The end of Big Data: a reasonable Internet of Things
In this 2015 post that led the way for edge computation and analytics - Stephan Tual describes how private data in 'smart' white goods can still be leveraged to the users' benefit without encroaching on their privacy.
It will start in your kitchen, with the humble washing machine.
It’s surprisingly hard work for the advertisers to able to contact you with offers on detergent: in order to track what you’re purchasing at till, they have to engage with retailers who broker purchase data via analytics companies. Once they’ve identified your use of detergent, they leverage machine learning to place you into consumer segments, determine if you have children or not, how often you wash, if you wash items at a frequency that might indicate you play sports, etc.
This process is horribly invasive, incredibly expensive, and in fact so inefficient that the industry is desperate for simpler solutions.
This is why you see electricity usage from smart meters being captured increasingly granularly, so it can be crunched and your appliances identified (yes, they can do that). This is also why you see initiatives like Amazon Dash, encouraging you to place wifi-enabled buttons on your white goods to resupply them with consumables.
But Dash isn’t designed to make your life simpler: it’s designed for product manufacturers to bypass the whole rigmarole of data analytics and save themselves a pretty penny. Oh, and it locks you into their brand, too. Nifty.
Take the IBM/Samsung ADEPT project. It’s a proof of concept presented at the CES 2015, where a smart washing machine powered by the Ethereum decentralized network orders its own parts when it detects a mechanical fault for example.
In short, it makes your washing machine truly smart by giving it a ‘will’ of it own. Rather impressive, but I think we can take this further.
The washing machine, since it’s running Android, could make use of its sensors to capture the type of cycles, loads frequency and load weight, which — put together — define your usage. This is the type of granular data marketers would kill for.
But instead of sending this data back to the centralised mothership for processing and targeting, the washing machine would keep that information where it belongs: within itself, in your home, encrypted, accessible to no one but its owner. It can then, using the same process it leverages for ordering spare parts, order detergent at a frequency that’s ideal for you.
But because the machine is now both autonomous and aware of the moving price of detergent, it can also identify the best deals, make a decision to buy bulk, switch suppliers, in short, become the lean and mean detergent purchase engine that’s operating as close as possible to the economic optimum.
Across a wide range of applications, the Ethereum network can enable device autonomy and independence, putting an end to both the targeted marketing uncanny valley and rent seeking behaviour by the wannabe Googleplex of this world.
“TL;DR: marketing analytics done pseudonymously and at home.”
The Samsung corporation is happy, because it will sell more washing machines.
The consumers are happy, because they’ll get better bang for their buck on their detergent purchases. Also, their private life won’t surface on a USB stick lost in a bar.
The detergent manufactures are also happy, because they’ll save on marketing and data acquisition costs.
Data analytics companies are not happy, because they’ll have to close up shop, but something tells me no one will mourn them.
About the Author
Stephan Tual is the Founder of the world’s first blockchain Consultancy, Ursium (http://www.ursium.com)
In January 2014, Stephan joined the Ethereum project as CCO. His current focus is on the intersection of blockchain technology and embedded hardware, where autonomous agents can transact as part of an optimal Internet of Things economy.
An established thought leader on blockchain technology, decentralization and DAOs/DACs, Stephan regularly speaks at conferences, community events and meetups, and is the media contact for the Ethereum project.
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