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Tag "virtual world"

Since the announcement of the new Apple iPhone 5s and the built in fingerprint scanning technology branded ‘Touch ID’ the discussion around security, data protection and privacy has been relaunched. It is an ongoing topic in the industry, both on the hardware side amongst producers of devices and the software side with developers of applications and services, but specifically for end users and consumers.

Until now, it was the password, or PIN, that protects and restricts access to the virtual world of data. This has led many of us to come up with creative procedures to create and remember a complicated sequence of letters, numbers and symbols in order to keep personal information secure. It has always been the debate as to how complicated these passwords need to be and how user-friendly this practice is, and often ‘better’ and ‘easier’ solutions for users were wished for.

Now Apple has implemented such a solution with their latest top of the range device. The iPhone 5s features a fingerprint scanner in the ‘Home’ button to uniquely identify a user (up to five different prints can be set up) and grant access. The ‘fingerprint identity sensor’ also allows users to shop on the iTunes Store, Apps Store and iBooks Store where the Touch ID approves purchases.

The new feature is branded by Apple as ‘convenient, highly secure and ahead of the future’. However, the technology and its implementation in mobile devices is nothing new. Motorola’s Atrix smartphone was introduced back in 2011, but also laptop manufacturers have trialled and implemented fingerprint scanner technology in the past decade [REF]. Other manufacturers, namely HTC, are gearing up to release gadgets with similar technology and features.

Although the technology is not new, it is the fact that it is being introduced on such a large scale that makes it a ‘hot topic’. According to TechCrunch, Apple has currently (2013) an estimated user base of 147 million iPhone users, plus about 48 million iPad users. Of the new iPhones (iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c), Apple sold 9 millions in just three days after their launch on the 20iest of September 2013. This is a new record, as previous implementations settled on a much smaller scale. This means that the iPhone 5s is already used by a large number of people. It could therefore be classified as ‘mainstream’ and ‘cultural commodity’. The introduction of this technology can therefore be expected to be used by a much larger customer base as any other similar implementation of biometrics so far.

In this context, the introduction of a unique and personal identifier, the fingerprint, is a smart move. Smart, because everybody knows and understands the idea of the fingerprint. It is in use as signature and plays an important role in crime investigation and law enforcement for over a century. Through its use in detective stories and crime thrillers it has also found its way into everyday culture. It is this very idea of the fingerprint as a unique identifier – ‘’your iPhone reads your fingerprint and knows who you are’’ – that Apple has turned into a selling point to the products advantage.

Image taken from fingerprintingscottsdale / Fingerprint identification plate.

It can be speculated that with the introduction of Touch ID, similarly to the introduction of the touch screen, Apple changes, once again, the way we access electronic devices and use the Internet. Whether this is intentional and whether the use of the fingerprint has played an main role in the development of the newest iPhone generation can only be speculated. A range of problematic aspects in connection to the use of this technology in electronic devices shall be discussed in the following. The points raised function only as an introduction since the topic is vast and might have implications that are yet to be discovered. We debate if the technology used in the iPhone 5s might even be the ‘End of the Virtual?’.

..Security concerns

Official concerns regarding the introduction of the Touch ID were raised amongst others by US Senator Al Franken (Chairman Senate Judiciary Subcommittee) in an open letter to Apple’s CEO Tim Cook (PDF, WEB). The letter states “…while Apple’s new fingerprint reader, Touch ID, may improve certain aspects of mobile security, it also raises substantial privacy questions for Apple and for everyone who may use your products”. Al Franken supports his concerns by saying that “Passwords are secret and dynamic; fingerprints are public and permanent”. This means, once someone has access to someone else’s fingerprint, this access cannot be reversed and the security token can not be changed. ‘’…if hackers get hold of your thumbprint, they could use it to identify and impersonate you for the rest of your life’’.

Image taken from maskable / The Touch ID explained during the introduction of the new iPone 5s at conference key note.

In this context, Al Franken also questions the filing and transferring of the fingerprint data. He demands to know if the fingerprint data stored on the phone is also being transmitted electronically to either Apple or others, and if this data is being saved on computers used to back up the device (referring to the earlier iOS version that stored unencrypted location information recorded by the device in backup files on computers). He wonders further how iTunes, iBooks and AppStore and potential future services interact with Touch ID.

These practical concerns are connected to the only recently refreshed high level discussion on data privacy with information on mass surveillance programs leaked by Edward Snowden, an American computer specialist and former CIA and NSA employee, to the Guardian in May 2013 [REF ] regarding the secret PRISM program. Similar discussions have been on the table in recent years specifically related to social media and the challenged public/private practices in an online context (Neuhaus und Webmoor, 2012, earlier blog post on urbanTick, 2011).

It seems that Senator Franken’s concerns are not ungrounded. ‘Apple’s fingerprint scan technology has been hacked’ was announced by the Computer Chaos Club, CCC, only two days after the iPhone 5s had gone on sale. The claim was backed up with a video demonstrating that ‘fingerbiometrics is unsuitable as access control method’. This ‘hack’, however, focused on the physical reproduction of a fingerprint and did not bypass the new Touch ID technology. Despite this, the attack by CCC proves how easily the new security system can be tricked and everyone with a camera, scanner, printer and a good stock of graphite powder, glycerene, and wood-glue/super-glue/theatrical-glue can repeat the procedure.

