7 May 2009

Daniel Kaplan’s excellent critique of the Internet of Things

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Daniel Kaplan
Daniel Kaplan, CEO of the French Next-Generation Internet Foundation (FING) and one of the driving forces behind the upcoming LIFT conference in Marseilles, France, has published three long essays with an excellent critique of the Internet of Things.

If you understand French, they are highly recommended reading. Otherwise, check the links as they often lead to English-language background resources.

In the first article, L’internet des objets n’est pas celui que vous croyez ! [“The Internet of Things is not what you think”], Kaplan describes the various visions of the Internet of Things, and the role of us, human beings, within these visions. Kaplan is worried as these technologies are taking controls and power away from the individual, which is exactly the opposite of what the internet set out to do, and therefore the Internet of Things carries no transformational vision.

But Kaplan goes further. His second piece, Révolution ou déception ? [“Revolution or deception?”], positions that the “Internet of Things” is not all what its name implies. It’s not even an internet, not technically, not socially, not economically. The way “things” are currently networked is entirely within silos — in terms of applications, services and organisations — and this has nothing to do with the view on pervasive interconnectedness that the inter-net concept contains. He also elaborates on what he means with the lack of transformational vision. Where the Internet always came with visions of social and cultural transformation, the Internet of Things is just nice-nice: we don’t hear anything but service, comfort, optimisation, health, reliability, sustainability, quality and security, usually performed by others on our behalf. If there is a vision, it is one of a control society.

In the closing piece Industrialiser l’internet ou internetiser l’industrie ? [“Industrialise the Internet or internetise the industry?”], Kaplan outlines a vision for an entirely different Internet of Things, which is open, modifiable, recyclable, social and evolutionary, and claims that a real “Internet of Things” will be driven by the thinking of such people as Julian Bleecker, Usman Haque and Bruce Sterling, and by cultures such as those of open source hardware (Arduino) or the fabrication movement (“Bricolabs”).

The first article in the series got republished in the technology section of the French newspaper Le Monde, and it looks like the others will soon follow.

Hubert Guillaud of InternetActu told me that these papers will soon be translated into English for the LiftBlog and when that happens, we will let you know here too.

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