Posts by Thomas van Manen

About Thomas van Manen

Thomas van Manen is a researcher with a focus on the impact of new technologies and is part of the VINT research program on Big Data, Internet of Things, Gamification, Wearables and Disruptive Technologies. As a innovator Thomas helps organizations translate new technologies and digital trends into ideas and ideas into concepts using research, workshops and pilot programs. Thomas is also Chief Editor of the VINT research blog, part of Sogeti Labs community of technology experts and was voted to be part of the HOT100 in 2012, a yearly selection of the most promising alumni in Media & Arts studies.


A killer app for wearables?

killer-mobile-appSo smartwatches, the most general wearable today, are extensions of phones. They serve you a stripped down mobile experience and try to make the best out of filtering notifications. Over time I think smartwatches will become the new phones: your one does-it-all device. But only if we fix battery issues, increase power in such small devices and add standalone connectivity. If not, I guess we will ditch the watches again and stay with our smartphones.

A lot of people ask me whats the killer app for wearables. I tell them there isn’t one.

I think the killer app for wearables in general is in using single-purpose devices for specific contexts. [Read more...]

The Design to Disrupt Executive Summit in 7 blogposts

0EG_3859Last week the VINT and Sogeti Labs team flew out to Munich to host our Executive Summit 2014 on Design to Disrupt. Together with some top speakers (coming from Microsoft, Forrester, Uber and Frog Design among others) we tried to make our clients aware of the disruptive potential of new technologies that is growing at a staggering speed.

We set out to find answers on these four questions:

  • How to build organizational resilience when innovation is accelerating?
  • What should you do to intelligently create your own disruptive innovations?
  • What are the appealing design principles that organisations must apply?
  • Is ‘client obsession’ something that can be engineered?

Our colleagues Jaap Bloem and Erik van Ommeren reported on the answers in a series of 7 blogposts.

Forrester Principle Analyst Ted Schadler colored the Customer Obsession part of the D2D program by sharing insights from his new book The Mobile Mind Shift. This shift corresponds to the expectation that people can get what they want in their immediate context and moments of need. Customers and employees are making this shift, now. It means that the battle for a customer’s attention will be waged in mobile moments — anytime that customer pulls out a mobile device.

Schermafbeelding 2014-10-13 om 14.59.54Mobile is also about the billions of sensors and trillions of connections, new intelligent software and analytics that should lead to improved lives a. Hannu Kauppinen, head of research laboratories at Nokia Technologies, argues the programmable world promises to bring life to physical objects, opening new opportunities for engagement and interaction [Read more...]

4 fixes for the Internet of Things


50 billion connections in 2020? We are heading there, yes. The biggest chunk of the connectivity pie will come from connecting things to the internet that are not connected today. Look around your office or living room and do a count of the things destined to become connected. But if we want to connect all these things and actually benefit from it, we need to do at least 4 things better in the near future.

1. Bring down prices
If IoT needs to scale , the devices need to be cheap enough to replace the “dumb” devices they’re replacing. Why pay 100 euros for 3 connected lightbulbs, if I can buy about 50 led-lights for that amount of money. This could be a problem for a few years to come because If the devices are cheap, the businesses that make them need sources of revenue beyond the product itself. But the cost of supporting and serving billions of smart devices will be substantial.

2. Stay valuable
I replace my smartphone every two years or so. I so far never replaced my doorknob or thermostat. IoT companies need to figure out how their devices will last or how they will be updated regularly without substantial cost.

Also, connected devices must offer more than just connectivity. So far connectivity is quite similar to using your smartphone to control stuff. It should become much more about leveraging data to improve people’s lives and the efficiency of their businesses. [Read more...]

23 big impact technologies by 2022.

Predicting stuff is hard, especially when is comes to digital technologies. However, by looking at the 23 technologies listed below I don’t think the list is far off. This particular list was created by 9 technical leaders of the IEEE Computer Society who symbolically surveyed 23 potential technologies that could change the landscape of computer science and industry by the year 2022. They might be missing out on a few things like Virtual Reality and a Financial protocol though.

You can find the full report here, and I’ve listed the technologies here divided in 4 categories: Schermafbeelding 2014-09-29 om 09.21.30

Mobile’s 40-Year Awakening in 90 Seconds

Today, there are over 7 billion active mobile devices in existence. In its relatively short time here on Earth, the mobile device has, and continues to, transform our lives. Drawing from World Bank data, this is a visualization of the rise of invention in mobile phone technology.

How Technology becomes Nature

Technology has become a inseparable part of life. This is not something specific for digital technology, but this goes back to the stone age. From stone-axes to smartphones, technology has always been an extension of the human. Yet, despite the our relationship with technology, most of us are still relatively unaware of how new technologies are introduced, accepted or discarded within our society.

In this TED-talk Koert van Mensvoort (director of the Next Nature Network; an Amsterdam based think and design tank on the changing relation between people, nature and technology and sort of the Dutch Kevin Kelly) shows how technology becomes nature in seven steps and what engineers, inventors, designers and entrepreneurs can learn from that. This talk is based on a very interesting essay Pyramid of Technology. Here’s a link to the essay that also contains a great infographic style image of the presented seven steps.

Connected Objects are Physical Avatars for Digital Services

m1mxswxafgtd_wd1280From a consumer perspective the internet of things is about connecting the objects around us and adding some kind of digital layer to interact with. Increasingly, stuff like our thermostats, coffee makers and store displays will have a digital interface to interact with.

