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“These plans appear to extend ‘creepy’ into the physical world.” Renate Samson, Big Brother Watch

Form follows function. Whether it is UX or a classic dining chair, the function should determine the best form and a designer’s job is to pare back the noise. Even though the internet of things has countless constituent parts, created by almost as many companies, its form will follow function. At the consumer end of the spectrum, the function increasingly appears to be surveillance. We know Amazon is in a race to gobble up the real and convert it to digital.

Google and Facebook are not far behind. They also share a problem. They still struggle to prove a definitive link between the ads they show you and the purchasing decisions you make offline. They can track you across the internet but if you go to the store to complete a purchase, they don’t get any credit. It leaves TV at the apex of the ad universe.

So in the name of verification, the emerging form of IoT in retail follows the function of tracking all the ads you saw and cross-referencing with purchasing behaviour.

This is one of those scenarios that underlines how fundamentally important Aral Balkan’s idea of ourselves as cyborgs, extending the definition of ourselves to cover our devices and digital information.


 

Google goes shopping

Google now knows when its users go to the store and buy stuff
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Google now knows when its users go to the store and buy stuff www.washingtonpost.com
Google is taking targeted advertising to a whole new level.

Google Aims to Solve Advertising Attribution Problem
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Google Aims to Solve Advertising Attribution Problemesellercafe.com
Google announced Google Attribution. A new tool to solve the advertiser’s problem of correctly attributing marketing channels.

TL:DR

Google launched better ways of tracking your online ad viewing across devices.

They also announced a partnership to share offline purchases history with Google.

The goal is to better prove online ads prompt offline purchases and relies on interaction between ‘smart’ retail, bank data and Google.

They claim it is anonymous inventing something called ‘double blind’ privacy.

We were always going to arrive here. Amazon are doing it with their own fully integrated store offerings, Google needs offline partners to get its hands on the data.

What is not clear is the way this data can also be deployed to encourage purchases. What Tufecki calls ‘asymmetries of data’ refers to the volume of insights Google might have in its ad bank that helps to identify ways to sell you something. Plugging the already vast digital asymmetries to our real world is the logical exploitation of technologies like the IoT.

It also gives form to a network which follows the function of surveillance. It does it at such an early stage that the norms become ‘baked in’ and difficult to push back against.

European readers will probably be heartened to know that the GDPR will present some challenges to conducting this kind of programme in the EU. The problem is if the form of the IoT reflects the ethic of surveillance, companies will eventually find a workaround.

Smart City Challenges

Smart Dublin Challenges - Smart Dublin
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Smart Dublin Challenges – Smart Dublinsmartdublin.ie
Smart Dublin is looking for smart solutions that match Dublin’s needs.

How do we build out an IoT that reflects a function of respect, service and responsibility? Smart devices don’t always need to be creepy, despite what comes out of China. Like many cities, Dublin (and their Smart Dublin project) are running a series of challenges to develop smart technologies that address real citizen’s problems.

The challenge idea is to get companies into a process that helps

a) understand the problem better (and distill it for the city) and

b) fund the development and trialling of solutions.

I like the challenge as a model, there is more stakeholder involvement and a chance to keep the needs of the public and citizens at the centre of the projects. They are an opportunity to create better and more thoughtful outcomes and give form to an IoT that functions responsibly and respectfully.  Hopefully that is the opportunity they take. 

If you are building solutions around flooding, way-finding or illegal dumping you might want to enter.

If you have any questions please contact us

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