The ‘iPhone touch defeat’ also proves that users’ fingerprints are not secret, meaning that anything touched by users will have fingerprints on it, including the new phone. Senator Franken has referred to this with the ‘fingerprint being public’. And here is the real flaw of the technology. If someone gets hold of the device, he or she has basically access to ‘the lock and the key’, as the phone will be covered with fingerprints that can be reproduced to unlock the security system. Even though the chances of guessing the correct fingerprint is 1:50’000 compared to 1:10’000 with a normal 4 digit numeric key (except 1234, source Apple), now that the ‘key’ is on the phone in the form of ‘touches’ this number is meaningless, or at least reduced to 1:10.

Another question raised by the introduction of Touch ID is the digital reproduction of the fingerprint. Apple has explained that the information is not stored as a digital image. Instead it is being translated by the device into a sequence of numbers (a mathematical representation of the fingerprint derived by an specific algorithm). This implies that the print can only, if at all, re-engineered with physical access to the device. This is being discussed extensively on tech blogs, for example on The Unoffical Apple Weblog (source TUAW). In reference to these statements, it seems only a question of time until the A7 chip inside the phone is cracked.

However, the main argument highlighted by Apple is not security, but convenience. ‘’You check your iPhone dozens and dozens of times a day. Entering a passcode each time just slows you down’’. It seems as if it is annoying for customers to input four digits, or on Android models a swipe pattern. In this context, the fingerprint scanner is put forward as the user-friendly solution. With just one touch the phone is activated, unlocked and ready to use. However, when considering the security concerns discussed above, it is questionable if winning a few seconds to start up the phone is important and desirable.

..Security versus convenience

CNet askes on its website: “Should we trade our biometric data and privacy for the sake of convenience?”. The answer to this question seems straightforward: Biometrics, or biometric authentication, can be useful, but it should not be used in mobile devices as the technology is not yet error-prone and these devices can easily be lost or stolen. This seems the common agreement amongst security experts (for example in Der Spiegel). In addition, as Schneier, then President of Counterpane Systems, argued in 1998, ‘’biometrics are unique identifiers, but not secrets’’. This means, they are easy to steal and reproduce. ‘’Once someone steals your biometric, it remains stolen for life; there is no getting back to a secure situation’’. So the big question a lot of people should be asking themselves is not how quick they can access their data, but what they are giving away when using Touch ID.

In this context, it seems important to repeat that Touch ID does not actually store an image of the fingerprint, and the data is not available to any other application other than Apple apps nor stored at Apple’s servers or backed up via iCloud. For now, at least. There is no guarantee that this will be the same in the future, especially as the prospect of a vast biometric database is the dream of any national security agency, marketing company and hacker community. This means third parties will pay a lot of attention to these developments and probably exert some force to get access to some of this data. It would therefore be important to know ‘how does Apple see the actual fingerprint data and how are they going to handle it, now and in the future?’.

Whilst there are regulations as to when third parties can be forced to hand over data in connection to crime investigation, it is a complicated matter with Touch ID as the technology enables new ways of ‘tracking’ people. For example, a user logging in with Touch ID does not only confirm his or her location, but also his or her identity. This means the iPhone 5s could act as a means of evidence – ‘I was here’. So far, Apple has stated that they do not share any information with others – although the technology can be used to verify purchases. The question is therefore, as Senator Franken asks: ‘’Does Apple believe that users have a reasonable expectation of privacy in fingerprint data they provide to touch ID?’’.

There might also be some legal implications for the user of the Touch ID technology. It has been pointed out, for example by Marcia Hofmann of Wired, that the shift from PIN as an ‘known’ key to a fingerprint as a ‘what we are’ key might strip users of the right to the in the US called 5th. This Amendment protects the individual from giving evidence against him/her self. At the moment, this only applies to things one knows, knowledge, thoughts, so on and not to things one has, keys, written notes (if you write down the password on a piece of paper) or is, biometrics. Hence, on trial a person can not be forced to provide the password to a device or to decrypt information since the password is something he/she knows. A key, however, would be something the person has and this object, according to current law, can be requested. The fingerprint belongs to the person, it is part of the human body, a thing, and hence it belongs do the category of information that can not be withhold. This means access to devices or data via fingerprint scan can be enforced. This fact, in connection to Touch ID, might mean that consumers need to give up on one of their basic (human) rights, the right to withdraw information.

..Personal data and biometrics becomes mainstream

A further concern connected to Touch ID is that biometrics are becoming mainstream. Currently, the use of biometrical authentication in the public sphere is limited. Its main use is in passport and immigration control, where retina and fingerprint recognition, actual or as part of a passport, is used to identify ‘travellers’ and reduce queues at border control. Here, the data is usually linked up with secondary information or other means of verification. For example, users of a retina scan machine need also to provide their passport for optical scanning. This means, the replication of a retina scan alone does not provide access to ‘free travel’.

