Behind the Internet of Things

Nothing excites the MSM like capitalist techno-fantasies. The so-called “internet of things” is one such orgasmic delusion. But, in our our market totalitarian society, where profit is priority #1 by a wide mile and marketing is the main cultural engine, what, really, is this “internet of things,” to the extent it’s anything at all?

robot factory The latest issue of Advertising Age reveals the extremely sordid and predictable truth: It’s yet another way of making a still-unconquered dimension of personal life into a big business marketing platform:

The Internet of Things has promised to turn our everyday interactions with stuff into data for logistical and marketing applications.

But now that more and more corporations, including Diageo and Mondelez, have tested actual web-connected products in the market, the industry is approaching the next stage of connected appliances and food packaging. That means figuring out where all that information will go and how it will be used. IoT platform company Evrythng sees a home for data generated by connected thermostats, bottles of booze, designer handbags and washing machines in first-party marketing databases. The firm is partnering with Trueffect, a digital ad firm specializing in first-party data targeting, to work towards devising ways marketers can use data gathered when consumers use their products. The firms hope to directly communicate with those consumers and, yes, perhaps target ad messages to them.

Interestingly, one of the first to deploy the new data-scraping method is corporate booze peddler Diageo:

The spirits brand introduced its “Smart Bottles” of Johnnie Walker Blue Label, which feature electronic sensors, at the Mobile World Congress in March in Barcelona. In addition to helping the firm track whether bottles have been opened and where they are in the supply chain, they could be used for targeted marketing. “For instance, Diageo could upload promotional offers while the bottle is in the shop but change that information to cocktail recipes when the sensors show the bottle has been opened at home,” noted the company in a press statement.

All this is the other side of the ongoing, but virtually undiscussed in the mainstream, second robot revolution, by the way. That, in turn, is capitalism 101 at this point, a fact unmentionable in this society, despite its dire consequences.

The Land of Private-Sector Boondoggles

The New York Time Magazine this week carries a brief essay about how South Korea runs its internet. They don’t do what we do here in the proving ground of capitalist dictatorship. While we permit private profit ranchers to own our internet infrastructure, South Korea has its Ministry of Science lay and control the pipes.

The results are predictable:

Seoul is blanketed with free Wi-Fi that offers the world’s fastest Internet speeds — twice as fast as the average American’s. Back in 1995, the government began a 10-year plan to build out the country’s broadband infrastructure and, through a series of public programs, to teach Koreans what they could do with it. South Korea also eased regulations on service providers to ensure that consumers would have a multitude of choices — in marked contrast to America, where a handful of cable and telecommunications monopolies dominate the market. Such healthy competition in Korea keeps the cost of access low.

To maintain South Korea’s lead, the country’s Science Ministry recently announced a $1.5 billion initiative to upgrade Korea’s mobile infrastructure. By 2020, the government predicts, it will be 1,000 times faster — so fast you could download a feature-length movie in approximately one second. In the same time frame, the Federal Communications Commission hopes to wire most American homes with broadband Internet with speeds of at least 100 megabits per second, or roughly one-sixtieth of South Korea’s goal.

Here’s one telling result:

American mobile design is fetishistically minimalist. Silicon Valley applauds itself for good taste in this regard, but this aesthetic has sprung up partly in response to a deficiency: Americans have learned to strip out bandwidth-guzzling elements because they slow down loading times. Korean designers, lacking such bandwidth restraints, can stuff their apps full of all the information and widgets they like. On-screen real estate isn’t an issue, either, because Koreans prefer massive phones. While the “phablet” — the missing link between a phone and a tablet — is popular as a punch line in the United States, it’s been in high demand in South Korea for years.

This trans-Pacific gap in bandwidth is so pronounced that Korean developers often have to strip down their software if they want to take it stateside.

None of this, of course, enters into our pathetic debates over whether to place a few paltry regulations on our holders of licenses to steal. Despite such stark facts, even our reformers dutifully refrain from mentioning what a terrible idea it is to let capitalists own basic public facilities.

Eye in the Sky Making You Buy

mind reading image Big business marketing grows faster than the corporate capitalist economy from which it logically and necessarily emerges.

Here at TCT, we keep track of the resulting Orwellian news from the general human, rather than MSM/capitalist, perspective.

The latest is more effort in the direction of getting computers to be able to read images on the internet. Currently, those remain mostly grayed-out spots to the data harvesters.

