Rooted in Berlin, ThingsCon gathers leading designers, developers, thought leaders, entrepreneurs, researchers, artists, startups, investors and innovators of all stripes for two days of workshops, talks and networking. We spoke to Peter Bihr one of the conference chairs.
Berlin is the perfect place for a hardware conference: We have a strong startup ecosystem, and a nascent, fast-growing hardware and IoT scene. With Germany’s long-standing manufacturing and engineering tradition, and the many industrial and academic players across the country, there is a lot of relevant talent around. Berlin is a bridge between East and West in many ways, and attracts a lot of international founders and makers. All that combined makes for a great mix. Also, it does help that the whole team is based in Berlin and we have the backing by the local scene – it’s a lot easier to organize something in your own backyard.
The internet of things is becoming more and more important. Whilst almost everyone is already using it every day most people do not know what it really is. Can you explain it to our readers?
The Internet of Things (or IoT for short) is what happens when you stick connectivity into the physical world: Devices that can talk to the internet, to each other, to their users. In many cases, this concretely manifests in things that report to, or can be controlled by, your smartphone. It also means that hardware now becomes programmable, very much like software. That changes a lot of things, it’s quite a profound change across all industries and categories.
Berlin is a city of entrepreneurs and creators. What are the most amazing things you have seen come out of Berlin?
There are many great projects and products out of Berlin. To name just a few: Kiwi.ki (http://kiwi.ki/) developed a smart lock system, Relayr (https://relayr.io/) provide a hardware prototyping platform, Skysense (http://skysense.de/) are building a drone charger, Basslet (http://rescuedideas.com/) are launching a haptic audio wristband that lets you feel bass more intensely while you listen to music on your earphones.
The most amazing thing for me, though, isn’t one concrete project, though, but the fantastic community that has been growing here. It’s a very ambitious, international, and very supportive community. So watch out!
What new trends can be expected at ThingsCon this year?
We see the talks and workshop “grow up” with the industry. It’s less talk about what could be done, but how to get there, how to make things better, how to design delightful user experiences. Also, there is a lot more thinking about the “why”, the impact of the things we build, and the responsibility that comes with it. These are all big questions that people around the world – from small design and tinker shop to large corporations – are discussing, and we hope to provide a focal point for these discussions at ThingsCon, both on-stage and in the conversations that happen in the hallway or at night at a bar.
Anything else you would like to say?
We work hard to create an event that appeals to a wide range of people because we think that diversity is super important, not just as a political statement, but also because it helps produce much better outcomes. So we aim for a great mix of backgrounds at the event, with members from small indie design studios to universities to corporate R&D and beyond. If you have any doubts that you might not find a welcoming community at ThingsCon, think again. Or better yet, drop us a line and say hi!
Thanks Peter for the interview.
Peter Bihr is the founder of The Waving Cat, where he explores the impact of emerging technologies and helps apply the insights of innovators through consulting and conferences.
As a strategy advisor, he helps organizations large and small excel in an environment shaped by digitization, connectedness and rapid change. He has co-founded and chaired many acclaimed emerging technology conferences including ThingsCon, UIKonf and Cognitive Cities Conference, and serves as Program Director of NEXT as well as co-chair of Interaction 16.
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