However, the implications of ‘normalising’ biometrics and using biometrics in everyday applications are not only connected to the risk of individuals being permanently tracked and surveilled, but also to the risk of biometrics becoming unsafe. As Schneier argued, ‘’Just as you should never use the same password on two different systems, the same encryption key should not be used for two different applications’’. This means, it is not a good idea to use your thumbprint to access your mobile phone, open your front door and unlock your file cabinet at work, as data theft would automatically lead to a catastrophe.

It could therefore be said that biometrics are not safer than other security means. With Apple suggesting to customers that ‘’Your fingerprint is one of the best passcodes in the world’’ seems therefore misleading. The question really is how much consumers are willing to trade their personal information and data for the ultimate and smooth technology experience.

In addition, in today’s context the distribution of personal information is no longer directly manageable by the individual, as user information is being left behind with every move online and regular real world services. Shopping online, borrowing books at the local library, and visiting the GP, all activities leave a ‘digital footprint’. It has become complicated to the point where it is impossible for the user to understand and control what information is left behind when using a mobile device, especially when using online and server connected apps and services. These apps are often pre-installed on the device and updated automatically. Also, the companies behind those apps are often unknown and it is unclear what kind of information they collect, store and and how this information is used or shared with third parties.

In this context, the introduction of a truly unique identifier, the fingerprint, will not only add to the information left by users, but also add to the possibility of users being personally identified across the entire range of services. This in turn changes not only the discussion around online security but also online identity. Until now, users could ‘create’ their online identity by using a pseudonym and an avatar (an icon-sized graphic image). This ‘chosen’ identity could then be adjusted or changed, any time. In the beginning of the Internet, individuals would often create and use a whole range of online identities. This has changed. Nowadays users prefer online interactions supported by ‘authentic identity’ as reported by the Guardian. This means they want to know with whom they communicate.

This practice has been taken to a new level by Google with the Google ID, an unique ID tied to an individual/account which was introduced in connection to Google+ in 2011. Facebook uses a similar user identification. Both sites, Google and Facebook, make it difficult for users to create and use multiple accounts, and it can be assumed that through this the number of IDs per individual has been dramatically reduced. This of course makes it also a lot simpler for Google and Facebook, and their respective partners, to target marketing and individual advertisement. Despite this, users often create and use different accounts for their private and professional networking. With the new Touch ID, this will no longer be possible. They will have only one account.

How individuals are uniquely identifiable online through the use and manipulation of devices is being researched widely. Besides the PIN and the here discussed biometric identification, alternative methods to provide security, in particular in connection with mobile devices, is being developed under the umbrella term of “Implicit Authentication” (via Quarz). In this case, the security is based on an ongoing security check as opposed to the one-off security check at the start of a session, for example by unlocking the phone. The idea, for example focused on by researchers at the Palo Alto Research Centre, is that the individual user displays very specific, habitual characteristics in behaviour and usage or even movement pattern that can be used to continuously monitor the usage. This will allow to determine sudden change in which case the device will immediately shut down and deny access. Such parameters being researched include location and movement patterns, the way we walk, speed and style of data input on the device, activity pattern and timing, or the subtle way the user’s hand shakes.

These methods seem, as the research shows, to deliver reliable results. At the same time, however, this extends on the privacy discussion, as data is collected on users’ bio-sensorial functions. The technology also puts pressure on individual to profile themselves. The security of such a dataset is a very different issue again, including and extending into the field of personal health and medical information. Nevertheless it represents a big move towards the identification of ‘unique’ individuals and verifying much more than the Touch ID in itself does.

..The end of the virtual?

The introduction of Touch ID or alternative biometric/behavioural authentication methods will prevent users from creating different online identities, as the fingerprint is ‘THE ID’. This means it is really you, who bought that song on iTunes, uploaded that image on Flickr and accidentally deleted that file on Prezi. And it is the very same person who called the client on Skype and tweeted about Beyonce’s concert on Twitter. It is also the same individual who banks with HSBC, shops with Sainsbury’s and hangs out at the Barbican. The point is that ‘being online’ becomes very much like ‘being offline’. Events, happenings and activities become uniquely and reliable tied to users, the individual becomes authentic and unique. Is this the end of virtual?

When looking at the introduction of Touch ID it seems so. It really is the case of as Apple put it ‘’your iPhone reads your fingerprint and knows who you are’’. Subsequently any activity becomes real and unique, and also identifiable as such by online friends and fellow users as well as service providers and traders. However, as suggested by Apple, this does not only make your life easier, but also that of marketing and consumer related businesses. At the same time, it too makes the individual responsible for his or her online activities not dissimilar to the responsibility one enjoys in person as an individual in the real world. It will no longer be possible for users to hide behind one or multiple pseudonyms or avatars. This will certainly transform practice, as both, providers and users, will have to accommodate this ‘new authentic self’ and a completely new reality of online practice.

In many ways, this discussion is related to the ‘Internet of Things’ concept which has enjoyed raising attention over the past five years. Whilst the Internet of Things is about ‘real’ objects being connected to the web, to each other and to ‘users’, Touch ID is about ‘real’ humans. An interesting aspect raised by the Tales of Things project at CASA UCL was the fact that the ‘real’ object was required to access information. This means, access to content is based on ‘real world interaction’. With Touch ID, it is very similar. It requires me, the user, to unlock information (at least once, until may fingerprint has been ‘hacked’) and interact, both online and offline. This ultimately connects the online world to reality.

