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Russell davies on people and the internet of things

September 25, 2011

Russell Davies of R/GA gave a superb talk at the RSA which was broadcast on the BBC, where he discussed the world of personal expression as it moves one step beyond blogging.

His premise is that personal creativity is about to grow by leaps and beyond, he referenced the early and surprising growth of Geocities and how it gave rise to something that’s now become standard. He believes that there’s nothing breakthrough about social media right now and instead it’s become more about iterating and making the existing things a little bit better.

Russell recognizes that the big players (Microsoft, IBM, Intel) in the industry are moving towards their next big which is the “Smart” blank world of the internet of things. Russell’s problem with the world scenarios painted by these companies is that people are strangely absent and it’s buildings, bridges and even cows who are reporting back their changing status.

When people are shown in the glossy corporate and brand videos- the technology seems to bring them ruthless efficiency, which Russell observes, is lacking more than a little humanity.

Instead of looking to corporations to guide us to the place where human interaction will happen with the internet of things, Russell advises us to take a look at the re-emerging world of hackers and Makers, the folks who are taking stuff apart and making new things because they can and they want the pleasure of making their own things.

Russell cites Arduino as the killer application in this community, it’s the “thing” that connects external devices to computers. People are having fun with this technology by sending weather balloons up into space with digital cameras, or makingĀ  bubble machines that are triggered by certain tweets. Those involved are a community of hackers that are motivated by making magical stuff, as Russell says it’s like they want to “build the things in the Harry Potter films.”

The best example he gives is the personal bike availability monitor that he built to allow him to see the available bikes at the closest “free” bike station to his apartment in London . He believes it’s something that’s never going to be made by a large manufacturer because it’s far too personal.

He imagines a world no too far ahead where we do produce our own products ourselves and that it’s important to consider it’s not about the thing that gets made, but instead the the satisfaction that comes from making things.

On Influx we’ve written a fair amount of posts on hacking, making and even Arduino and it’s a fascinating area, but I wonder whether it will remain a niche activity populated by only core enthusiasts or whether an enterprising existing or new brand will get behind the idea and turn it mass by giving people the core tools on mass and allowing them to tailor these tools to meet their very personal needs?



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