Huaquiangbei

Intro

Why this book?

The internet touches ever-more parts of our lives. What started with the digitization of information — newspapers, music, academic research — now reaches into the physical world as well. Connectivity and microprocessors get cheaper and more powerful every day. Meet the Internet of Things, IoT for short.

  • The Incredible Machine is a Rotterdam-based design consultancy for products and services in a connected world.
  • The Waving Cat is a Berlin-based boutique strategy, research & foresight company around the impact and opportunities of emerging technologies.
  • ThingsCon is a global community of practitioners with the mission to foster the creation of a responsible & human-centric IoT.
  • Mozilla Foundation’s Open IoT Studio aims to embed internet stewardship in the making of meaningful, connected things.
  • Just Things Foundation aims to increase the awareness about ethical dilemmas in the development of internet connected products and services.
  • ThingsCon Amsterdam organizes the largest ThingsCon event globally, and also organized a guided delegation of European independent IoT practitioners to Shenzhen which coincided with our second Shenzhen trip.
  1. Responsible IoT is important. Because the Internet of Things (IoT) reaches deeper and deeper into our lives it is essential to have responsible and human-centric practices.
  2. European independents have something to contribute.
    For a number of historical, economic and political reasons European independent makers, designers, and entrepreneurs in the IoT space have a unique contribution to make.
  3. Shenzhen’s hardware ecosystem can provide leverage.
    Shenzhen’s unique hardware ecosystem can provide leverage for this European approach and hence help create more responsible IoT practices at scale.

Why European independents have a unique take on IoT

I am convinced Europe, and especially European independents and small companies, have a unique perspective at the Internet of Things and hence have a special contribution to make. At the risk of over-simplifying, allow me to paint in broad strokes.

  • Historical reasons. For historical reasons, Europe is painfully aware of the potential damage that can result from abuse of data.
  • A strong privacy regime. The EU has a strict privacy regime and globally one of the strongest legal protections of the use and exploitation of data.
  • Less access to venture capital. While VC funding has been picking up in European startup hubs like London, Amsterdam and Berlin, access to venture capital funding is nowhere near the levels of Silicon Valley.

Technology is political

People tend to think of technology as a something non-moral: Objective and rational, like a hammer or a roof tile. It is the use of technology that it could be considered in terms of good or evil. But when you take a close look at products that embed technology, we can see that any product is the result of a series of decisions, both practical and moral. Technology is highly political.

Why is Shenzhen so relevant to understand?

Just like Europe, China’s economy has a large service sector. But unlike most companies in the United States and Europe, Shenzhen’s focus is on manufacturing of hardware. The revenue comes from shipping physical products, not services. And Shenzhen doesn’t just build their own IoT products but manufactures the devices for the whole world. If you look around at the electronic devices in your life, chances are they were made in Shenzhen. (Numbers vary and are hard to verify, but some estimates assume that 90% of global electronics worldwide are made here.)

ThingsCon & promoting a responsible IoT in Shenzhen

During a recent trip to Shanghai we learned that there is significant interest in China in responsible IoT and design. The first ThingsCon Salon Shanghai, organized by Simone Rebaudengo (co-founder of automato), attracted 50 people right away. They were a solid mix of locals and expats, designers and entrepreneurs.

About this document

This document was written as part of a larger research effort that included, among other things, two trips to Shenzhen, a video documentary, and lots of workshops, meetings, and events over a period of about a year. It’s part of the documentation of these efforts. Links to the other parts are interspersed throughout this document.

We thank the Dutch Creative Industries Fund for their support.
We thank the Dutch Creative Industries Fund for their support.

About the author

Peter Bihr is the founder and Managing Director of The Waving Cat GmbH where he explores impact and opportunities of emerging technologies — especially Internet of Things (#iot). As an innovation & strategy advisor, he helps organizations excel in an environment shaped by digitization, connectedness and rapid change.

Photo by Nina Zimmermann (ninazimmermann.com)
Photo by Nina Zimmermann (ninazimmermann.com)

How to get most out of this document

This document is a mix of documentation, advocacy, and guide book.

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An exploration of the Shenzhen hardware ecosystem & the importance of creating a responsible Internet of Things. To download the full text (PDF) just head on over to http://thewavingcat.com/viewsource-shenzhen & learn more about creating a responsible #IoT at ThingsCon.com

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Peter Bihr

Peter Bihr

What’s the impact of emerging tech, IoT, AI? @thewavingcat: Research & strategy. Co-founded @ThingsCon for a responsible #IoT. Mozilla Fellow. @ZephyrBerlin:👖

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