This means, with and through Touch ID the online experience becomes real in the sense that it confirms that the person logging in at this moment, at this location really is the specific individual and not someone else or a bot. At a first glance, this seems great. From a security and privacy point of view, however, this raises a whole bunch of new questions and concerns that need to be addressed to enjoy this ‘brave new online world’ with yet new possibilities for both users and services. For example, national agencies and businesses might be extremely interested in this kind of data as it is the ultimate proof of someone’s activities at a given time and location. Hence, this information on habitual activities individually verified seems much more desirable for ‘outsiders’ than the actual fingerprint. Touch ID reveals what, when and where a user has been, all confirmed by his or her own fingerprint whilst unlocking or just using the device – meaning the virtual has become its realest so far with consequences and possibilities we can only begin to speculate on.

Image taken from mymodernmet / Real life person and their avatars by Robbie Cooper.


Since the launch of the new iPhone 5s by Apple, the discussion revolving around online security and privacy has been re-activated. Experts agree that with the introduction of Touch ID the use of biometrical data as a security measure in mobile devices needs to be regulated, especially in terms of storage, handling and exchange of the biometric data processed. However, when looking closer at the implications of the finger-scan-technology developed and introduced by Apple, it becomes clear that the technology not only influences the usage of our personal data, the law and rights users have, but also the way we are present online. Especially since the fingerprint, or any other to be implemented biometric or personal pattern based verification, is ‘THE ID’. With biometrical authentication, there is no way of hiding behind a pseudonym or an avatar. It is really you, the user, who activates and uses the device (at least once, before the device is ‘hacked’). This means, the new iPhone 5s links the virtual world with reality and brings them as close as they have not been before, almost merging them in practice and consequence. The online self becomes authentic. As speculated in the article, this could be the end of the virtual and the beginning of a new web and online experience where we meet real people, make real conversations, buy real goods, but also carry real responsibility.

Image taken from mymodernmet / Real life person and their avatars by Robbie Cooper.

Article written by Sandra Abegglen and Fabian Neuhaus

Simultaneously published on Everyday Click and urbanTick.

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The digital 3rd dimension is a long standing topic in many disciplines and together with augmented reality technologies has had a tremendous boost. Most smart phone platforms these days offer tools and applications to integrate and use AR style packages. However in most cases it is still quite quirky and lagging which probably has got a lot to do with the physics of the device, especially the small screen.

Image by Greg Tran / The transformation of the existing with an overlaid digital vision. The beauty of emptiness and the secret lives of spaces after everybody else has left.

A number of visions have been produced besides the large scale cinema adaptations like ‘Minority Report’, where AR and real time 3d rendering play their magic. Three examples from architecture students were ‘Domestic Robocop‘, ‘Augmented City 3D‘ and ‘ArchiMaton‘.

Another more comprehensive examination of the topic now comes from a Master student Greg Tran at Harvard Graduate School of Design. The clip is basically his Master Thesis and examines as well as at the same time experiments the augmented 3D digital scapes potentially of interest for spatial manipulation and design.

Image by Greg Tran / Partly social networking partly 3D model development, physicality in its digital form.

In the clip Tran presents the current state of the art as well as the main problems with the confusions between 2D, 2,5D and 3D and beyond. He also focuses on the augmented reality aspects as well as materiality. In amazing scenes he shows how the building itself is transformed, extended or disolved.

Further more he also integrates social aspects and the social networking into the possibilities and with this links it back to his current practice as an architecture student. This makes it a very grounded and realistic vision for what a very ‘cool’ and visionary future of architecture could be.

The aspects of design and prettiness of course are a full feature of the technology. AR is not only a new tool with useful capabilities it is also dam well pretty. To some extend this prettiness is currently blurring the view on most applications of AR tom actually make them useful, but with such grounded and pragmatic visions such as Tan offers the field could make a move forward.

Find the full text script of the storyboard on scribd HERE.

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There are a lot of hidden treasures to be found in the city. Being this some historic relicts, a great view across to a place all of a sudden becoming a landmark or a lovely coffee place. One can also find inspiration, patience or pleasure in many ways and colours. The city is a truly amazing digging place.
The thing with finding is that there is more to the way of finding than the way of searching. Some things just don’t want to be found, you run into them.

20 December, 16.51
Image taken from Ti.Mo on flickr / Walking the pole at night in Oslo, tracing the Wi-Fi quality.

However, in this case the desired thing, if it is one, is invisible. It requires an invention to actually make it visible. The waves of the wireless network swirling the urban spaces are no where to be seen other than on the display of your gadget in the form of four stacked arches. This is sort of point information concerning just the immediate location. And if you have ever tried to catch a signal in an awkward spot, you must have experienced how much difference one side step can make, or half a pirouette, wonders.

The guys over at touch have invented the ultimate light painting rod to visualise exactly these waves. This is not coming out of the bue though. There is some history to this. In short, they where earlier experimenting with RFID working on the nearness project, together with berg. In a next step they used a similar approach, on much small scale, to visualise the transmitter field of the RFID reader. In this sense the visualisation of the Wi-Fi is some sort of large scale, real world implementation. They also experimented with the visualisation of Wi-Fi earlier. This new very much hands on approach works amazingly well in terms of the images it produces. I guess this is the nice thing with finding the treasure, you get to give it an image, you can brand it.

