“Connecting things does not make the world smart”

11th December, 2014 by Hugh Knowles

You have to empower people for radical change, says Hugh Knowles, founder of the Internet of Things Academy and Head of Innovation at Forum for the Future.  

Digital technologies can help drive genuinely radical systemic change in two basic ways. One is by changing the structure of information flows – new information, simplifying complex data, making the invisible visible, and so allowing people to make new decisions in new ways. The other is by providing people with platforms to self-organise.

Connecting things does not make the world smart – it makes it full of information and this does not result in understanding or change. The acquisition and sharing of new information reaches its full potential when it meets a clear need and can provide people with the opportunity to act in way they could not have done before. For example, at the Internet of Things Academy we are building mobile, accurate air quality devices to help people change behaviour to avoid pollution hotspots and to create a new data set that can be used to lobby for change.

We are interested in how citizens and communities are going to gain power and insight over their challenges, rather than have smart solutions imposed on them. Whether big brands can play a supportive role in this remains to be seen.

Image credit: istock

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