Posts Tagged ‘Internet’

Why Blockchain and IoT can help save the Earth

May 12, 2016 1 comment

The internet and associated technology are evolving constantly. But we are now entering a new phase of digital transformation driven by two step-change advances, Blockchain and the Internet of Things (IOT).

As well as driving a whole host of digital advances, I also think this transformation can potentially lead us to become more responsible inhabitants of the non-digital world.

The combination of Blockchain and IOT may lead us to a world in which everything around us is connected and in which we essentially inhabit a global computer. Depending on your technophilia know this sentence will probably give an image either of Skynet or a more benevolent global digital society operated by smart machines.

If this sounds ridiculously futuristic take a trip back in time to 1994, and how people wrestled with the concept of the internet then, so simple to us now, so confusing then…


You’ll note the attempts by the personalities on the couch to explain it are so painful a more informed audience member is prompted to volunteer a more fact-based explanation, but which ends up being reduced by the lady on the right to “so it’s a computer billboard”.

Which was probably true about most sites in the early 90s but its limited vision missed the potential of the internet over the next two decades to transform communications, business, education, social interactions and society in general.


New Kid on the Blockchain

Today many like William Mougayar  have been reliving the Today Show experience and engaging in the vexing task of trying to explain this new thing.

I think Mougayar is probably one of the best writers on the subject at the moment. If you want to go a bit deeper this is a good post and he’s just published a very readable book.

But for most people these explanations are a bit like explaining in 1994 the difference between the Internet and the World Wide Web – when the conversation we should be having is the aspirational vision that writers like William Gibson were conjuring at the time:

“I sometimes suspect that we’re seeing something in the Internet as significant as the birth of cities. It’s something that profound and with that sort of infinite possibilities. It’s really something new; it’s a new kind of civilization. And of course the thing I love about it is that it’s transnational, non-profit – it isn’t owned by anyone – and it’s shape is completely user driven. What it is is determined by the needs of millions and millions of users. So cyberspace is evolving to meet the needs of individuals all over the world.  – William Gibson, 1995

Or as someone else put it: “Forget how the technology works and focus on what it does.

The way I see it is that Blockchain is leap transforming the internet from a global network of information storage and content sharing, to a global network of value storage and value transfers. Just like the information internet disrupted information and content based industries like news, books and music, this next evolution will do the same first to any industry that manages value: banks; payment networks; exchanges; lawyers; auditors.

It creates new digital paradigms for the likes of finance and even identity and its decentralised, immutable nature means there would be true digital trust at a global level, like never before.

Just like the digital disruption of the last 20 years that tore information industries apart, this new model internet will knock down walls and break up silos of industries so far largely uninterrupted. It will also move the world closer to the promise of Ethereum – essentially a world computer.

Clever things

Now combine Blockchain with the other oncoming evolution, the Internet of Things, as IBM are investigating and I think that a technology revolution could be harnessed to drive environmental sustainability.

By 2020 Cisco estimates 50bn physical devices will be digitally networked with sensors and transmitting data about what they do – from vehicles, wearables and healthcare to connected homes which will even include, for example, smart toilets.

The smart toilet will use sensors to report on your health. It will save lives through early warnings on health issues. But it could also save water and even prevent pollution. Today I may carelessly drop an earbud (or worse) into a toilet bowl and there is only my conscience standing between me and the action of flushing that object into our waterways. However a toilet that can detect pregnancy or prostate issues could easily be programmed to stubbornly refuse to flush non-biodegradeable litter.

Smarter life on earth

Free earth pic

Now take this beyond the humble, possibly comical-sounding idea of a smart toilet and imagine a world of connected devices monitoring and recording our other activities and their impacts on ourselves or the natural world. Devices can be programmed with environmentally sustainable actions such as optimising buildings for energy use; alerts for water leaks; automated lighting adjusters to save energy; monitoring soil and air.

And with Blockchain this information and the actions around it would be lodged in an immutable, trusted global network that can’t be lobbied or bribed or corrupted.

Now it’s not just my conscience between the earbud, the flush button and the deep blue sea. This digitised world could actually enforce doing the right thing by the environment.

Within this future world, populated by humans and their smart devices, the smart toilet is just one example of how this next generation internet could compel us to become more at one with the planet we call home.

PS: Ethereum conference in New Zealand next week

If you want to learn more about the business opportunities around Blockchain and Ethereum come to next week in Auckland and Wellington. You will hear from five speakers from all over the world, including Ethereum founder and CTO Taylor Gerring, and have the opportunity to ask questions



Webstock and why it’s life-changing

February 24, 2013 Leave a comment

Has Webstock become the greatest internet conference of the century?

Webstock 2013

Webstock 2013 opening (Webstock Flickr stream)

Last week was my fourth Webstock and the fact that I describe it as an experience rather than just as a plain event (“fourth time I went to Webstock”) is an indication of the intensely powerful and inspirational feelings it leaves you with.

In fact Boing Boing described this year’s as “the most radical” tech conference ever.

What is Webstock? It’s a web technology and design conference and workshops held here in Wellington every February since 2006 and which attracts the great and good from the global internet community to present to, this year, 875 delegates.

The calibre of international speakers attracted to this New Zealand conference is high and in itself attracts many delegates who travel also from the US and Europe to listen and participate.

Speakers from the past include software luminaries such as Ben Goodger (Firefox/Google); Nat Torkington (Perl); Michael Lopp (Apple/Palantir); Thomas Fuchs (Ruby); Kathy Sierra (Creating Passionate Users); Technologists such as Tom Coates; Scott Hanselman; writers like Bruce Sterling and Lauren Beukes; designers like Jared Spool and John Gruber; entrepreneurs such as Sam Morgan; Eric Ries; Jim Coudal; Derek Handley and Tony Hsieh; musicians and artists like Jason Webley; Amanda Fucking Palmer; Scott McCloud and The Oatmeal and even a Hollywood big hitter like Michael B Johnson.

Despite the variety of the 24 or so speakers across the conference, individual Webstocks seem to coalesce into a theme over the two days of presentations.There is always a huge amount of pure design; UX and technology inspiration but each year the carefully crafted programme appears to want to leave you with a deeper. more soul-searching message.

I remember 2010 feeling particularly entrepreneurial in nature, with the likes of lean start-up guru Eric Ries and Digg founder Kevin Rose. 2011 felt like we’d learnt how to create a cool internet business and were now making the product look beautiful and inspiring; 2012 felt like a mid-life realisation that it wasn’t all about the money and we need to be doing greater things for humanity to live with ourselves; and this year it felt like the what-the-hell-have-we-let-happen-to-our-internet? moment.

Like other attendees I spoke to I left Webstock with my brain overflowing with an ever-expanding mixture of inspiration, insight and philosophical questions. Last year I kept the pages of notes I took on my desk and used them for an injection of the above when the metaphorical skies were grey and drive to do good in my work waned. In terms of getting me back into a creative, dynamic space it beat the coffee or the snack machine every time.

This year I want to use this blog to expand on my notes and pull out some of the speakers and thoughts that I think are worth sharing.

My first piece looks at the thoughts of Clay Johnson.

NB: For other notes on Webstock 2013 the shining light is Mike Riversdale’s (@MiramarMike) shared note taking on Google docs. While one may not agree with all his opinions, Mike has become a Webstock recorder of note and an invaluable repository of goodness from the week. Scoop also has a briefer file notes overview on Webstock 2013.