20 December, 15.54
Image taken from Ti.Mo on flickr / Detail of the rod with LED lights and loads of wiring.

They explain “we built the WiFi measuring rod, a 4-metre tall probe containing 80 lights that respond to the Received Signal Strength (RSSI) of a particular WiFi network”. As they take the rod for a walk the light indicate the signal strength vertically. Amazingly the fluctuations in signal quality are dramatic, making it possible to differentiate changes on a step by step basis. It would be quite cool to attempt a surface modeling. Maybe as a section by section path across could generate a leveled view? As a distant relative of this tool the pole land surveyors use comes to mind with the red and white markings. In reference to one point the profile of the topography is charted. Similarly this could be implemented here. As it looks on some of the photographs they are using a visualisation software on the laptop to record the measurements. Seems to be built with processing, maybe this can be reused if they simultaneously record the location via GPS for examples. Maybe it could even be developed into a mobile application using a mobile device as the flashing light, being this the iPhone or the iPad as for example shown in light paintings developed by berg as part of the making future magic project.

In a way the landscape the rod is making visible is not too disimilar from the New City Landscape (NCL) we developed from twitter messages. Both are providing an interface between real world and virtual world.

The photographs used here were shot in the Grünerløkka area in Oslo. The lighting works really nicely against the backdrop of dark buildings and white tones of the snow cover. As they point out in some of the write ups there is a fascinating relaionship to the architecture around in terms of scale. The super human size of four meter matches about one story of a building picking up the architectural line and stepping out of the human reference. This gives it a more objective relevance, looking very meaningful.

20 December, 17.01
Image taken from Ti.Mo on flickr / Visualisation of a cross country cross section.

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Turning lifeless objects into tweeting, talking nodes of interaction is the new internet promis. A sweet thing to do, and probably not that far of. It is definitely not new and the importance of everyday object we surround us with has long been neglected.

It is definitely one of the ver important sources of identity and the creation of self. This is in how we can reflect upon these aids of persona, but also in the way this collection of things portraits us to the outside world. This creation of identity involves memories, conception, but also peer group and cultural values.

What you have and what you do represents your persona in the context and places one in the right spot on the picture, towards friends and family, neighbours and business partner, or strangers.

barcode KANOJO
Image taken from leetneet / One of the Kanojos, Girlfriends at BarcodeKanojo.

So why not project some personality into these objects and treat them nicely. This is what Barcode KANOJO has institutionalised as a barcode hunting game, were every barcode turns into a sweet manga girl an could be your girlfriend.

This is unless she is already someone else’s girlfriend. To snatch her requires quite a bit of stamina, you have got enough to start, but be advised to use it wisely. The Internet of Things is about as unforgiving a the rest of your social landscape, including any other networking media. But never mind you can always just make friends with the manga on your screen.

Any barcode can be scanned and will be interpreted via the camera of our smart phone, the iPhone app can be downloaded HERE. How to play can be found HERE.

at the time of writing the scans today have been at 1,689, the total number of Kanojos generated was at 1,021,672 and the total number of scanned barcodes using this app was at 1,769,288. Its not such a small niche thing after all.

The developer describe the game as: “The Barcode KANOJO brings you a new encounter with virtual girlfriends called ‘KANOJO’ on your iPhone. To find her, you just need to scan the barcode attached to any kinds of goods using your iPhone.
Once you have your own KANOJO, you can take care of her to increase her love, find another KANOJO, or steal a new one from other users.”

barcode battler
Image taken from digitalwellbeinglab / The original Barcode Battler to read barcodes in the local supermarket own the road.

Of course there are very close similarities to earlier 80is games such as Barcode Battler for example, but I guess back then guys were heros and monster killers, today they are softies and girlfriend snatchers.

The developer claim there are 7 trillion possible combinations of female to create. Not only that, but depending on where in the world you are, the girls appearance should be more ‘traditional’ to your area.

I guess its the Internet of Things going bonkers, but never mind people seem to like creating a mental projection of their objects they interact with frequently.

barcode girlfriend
Image taken from japanator / Guess this would be a good barcode to start scanning for girlfriends. App is downloaded HERE. But then you might want to try and start with a more unusual barcode for a less stamina intensive start.

“While this barcode may be but a dry symbol, beyond it lies another world.”

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The Internet of Things (IOT) is taking shape. Idea and practice, applications and concepts, as well as discussion and writings are shooting out of the ground like mushrooms, great. A term old enough for most of too old to be around, the vision seems finally to grow into an actual practice.

It is no only the line up presented earlier at the be2awards, the sort of pachube and TalesOfThings, but many more like ioBridge, the NabazTag or also IBM’s ‘Building a Smarter Planet’ project largely builds on networked things.

NAi Publishers bring with ‘Check In / Check Out, the Public Space as an Internet of Things’ one of the first books on this topic in relation to the use of space. The authors Christian van ‘t Hof, Rinie van Est and Floortje Daemen clearly focus on the public real in urban areas in connection to this new technologies. This connection is quickly established with the authors describing the move from ‘on the net’ to ‘in the net’ via the gadgets increasingly used in public spaces and on public transport. On the other hand also the public space as such is wired up with CCTV cameras, RFID and NFC chips, pollution sensors, temperature sensors or weather stations. All linked to the net for remote sensing and data gathering for evaluation and decision making.

