My OpenTech roundup

Before I waffle, here’s the useful stuff: We’ve just published the opentech audio. Thanks to David for all his work on recording, and (other) David for handling the programme on the day, and Emily for all the work she did, and all our chairs, especially Dave, Zoe and Siobhan. All the sessions we have audio for are now available (all download links are on that page). We’ve also published a short feedback form to get your comments on the event.

Robin and Heather (session 1A) talked about what happens when you do stuff, and then Tom Loosemore (2A) gave an amazing and wonderful talk about what happens when you do. Both these talks are utterly fantastic. Bill and Ben then talked about why all this is important. Suw and friends then talked about some of the aspects of community and what happens when you do things, and the challenges they faced in relation to Ada day and taking that forwards.

The final sessions we had in the main room talked about persistance and privacy of transient information, location and the measures of environmental privacy. And this was one of the double sessions I most wanted to attend. Unfortunately, due to scheduling constraints, it had to be against ORG and No2ID, which meant that many of those who may have been interested went there.

Gavin Bell talked about how databases are easy to create, can be data-mined, and can have almost no value to people over time because of the huge granularity. Gavin Starks talked about how energy smart meters can tell that your Zanussi fridge has a faulty coolant motor, or that your Playstation3 was turned on between 3:57 and 6:29, and the Sanyo TV was turned on between 6:30 and 7pm, and then a Dell gets turned on till it goes to sleep at 7:48, and a John Lewis hob (but only the 3rd hot plate, and the grill) gets turned off at 7:43. That data has incredible value. There are some reasons to share some of that data with some people, but there are huge reasons not to share it with others – it must be under you control. Sony would be very, very interested in advertising in or before that TV programme, to that school child. Mix that with something like Phorm (especially for broadband via your cable TV provider), and being able to target adverts exceptionally precisely – because a PS3 with the laser shooting attachment probably has a different energy profile to all the one with the Barbie Doll attachment. Big Brother isn’t watching you, but he really wants to watch your energy usage.

This data is incredibly valuable, and there are huge privacy implications.

And there are many people and companies interested in using it for their own profits. As Gavin Starks highlighted in that session, British Gas are recruiting 2500 “green engineers” to install smart meters in every home. Only if they own the data from them. EDF are doing something similar; and Electricite De France (the very same EDF, but the version in France) turns your supply off if you go over a certain limit, no matter how cold it is in January. How do you know that whoever owns your data will do what’s in your interest? Rather than that of their shareholders, profits or customers?

There’s a consultation ongoing about all aspects of smart meters. If you care on any of the issues that they raise, and there are very very many, you might want to comment, and then tell your friends. All your friends.

posted: 24 Jul 2009

What would Angie (and Chris) have done?

Angie: Someone who many of us would like to have known for far, far longer.

posted: 20 Jul 2009