But, because of the special richness and emotionality of images, this will very likely change sometime soon. Per Ad Age:

When then-Google exec Vic Gundotra took the stage at the company’s annual developer conference, he showed a photo of the Eiffel Tower. Many in attendance automatically recognized the landmark — and so did Google’s computers.

Since that milestone in May 2013, Google, along with Yahoo, Facebook and other companies, has been struggling to get at a gold mine of potential data: the millions of images flitting about the web. Image-recognition technology is the next frontier for companies that have built multibillion dollar businesses on their ability to convert data into more personalized content for audiences and better targeting for advertisers.

“There’s this treasure trove of data these companies are sitting on in the form of the visual web. That data for the most part is uncategorized. It’s a black box,” said Justin Fuisz, CEO of Fuisz Media, a company that uses image recognition to attach branded calls to action to objects in videos.

The steps are slow, due to the genuinely deep problems involved in trying to mechanically extract human meanings from images. But some problems (not climate change, war, or poverty, mind you) simply must be solved! Hence, the state-of-affairs in late 2014:

“Our clients have never given it much thought. But as soon as it’s available at scale, it’s going to be huge,” said Doug Kofoid, president-global solutions at Publicis Groupe’s VivaKi.

“When we are talking in theoretical terms about [Horizon Media client] Weight Watchers for instance, we can identify who is pinning Weight Watchers specific materials — food, recipes — but also any type of food content that we think would be a qualifier for a potential Weight Watcher prospect. So it becomes very clearly about the actual content that’s pinned,” said Horizon Media Chief Digital Officer Donald Williams.

“The biggest surprise I had was the richness of those images and how much personal information is coming across in the richness of those images,” said Starcom MediaVest Group’s global research lead Kate Sirkin. “It really does start to give you a good flavor of interests and lifestyle and passions of the consumer.”

Big Brother would be sick with jealousy.

The Fruits of Unrestrained Capitalism

Crawford book A worthy read about one of the many boondoggles that inhere in corporate capitalist normalcy. The basic facts include:

[Cable companies] are extracting enormous rents, enormous profits, from what Americans perceive to be a basic service. And the competitive argument they make is a complete canard. If you tried to swap out your wireless connection or use your wireless connection instead of a cable connection for let’s say, watching online video — so the average user of a wired high-speed Internet connection uses 50 gigabytes of data a month — if you tried to do that over a mobile wireless device you’d be spending $500 a month. That’s because you may get wireless at about the same speeds, but [there are] very low capacity caps, data caps, on the usage of that connection. So it’s not a substitute; it’s a complement. We love mobile wireless services. It’s never going to take the place of a wire.

What’s even more disturbing is that in other countries — I’ve visited both Seoul and Stockholm recently — they take these services for granted. For about $25 a month they’re getting gigabits symmetrical service, which is 100 times faster than the very fastest connection available in the United States and for a 17th of the price. It really is astonishing what’s going on in America. Americans aren’t quite aware of it because we don’t look beyond our borders, but we’re falling way behind in the pack of developed nations when it comes to high-speed Internet access, capacity and prices.

We “don’t” look beyond our borders, of course, for the self-same reason we “permit” our overclass to do what they do to us: The mass media, including what passes for journalism, are part of the same monopoly that uses the internet and other publicly-invented technologies as a profit ranch. The relevant comparisons are simply forbidden.

Another Voice of the System

Just as Fred Taylor spoke corporate capitalism’s words about work and its control, so did Google CEO Eric Schmidt voice the system’s deepest truth about privacy in the face of marketing:

That was in December of 2009.

Dig the usefulness of the “war on terror” and its subcomponents to the marketing juggernaut. Why does the privacy of commoners not exist to Google and its customers? It’s absolutely because privacy is anathema to the basic conduct of big business in our age of two-way communications. Privacy would end the overclass’s ability to gather data on our off-the-job behavior via new media, and thereby refine and extend their sales efforts. But, thanks to the Patriot Act, Schmidt can get away without mentioning this elementary fact, and pretend he’s just a patriot doing his lawful duty.

And, as Gawker rightly remarked at the time of Schmidt’s Taylorian utterance, consider also the radical uni-directionality of the relationship in question. Privacy is nothing, a mere remnant of earlier times to be eroded and strangled as quickly as people will allow, to those looking out from the corporate boardroom. What happens in the boardroom and in the lives of the primary beneficiaries of the system? Try telling them they have no privacy rights, and that all their affairs are open to public scrutiny…