The book itself is using tag to extend the content into the virtual dimension and link external content such as sound and video files to particular paragraphs in the book. For this the Microsoft Tag is used. A self acclaimed next generation of QR code. MS also offers tag readers for mobile patforms such as the iPhone and Android. Use this LINK from your mobile to download the corresponding tag.

Image taken from urbanTick on flickr / Customised Microsoft Tag 15 from the book. To scan it you can download the reader at http://gettag.mobi

The first tag let you check in, to the book I presume, but for the content of the book you have to read on conventionally. In six chapters the publications discussed the most important fields IOT is increasingly active. Those are ‘Gated Stations’ on the rise of chip card in public transport, ‘Networked Cars’ on linking cars to establish intelligent traffic, ‘Money Mobiles’ on paying by phone, ‘Street Imges’ on CCTV and surveilance, ‘Geoweb’ on live mapping and ‘Living Maps’ on a scenario of total real time data streems.

A lot of these systems are already quite established in the western world and people have started to accept their presence. We are using the chip card, Oyster Card in the case of London or Octopus Card in the case of Hong-Kong, on a daily base, being tracked forexample for the game Chromaroma. Paying using alternative methods, not cash, is widely established with changing technologies and tools, networked cars is something researchers and developers are already talking for quite a while, so it seems familiar even though it has not been realised to a large extend. Automobile industry is again painfully slow integrating innovations. And of course the Geoweb and to some extend the Living Maps are both practices we are in the middle of at the moment.

The book offers a very clear structured approach to discussing these topics both overall and within each chapter. At times it is a facts book, at time an experience report and then a outsider perspective. However the structure is always clear and informative if at times with a few too little references. But hey, its early times and things are completely flowing.

What is extremely appreciated, is the critical distance and the book establishes through out and within each chapter it self. It is not a selling text for the IOT, but a critical discussion raising concernes equally to praising benefit and potential.

“Big Brother, once a warning against totalitarianism, now has become a symbol of the importance of being known” (P.112)

In this sense the final chapter the ‘Conclusion’, on identity management, makes these points once more very clear in a summary and outlines avenues for future practice whilst employing these emerging technologies. A must read for network-developers, and urban-computer-programmers, digital-interaction-designers, virtual-data-architects and sensorist-planners to keep up with the discussions.

Check In / Check Out
Image taken from the Mobile City / Check In / Check Out Book cover by NAi Publishers 2011.

Hof, C.V.’., Daemen, F. & Est, R.V., 2011. Check in / Check out – Public Space as an Internet of Things, Nai Uitgevers/Publishers.

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Google Street view is now continuing inside, at least for some of the words most important museums. Using the same technology Google has started the Google Art Project, making museums virtually accessible. Together with the indoor navigation a selection of paintings can also be seen and navigated in a Google Maps style in great detail. You can get up very close to Chris Ofilli’s ‘No Woman No Cry’ at the Tate Britain. Close enough to see the individual dots of paint. In this case you can even switch to night view mode to see the fluorescent second layer of the painting. This of course applies also for all the other paintings marked with a pus sign, were you can study the details of Van Gogh’s brush stroke for example.

Image taken from the Google Art Project / Chris Ofilli’s No Woman No Cry at the Tate Britain in London, United Kingdom.

Earlier, back in 2008 the Kremer Collection was one of the first to offer such a detailed look at paintings using the Google Maps style navigation and zoom function. The software used back then was the ImgeCutter software developed at CASA.

There is currently quite a lot of development going on with these digital visualisation and visiing technologies. From video street view to panoramic street view with street slides of bing maps, featured last week on digital urban.

Image taken from the Google Art Project / Detail of Chris Ofilli’s No Woman No Cry at the Tate Britain in London, United Kingdom. See the night view HERE.

After the Street View Project and earlier the Slope View for the Winter Games in Vancouver this is now a further step applying the technology in large public buildings.
It does require a bit of patience and an effort for not losing the orientation, since the museums network of possible routes is a lot more complicated than the roads. This is mainly down to distance and size. almost wich each click new route choices apply, this will keep you on your toes. In comparison the street view is relaxed with sometimes many clicks between crossroads.

However, the new project lets you browse 385 rooms in 17 galleries, and see more than 1,000 works by 486 artists. This includes galeries such as the National Gallery in London, the Tate Britain, the Uffizi Gallery in Florence or the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg.

Image taken from the Google Art Project / A visit to the Palace of Versailles, France on the Google Art Project.

Google seems very interested in getting many different aspects of ‘knowledge’ represented through their technologies and after the Book Project this is now the art project. Of course the paintings remain property of their owners and remain copyright projected but are virtually accessible through this Google Service.

These copyright issues seem still very constraining. Some of the museums have surprisingly little rooms accesible on the database so far. It is unclear whether this project will extend and in what time frame. If you peak through doorways into rooms that are not accessible on this virtual tour the buildings are blurred as known from the Street View. This looks rather disturbing, probably more so than in the street scenes.

