Category Archives: Public Sector

The Internet of Things – Europe consults on web 3.0

Just when you thought that your colleagues were starting to understand Web 1.5, the European Commissioner for Information Society and the Media, Viviane Reding, has announced details of the Internet of Things, a consultation to put Europe in the lead of Web 3.0 adoption.

“Web 3.0 means seamless ‘anytime, anywhere’ business, entertainment and social networking over fast reliable and secure networks. It means the end of the divide between mobile and fixed lines. It signals a tenfold quantum leap in the scale of the digital universe by 2015. Europe has the know-how and the network capacity to lead this transformation. We must make sure that Web 3.0 is made and used in Europe.”

Mind blowing stuff. The Internet of Things refers to the ‘seamless connection of devices, sensors, objects rooms, machines, vehicles’ – anything really – ‘being able to interact with each other and the environment around them.’ It’s like having a Barclay’s OnePulse card on steroids, embedded into your shoe phone (or finger).

If you haven’t read it, Adam Greenfield’s book Everyware gives a great overview of this as a concept (ubiquitous computing that is – not shoe phones).

The Commission’s example focuses on health monitoring and the value it could provide to an ageing population.

…Body worn sensors and the Internet of Things facilitate the use of lightweight systems for monitoring vital health parameters like heart rate, respiration rate and blood pressure. Patients can simply wear monitoring systems while continuing to go about their daily business

There are a few challenges to get over before we’re all walking round with RFID tags embedded into everything: privacy, security, architecture and governance to name a few –  but these aren’t insurmountable. Given EC projections of a 300-fold rise in smart tags and 25% of European internet users connecting to the net via IPV6 by 2010, it makes sense to be consulting on what the ‘next’ web will look like sooner rather than later.

You can access the consultation here:


Know your dope fiend

I live in South London.

Most days it’s safe – I say this despite the fact that in five minutes, I could walk you past the location of three murders over the last 12 months.

Yes, there is crime here and something needs to be done about it… although I’m not convinced Lambeth Council’s latest ‘name and shame’ idea will work. The campaign is predicated on coming to Brixton for the ‘right‘ reasons:

The posters, which are displayed at Brixton tube and on buses across the borough, show anonymous faces of ‘offenders’, listing their drug offence, the conviction they were given – and the unwelcome publicity they received as a result. These images are mirrored by partner posters that quote visitors who came to Brixton to enjoy the culture, food, and nightlife, rather than to buy drugs. The council says the over-riding message is ‘come to Brixton for the right reasons’.

So, come to Brixton to buy or sell drugs and you could end up on Lambeth council’s very own version of facebook, backed up by a print campaign.  Whilst the print campaign uses models, it appears the online campaign – hosted on the council’s website – doesn’t.

What I don’t understand is what happens if (and it may be a big if) an offender manages to turn their lives around. Ok to get rid of the profile then, or will it be left on the website as a permanent scarlett letter?

To me, whilst the press around the campaign suggests it’s targeting both buyers and sellers it’s the latter that I think they are really after – if there is no market, I guess the theory goes, there aren’t any dealers. At least not visible ones.

Is there a better way to use social media in this context? Will the announcement of interactive crime maps help?

DC goes 3D

A few months back I was at the politics online conference and spoke with colleagues about some of the projects I’d read Washington DC’s new CTO, Vivek Kundra was working on – like putting corporate email and word processing systems into the cloud.

No surprise to see that innovation continuing then.

Dan Herman on the Wikinomics blog points to recently released data of 84,000 3D buildings for inclusion in Google Earths’ Cities in 3D program. Barney Krucoff, the GIS Manager for OCTO gives five reasons for the release of the data on Googles Latlong blog:

1. It is the right thing to do.

2. Because every neighborhood can benefit from 3D.

3. We get better 3D performance from the cloud and we don’t pay for it.

4. We want to communicate with our residents.

Very impressive stuff and something the Power of Information taskforce here in the UK seems to understand

Congressional Rules for Social Media

I’ve been following an interesting conversation on twitter between Amanda Chappel and Texan Congressman John Culberson on his use of social media tools so he can ‘better communicate with the public and become more accessible to my constituents.’

Through the use of twitter and Qik, Culberson has been broadcasting from the floor of Congress in an effort to shine some ‘sunlight’ on congressional procedures.

Whilst this in itself is a good thing, it appears to contravene a number of congressional rules on the use of ‘approved’ websites that require the politician to provide a disclaimer indicating: ‘this tweet is a communication from an official federal representative’ (that’s 66 characters twitter users).

Digging a little deeper into the debate, it’s obvious that there is some political grandstanding involved which Shelby Highsmith does a great job of covering. The speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi also chimes in, responding to a number of ‘inaccurate rumours’.

Politics aside, I think Culberson is genuinely trying to change the way the US government works. The debate he has helped force, looks like it will influence new rules for Congressional engagement (with some help from the sunlight foundation) and more elected representatives will be using social media to communicate with their constituents.

With our own elected representatives in the UK using twitter and blogging it can’t be too long till one of them is using QIK from the floor of Parliament?

Perhaps it’s time to get Tom an N95?

Facebook and the Civil Service

With the release of principles for online paticipation, one of the channels that needs to be addressed is Facebook.

Unfortunately, Facebook says that Civil Service Network Page will be discontinued soon. So, I’ve set up a group page to keep the conversation happening, link is:

More on this ‘group’ later…

Your project: the PM responds

One of the things we face as civil servants, or consultants to the civil service, is the fact that we are not only designing and building policy, tools and services, but as citizens we are also end-users of the ‘products’ we develop. An occasional result of ‘ticking all the boxes’ leads to slowly delivered solutions that may have been achieved far faster if the ‘right’ person, at the ‘right’ time, provided some critical appraisal of the ‘product’.

Doesn’t always work though.

ZDNet reports on Bill Gates’ frustration in trying to install and use Moviemaker and Digital Plus Pro. Amongst his comments:

I am quite disappointed at how Windows Usability has been going backwards and the program management groups don’t drive usability issues.

He adds:

So after more than an hour of craziness and making my programs list garbage and being scared and seeing that is a terrible website I haven’t run Moviemaker and I haven’t got the plus package.

And then ends with (which I would perceive as a gentle hint):

When I really get to use the stuff I am sure I will have more feedback.

What is so valuable here is Gates reporting his experience as a user. He tested the user experience and it didn’t work.

So, Digital People, how would your project stand up if the PM was the end-user? Why should it make a difference if it was a user named G. Brown or Prime Minister?

Each comment counts. It improves what we’re doing. As Gates says:

There’s not a day that I don’t send a piece of e-mail … like that piece of e-mail. That’s my job.

It’s ours as well.

Principles for online participation – guidance for Civil Servants

Over the weekend I wrote about the value of a common disclaimer for civil servants that blog – it seems I didn’t need to worry as there are now principles for online participation in place, launched today by the UK e-government minister.

I’m not sure this will lead to an explosion of government bloggers but it does provide some sense of security for those already bloggingt. It will be interesting to see where this leads – the public sector digital community seems to be responding positively: some can already see potential in the announcement, whilst for others there is a general sense of relief.

My original post on a common disclaimer had some very helpful steers from colleagues in the UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, I’d be really interested to hear what they think of the guidance, as would the team behind them.