To design these internet of things user experiences we can look at connected objects as physical avatars to tie a digital service to a real world context. 

Apple’s iBeacon and excited retailers
A lot of interest is going towards Apple’s iBeacons. iBeacons are Apple’s implementation of Bluetooth beacon technology. Simply put, it’s a low-energy chip enclosed in a small plastic housing. The beacon can only send data and is generally used to just broadcasts micro-location data.

Retailers are excited about their in-store actions and advertisements becoming more location-aware. Say your in a store and looking to buy a new camera and you stop and look at a specific model. The store’s app on you’re iPhone will then receive the location data from the iBeacon and pull up a discount coupon or more specs about the product hoping that doing so will prompt you to buy it.

So Beacons are somewhat similar to the concept of URLs for the physical world. However, there are much more options here.

Nearables: tying the physical to the digital
A year ago I wrote about a company called Estimote. Back then they just launched their beacon product line with a strong focus on retail. One year later I think Estimote leveled up a notch in the way they think, but also considering their new product: beacon technology in a sticker.

Estimote calls them ‘nearables’ and they are just that. The stickers are avatars to digital functionality and services and become active if the user context is right. [Read more...]

$100 Android phones are a way bigger deal than the Apple watch

“The future is already here, but it is not equally distributed”, William Gibson once said. Well, the present (or at least what we call the present) isn’t equally distributed as well. While China is testing out walking lanes for people who are lost in their screens while walking (THIS IS NOT A JOKE), I was looking at a mapping of connectivity data. This map, created by John Matherly of Shodan, shows all the connectivity in the world today.


He used a stateless scanner to send a Ping request to every public IPv4 address and kept track of which IPs responded with a Pong. After the Pong he would find out where the IP is physically located using a GeoIP library (i.e. translates from x.x.x.x -> latitude/ longitude). The map clearly shows some darker areas in which connectivity is not as dense as what we are used to in Europe and the US, or not even existing (although there are some non-populated areas of course).

The next 4 billion connections
That’s why Google’s announcement of a $100/80EU fully packed smartphone is a way bigger deal than Apple’s addition to the growing list of not that impressive smart watches. While the Apple Watch is just adding even more connectivity to those that are already connected, these phones are paving the way for the next 4 billion new users of the internet. With all this talk about disruptive trends, this one truly is disruptive; both culturally and economically.

Culturally, this is about not easing into technology like we did; moving from a computer in the office to computers at home, laptops, dumb phones and eventually smartphones and tablets. This is going from local stories and information to Google’s entire web index. Economically, this is about going from doing business within a 50km radius to connecting to a web that is more and more about transactions and trust. And while $100 smartphones have been around for a while now, they usually do not come packed with functionality like the Android One.

This disruption will only take place if we handle key necessities like devices, content (in native languages), connectivty, power and some kind of transactional/financial protocol like Bitcoin to facilitate money transfers and trust management. This disruption will not take place tomorrow and devices like the Android One are just a start, but this kind of technology news is getting me much more excited than adding a screen to my wrist while still needing a phone to make it work.

The Digital Layer: Enchanted Objects

Cover-designDavis Rose is a MIT Media Lab’s researcher and entrepreneur. His new book Enchanted Objects: Design, Human Desire and the Internet of Things came out recently. Last year we sat down wit David to discuss what he calls enchanted objects, or ordinary things, made extraordinary.

To answer the important question of which things we should start to enchant, you just have to study the history of the future and scan for fantasies like the autonomously driving car. Primal wishes are revealed though fables and fairy tales, for instance the talking mirror. Enchantment creates better affordances, like the ambient umbrella which lights up blue when precipitation is likely to occur.

Enchanted objects satisfy our six latent drives, dreams and wishes: omniscience, telepathy, protection, immortality, teleportation and expression.

Asked what special abilities enchanted objects offer, Rose mentions eleven categories: glanceability, wearability, useability, loveability, tangibility, learnability, expressability, gestureability, ingestability, affordability, sociability, and even the smokeability of the Blu electronic cigarettes. Eventually, Mr. Rose is certain, there won’t be a product category unaffected by enchanted objects.

Check out the interview we had with David at last years Sogeti Executive Summit on the internet of things in the videos below.

We talked to David on how adding connectivity to things enables us to build an emotional relationship with objects.

[Read more...]

Are we nearing a tipping point for consumer Virtual Reality?

I think we are getting closer. And by close I mean, still a few years away. Like the Palm smartphone was in 2003. Although this technology has a long history, it never did quite made it out of the realm of academics and technology enthousiasts. However, times are changing. Pricing is coming down, the hardware to use VR might already sit in your pocket and mainstream media are slowly starting to hop on the bandwagon.

In the early days of VR in the 1990s when gloves and goggles were super cool it was all about big head mounted displays with a lot of clunky wires and cables. In 1965, Ivan Sutherland (a computer scientist and internet pioneer) wrote an essay titled The Ultimate Display. He envisioned “a room within which the computer can control the existence of matter.” He demonstrated an extremely preliminary iteration of such a device, a periscope-like video headset called the “Sword of Damocles,” in 1968.


VR has come a long way since then. Today, two companies stand ahead of the pack, ready to put a virtual reality kit in the hands of regular consumers: Sony and Oculus, the latter was bought by Facebook for two billion dollars. Is VR ready for the mainstream market? No. Are we heading there? I think yes, here are three reason why. [Read more...]