Ultimately notable is the change in design stile. It is a great relief to see that Google has adopted different style for this project and not using the comic, round edge, many colour approach that has become iconic for their brand. It would have been ridiculous to show these works in such a context. The only thing they coud not get to follow this new style is the page icon displayed in the browser tab.

On the navigation side, Google has decided to drop the view lines used in Street view. For this indoor version the user only has arrows to click on. There are usually is or eight arrows used for one point to allow for more detailed navigation. However, it is still difficult to just move slightly to one side and look beyond this annoying pillar, as for example in the State Hermitage main gallery. In general the navigation is much more free than experienced before and also works by just clicking on a doorway to get into the next room. The session will also remember the previous location in each museum. If you decide to look at some other paintings you can always jump back were you have left off, quite helpful.

Google has also added additional navigation features such as foor plans. As well as contextual information to the museum and the art work in a side frame. It is also possible to create a personal art collection by adding paintings to the collection. And Google has also embedded a sort of a social tool, where people can start a discussion about paintings by leaving comment.

However, with the navigation and the representation there is a very big remaining question regarding the architecture. All the museums are set in a very grand building and the experience of space, sequence, material and light , to name a few is in most cases very grand and worth the visit in itself. This is not the case in street view. On the contrary Google has managed to kill any such experience and completely flatten it out, architecture is dead.

Possible though, it would require rather little to take this in to account and the contextual setting of the individual art works could be part of the experience. On of these options would be to introduce a proper starting point or entrance to each museum. Currently the virtual visitor is simply dumped in one of the rooms in front of a painting at selecting the museum. Since many of the rooms at first glance look very similar it is very difficult to orientate or even know which museum one is visiting. If it is as in the case of the MoMa, where the starting point is in the entrance hall one is lost all together. The introduction of a stronger spatial narrative would definitely make a difference.

The quality of the images is possibly another issue. The different museum or rooms in the museums are not all being translated well into the digital format. Some seem to fit better than other. Especially the lighting quality seems to be very tricky to capture on camera. Appears the MoMa in New York very poor quality is on the other hand the Palace of Versailles is a lot more lively. Generally it can be said that the museums using colour tains on their walls come across a lot better than the white boxes. In a side note, this might change architecture trends if this technology becomes more trendy.

Image taken from the Google Art Project / A visit to the Gemaeldegalerie in Berlin, Germany on the Google Art Project. The blue colour makes for a better quality image than most of the white rooms used in the other museums.

In terms of art and culture communication it will be very interesting to see how this influences the way the institutions are communicating about their works and collection. Potentially one can think of many applications including works discussions and art education. We will see how this develops.

Of course it would be great if this technology could move away form this simple panning style of navigation towards a more spatial representation of navigation. Also the respect for the architecture or een more important the spatial and sequential quality of the building would greatly enhance the experience. But for now we have to live with this, which good for a quick ok around the galeries and see some exciting art work one would maybe never or not for a long time see in its context.

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After having missed the official start of the workshop yesterday I joined the workshop team. Today was not only very hot but also very productive. Moscow is some 39C, maybe more depending on the source. So the water spender machines are in constan use and the cartridges have to be changed frequently.

Topics for today were processing, processing and processing. In between we had some short exercises concerning the interactions between virtual and real spaces. With this we want the students to start investigating in many directions and from the beginning to mix both worlds. YOu can follow the progress either on the workshop facebook page anOtherWorkshop, or on twitter @anOtherWorkshop with the #vvsr tag.

In a simple string of actions parameters for twitter mining were extracted from virtual user generated online information that was recreated and reinterpreted and put back online. The resulting stories of object and place produced a list of key search terms. Surprisingly there were many very successful search terms found in this way maybe no one would have thought of otherwise. It turned out that cleaning and smoke and pipe are actually very popular words in the world of Russian twitter users.

In a simple processing query, the terms were requested through the twitter api and visualised according to the day of the week, in columns and time of the day, in rows.

keyword "труба" ("pipe")
Image taken from the flickr account of anOtherWorkshop, generated by Yulia and Masha / This is using the Russian search term “труба” (“pipe”). Basically through out the week people are talking about pipe.

The tool that offers the most direct interface between the real world and the virtual literally is the Tales of Things. The platform to link memories, stories and thought via virtual content to any real world object. Obviously the students liked this hands on and easy accessible tool and started to log their stories.

There is the wonder full tale of the ghost of the house, who lives on in one of the buildings on the island and sort of leads it in to a positive future (from his seat in the rain pipes). Or there is the sad-sweet description of the girl/young lady who’s face is printed on the chocolate bar that used to be produced on site on the island, or the confusion created by words if they are used in the same sense in a different context.

Image taken from the flickr account of anOtherWorkshop, generated by Zvezdnii and his colleague / The “object” – chocolate bar, sportig the girl on the cover. It is actually a rather disturbing facial expression if you think about it for a moment.

The day was rounded off with a late night lecture at Strelka by Hans Ulrich Obrist starting only after 10 pm local time. The talk is covered by urbanTick on twitter.

Just for the records the input presentation given today.

