Home Everyware: Interview with Adam Greenfield, Part 1

Everyware: Interview with Adam Greenfield, Part 1

Last week I had the privilege of meeting Adam Greenfield, author of Everyware: The Dawning Age of Ubiquitous Computing. It’s one of my favorite books about the Internet of Things and is still ahead of the curve, even though it was written in 2005 and published in 2006. Greenfield was in my city Wellington for the week, so I sat down with him at a local cafe to get his views on the current state of Internet of Things and where it’s headed.

If you’re unsure what the world will be like when everything is connected to the Internet (hence the term ‘everyware’), then read on for Greenfield’s acute observations and examples of what’s already happening. This will be a multi-part post, published over the course of this week.

What’s Changed? Mobile Phones!

Since it’s been nearly 4 years since Everyware was published, I asked Greenfield how Internet of Things has evolved since that time. In particular I wanted to know if anything major had changed since the book was first released.

He replied that the mobile phone has been the biggest change. According to Greenfield, the “single biggest failure of imagination in the book was that someone would decisively re-imagine what the phone is.”

I think he’s being overly harsh on himself, as the iPhone wasn’t announced until January 2007. So in 2005/06, nobody but Steve Jobs and some of his team at Apple could have possibly imagined what the phone would turn into. It should also be noted that Adam Greenfield was a very early adopter of mobile blogging (he coined the term “moblog”) and he is currently Nokia’s head of design direction for user interface and services. So if the evolution of the mobile phone since 2005/06 surprised even him, that tells you something about how much of a sea change the iPhone has been.


One thing that hasn’t changed as much as first thought is RFID. Greenfield ruefully noted that “this stuff is taking so long.” There are scenarios in Everyware that haven’t come to pass yet, such as RFID in credit cards and home theatres.

However he thinks that RFID will eventually be usurped by superior item identification and tracking technologies. See this ReadWriteWeb post for more background on the state of RFID.

The City

Currently Adam Greenfield is working on his next book, called The City Is Here For You To Use. I asked him what cities he’s been most impressed with, in terms of their use of Internet of Things technologies.

He mentioned Korea and Singapore, noting also that municipalities in East Asia have made a lot of progress.

According to Adam Greenfield, a more interesting question may be: what kind of responses are those cities getting from companies? He said that technology companies like Cisco and Intel are responding with products and services for Internet of Things.

I asked Greenfield what he thought the differences were between adoption in Asia and the U.S.? He replied that public motivation in Asia may be one differentiator. In many Asian countries, there is a belief in ‘progress’ and a future life that will be better because of the “heroic investments” of governments and big companies. He said that quality of life can be delivered as a service in a place like Korea, for example an Internet fridge. Whereas westerners tend to question the utility of things like that.

To get a wider understanding of Internet of Things, I recommend you purchase Everyware now on Amazon. Neither myself or RWW is making any commission on this, I just think this book deserves a wider audience. Stay tuned for more from Adam Greenfield in Part 2 of this series.

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