep the discussion going, grow the research community at ThingsCon and explore what a Human-Centric IoT can and should actually look like!

Please do reach out, if you’re up to join us in doing so.