Hack Yourself (QS) Session at NESTA 3rd May

8am start in London means I’m up no later than 5:30.  Or was I dreaming?  No, the Quantified Self “movement” is gathering momentum.  In London this is thanks to the QS Meetup led by Adriana Lukas, one of the speakers at this session.  Great that NESTA picked this as hot topic.  They even posted a video!

Because of the document referred to in the second link, there is little I need to say about the talks themselves other than that they were very well done. In the ensuing questions after the talks some issues cropped up that are dear to my heart (with my “Internet of Things” hat on).

Architecture:  Many people seems to be developing architectures but there’s little sign of an emerging de-facto standard.  This is for the usual reasons.  Product vendors (Adriana cited Fitbit) produce end-to-end “stovepipe” solutions that sit in “walled gardens” that they control.  This allows them to get continuing income from selling us back our data to help fund product development (goodness) at the expense of making integration between systems extremely painful.  We need an architecture that’s vendor independent and based on open data principles, with privacy controls.

Tools:  The situation may be better than people think as there are lot of good tools around.  These tools are not, however, well suited to people who just want to use the data.  For example, getting  data out of a proprietary system and uploading to somewhere else for  analysis requires a fair amount of programming skill and not everyone wants to learn that.  This may be inevitable at this stage of market development.

Gateways:  Given that we’ll be facing this stovepipe problem for years to come and tools may be too technical for most users, it will be useful to have devices that are designed to translate formats and protocols straight out of the box.  With colleagues, we are looking into what could be done in this area.

Privacy/ Security:  As was pointed out in the talks, this is fairly fundamental if we are talking about personal data.  We need to be able to access our own data (all of it), grant access to others with a legitimate need and feel confident that unauthorised access will not occur.  Part of this is technical; there are well-proven mechanisms for encryption, access control etc.  The commercial, legal and cultural issues are more complex.

“Bill of Rights”: Attempts to codify appropriate behaviour in relation to data are underway. At the Open Internet of Things Assembly in June this will be on the agenda and there’s already an active googlegroup on the subject (iot-open-data).  It’s too early to say how this will progress and to what extent it will be adopted or enforced.

Data Analysis: This is a tougher challenge as the needed techniques will vary widely.  A good starting point is to look at analysis techniques in other fields of endeavour to see what can be re-used;  The case studies presented at regional QS groups should yield ideas on techniques and tools to implement them.

I look forward to further QS sessions and will continue to engage as much as I can.

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