Sunday, February 28, 2016

Opening up the Billion Sided Market for our IoT data.

In the HAT project, we came up with the idea for  starting a data exchange for all of us to exploit our data for fun and profit.

There are several important innovations we are bringing to the IoT world:

  • Multi-sided market - we are all now used to the two-sided markets of the smart phone & the cloud - we get apps and services for "free", in reality, trading data about our selves (wishes from searches, preferences from likes,  places from location checkins, etc etc). However, the market is heavily tipped in favour of the large cloud providers, and the user has little knowledge or control over her data, and in particular, very little view of its use and value. The HAT changes all that by providing a hub for each user with storage processing and interfaces for access by other parties, but with visibility, control and above all, valuation for the data.
  • Democratised data - HAT providers store the data and provide access, so we need a marketplace for the valuation - an exchange, where bidders can establish openly a price. This could be at a fine or coarse grain - for example, usage of utilities (power, water etc) typically is interesting for service providers, but typically, aside from billing, fine grain use is only really interesting to the actual consumer in their home or office. Alternatively, monetizing usage information about retail goods could be traded directly with retailers or even wholesalers for discounts, loyalty points, or money, and can include preferences for really accurately targeted advertisements in exchange for further discounts or e-cash. 
  • Freedom - freedom to switch hub, to choose aggregators who have a better deal, or provide stronger service guarantees, is a given  - the large number of HATs is trivially deployed and scaled out in today's cloud based world. This encourages innovation in HAT technology itself. The symmetry of the business relationships allows this dynamic, in contrast to the asymmetric power wielded by the centralised services of the last fifteen years.
  • Silo Busting - the IoT world is notoriously not an Internet of Things, but a hodge podge of many different services, overlayed on the internet and the cloud, but not in any way connected to each other. The HAT changes that by creating a collection of places where data from multiple worlds can be integrated by new applications and new customers from any of the millions of sides of the new market. We are strongly technology agnostic when it comes to IoT at the "lower level" - of course there are good reasons for different systems to work in different ways. We break open the silos by allowing user-centered integration of data. Its about you, so you control it, whatever it is. Cosmetics, entertainment, clothes, energy, well-being, you name it. Think of the value being missed by existing isolated systems when they cannot put 1+1+1 together, but can only see how single values (kilowat hours, litres, meters) increase over time, instead of being able to combine together information with meaning! A space for a million apps for combining your data - more innovation, driven by new value made out of new joins across the seams of the legacy disjointed IoT world.
  • Privacy Protection - We really care about our privacy. The legacy cloud systems today (your social media, web mail, search, travel portal usage) currently do a half baked job on this. When we take far more personal information into the HAT, it is essential we offer much much stronger assurances, applying the very best practice in technology and also written in to the terms & conditions in plain language. If one HAT doesn't get it right, it is easy to move to another. This enables an eco-system with constantly improving, transparent, control over data visibility - once again, another dimension on which to innovate.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Zika App idea

Back in the day, during the H1/N1 epidemic, we did this Flu Phone App to track people's encounters (via phone proximity using say bluetooth (could also use GPS tracking on phone, or even call data records with cell phone company cooperation, if you want less accuracy). The idea was to extract events when people self reported with symptoms, and then (in a privacy preserving manner) extracet the encounters between that individual and others (infected or not) in the population, and then to work out from this various epidemic parameters (susceptibility of different members of population, infectiousness, recovery rate, asymptomatic carriers/herd immunity levels in segments of population, etc etc), as well as possibly nailing elements of the vector....

So with the current Zika virus, it is pretty clear that it is spread by a particular mosquito type (the same as spreads Dengue Fever).

So we could take the app described above (and its reporting infrastructure) and
add one very simple thing - if the phone app turns on the mike, you can tell from sound whether there is one of these little beasties near you- wing sounds have characteristic frequency which is in audio range and sensitivity of human ear and certainly of the (usually better) microphone/audio system on a phone - more info about the Aedis Agypti sound of female mosquito which is the one you care about being not bitten by in terms of Zika.

If there were several people running such an app in the same location, you might even tll roughly where the mosquito was and avoid it (though that's a bit fanciful).

At least, however, you'd be able to look at the incidents of people being co-locaed with mosquitos of the right type, and the infection rate. ANd possibly (over time) look at the spread caused by an uninfected mosquito biting an infected person....thus
mosquito -> person -> mosquito ->person

of course, the same app might possibly also tell you of cases of person->person where there's no mosquito detected...which would also be useful data for epidemiologists

A thought.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

panic, moi?

So there's this great new report from the Berkman about the worries various governments have that the technology we are starting finally to make use of to protect our privacy may also mean that "bad guys" can get away without being caught.

It is deeply ironic that there's precious little evidence that having untramelled access to everyone's Internet data for the last 20 years has done a single thing to prevent one terrorist death. It is also ironic that when there was access to encrypted data, during WWII, from Station X (Bletchley, breaking the code, the Enigma and its variations etc etc), it was not used to prevent Atlantic shipping from being sunk by U-boats as that would have given away the fact the allies knew where the subs were (i.e. had likely broken all the codes). It was finally "used" to know that the germans did not know about where the D-Day landings were to be. This was to prove useful (although not necessarily decisive) in winning/ending the second world war.

However, note interestingly that spotter planes could often see U-Boats surface, and it was the location of the sub when it sent an encrypted report (aka "meta-data") that let the Turing folks break the code the 2nd time. There's no evidence that the NSA have known about Al Quaeda before 9/11 or that the Spanish, UK and French had any idea about the Madrid, London or Paris terrorists ahead of time. If they did, and didn't say because it would "reveal" their capability, in a post Snowden era, this is just plain stupid, actually criminal. Given several events have happened after Snowden, and there's precious little evidence the bad guys used much more than basic comms (SMS, instant messaging) then, it is evidence that the security apparatus is not fit-for-purpose.

Thus, the report above is right about meta-data (what's sometimes called communications data, as opposed to content, or "control" as opposed to "data").

Interestingly, was talking to some lay folks recently about what the police do if they find someone unconscious (or worse) with no id, but a smart phone, and that smart phone is locked (and, in modern iphone or android, encrypted). So
1/ If you have an ICE ("In Case of Emergency") configured, it can be called from a locked screen on an iPhone, and you can configure android the same if you want.
2/ The phone company can workout what the IMEI and number of the phone is from the location, and from that, could give the police a list of caller and callee IDs so they could try a few til they get the account information would likely give name/address/bank info.
3/ If the phone is backed up in the iCloud, its quite likely the back up isn't encrypted

All of this could also be done with someone "of interest" who is perfectly conscious, but unaware:-)

So there. Fire the NSA and GCHQ and get someone in who has a clue.

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misery me, there is a floccipaucinihilipilification (*) of chronsynclastic infundibuli in these parts and I must therefore refer you to frank zappa instead, and go home