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The urbanTick blog will be written from Moscow for the coming week. I will be involved in a workshop at the Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design.
The workshop goes under the title ‘AG: Virtual Versus Real’ and we will be investigating the interface between the virtual social networking activity and the real world location. The workshop will integrate mapping, programming and visualising.

From the website ‘Virtual reality is becoming a part of the factual everyday life. In the video game Second Life one can build an ideal house, watch an on-line lecture by Zaha Hadid, and even visit offices of established architectural bureaus. Facebook allows us to follow schedules of designers and architects, and Twitter even makes them as close as your friends.
What is the influence of virtual spaces on real ones? How are design and architecture of the virtual space different from those of the real space? In this session we will discuss how Internet influences our society and the city environment, what happens in on-line gaming and social networks, and what practical benefits they can bring?’

Image taken from New Scientist / The mood of the nation at midday and 11 pm EST (Image: Alan Mislove/Sune Lehmann/Yong-Yeol Ahn/Jukka-Pekka Onnela/J. Niels Rosenquist, 2010).

This is a very hot topic currently and a lot of great visualisations have been produced and a couple of research projects are using it already as a data source. The Tweet-O-Meter and the New Landscape Maps developed here at CASA are only one of them. Another research project is the ‘Puls of the Nation: U.S. Mood Throughout the Day inferred from Twitter‘ currently discussed in the New Scientist.

In the context of Moscow this will be very interesting since the underground network actually has coverage for the mobile phone network. So it is possible to tweet from underground. This will definitely change the landscape. Influenced by this contextless black tube space and the monotony of commuting are the best breeding ground for virtual interaction and remote social networking.

Moscow Metro Map
Image taken from bonCherry / Moscow Metro Map.

With the workshop we want to look closely at these phenomenon and work out in detail the conditions in the urban fabric that allow for this virtual-real interface and the implications for architecture. For a long time the virtual worlds have fascinated architects and it is established practice in the conception of architecture. However, in the use of architecture this has only been discovered.
The workshop will cover mapping of the urban context according to virtual activity and involve programming and practical real world exercise. The strategy is explorative based, since we don’t know yet about the finding but it will go beyond a merely virtual assemblage of information.
The New Landscape maps are a starting point but we really want to learn something aout the tactility of the physical location and investigate the conditions and changes this practice brings for architecture. The workshop is run by Daniel Dendra together with Imannuel Koh and myself.

So if you happen to be around in Moscow just pop in and see what we are doing, Strelka is located directly in the centre of Moscow on the island Balchug just opposite the Kremlin.

Since Strelka is a new school, headed by Rem Koolhas and his OMA/AMO team, they put in a lot of effort an have managed to put together a very impressive line up of big names for lectures. There is Peter Cook, tonight actually, Odile Decq, Colin Fournier, Bjarke Ingels, Michael Schindhelm, and many more.

Image taken from Wikipedia / River Moskva, downtown Moscow, 1852 map.

Recently with the New City Landscape maps there was a lot of taking around this topic on this blog. This will continue with two additional sets of maps coming up. First set with the cities of Moscow, Barcelona, San Francisco and Sydney. This will be followed by a set with Jakarta, Sao Paulo, Tokyo and Toronto.

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Mapping has become a big thing in our everyday lives. This goes hand in hand with stepped up efforts to collect but also release data. It has become a data war with big web players such as Google, but also traditional produces such as OS or the sensus data.
The bottleneck currently is more the traditional software tools to actually work with the data and produce meaningful output.
So it is great to get news about a new effort to open this up and make it more accessible and intuitive. Here we go INDIEMAPPER!
It is an online flash based mapping tool developed over the past two years by Axis Maps.

Image taken from Indiemapper / A map of Hurricane Gustav showing its path and wind speed, 25 August to 2 September 2008. The reference map data, including bathymetry, is from Natural Earth. The hurricane data is from Geocommons Finder.

It offers all you you can think of: Unlimited online storage, Secure data handling and storage, No software to install, Mac, PC or Linux ,Constant secure backups, Built-in collaboration tools, Premium customer support. A mapping tool to go really, work from were ever you have access, don’t worry about the data. All for $30 a month, you can get a 30 day free trial to test it. For academic use there is a reduced pricing.

Indiemapper also integrates with independent cartographic tools on the web like ColorBrewer, TypeBrewer and Natural Earth.

“Indiemapper is a Web-based app that loads geo-data, allows custom control over mapmaking, and exports static maps in vector and raster formats.
We’ve balanced indiemapper so you have the tools you need to make beautiful thematic maps without overwhelming you with hundreds of obscure GIS functions. Nothing is more than 2 clicks away. This keeps mapmaking simple, fast, and fun.” (Indimapper)
Find a detailed introduction on the Cartogrammer Blog or of course infos directly on the Indimapper page, this also features a blog with updates, also see the review on FlowingData.

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A rather disturbing clip of a possible near future. Might be unlikely, but talking about it is going on rather for a while now. It has become possible to actually do exactly what is visualised in this imaginary representation. By using available free digital tools such as layar everyone with access to the internet and consumer hardware in the form of a smart phone and a computer could put this together. probably not as visually impressive as Keiichi Matsuda manages in this clip produced for is master of architecture. This is a truly astonishing visual with a lot of love for good graphics and good design. I love it.

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