Fixing Future: right to repair and equal-IoT

A new £1.2 million project involving Lancaster University researchers will look at how to create more sustainable and equitable internet-connected devices.

The Lancaster researchers are part of an international team exploring the inequalities created by unsustainable hardware/software, inadequate data protection and poor cybersecurity across current consumer Internet of Things (IoT) devices and networks.

Planned obsolescence of IoT devices, such as smart speakers and watches, is leading to a variety of environmental consequences including electronic waste.

This project, funded by UKRI EPSRC, will explore how to create a more circular and equitable digital economy, underpinned by inclusive and accessible repair and reuse.

‘Fixing the Future: The right to repair and equal-IoT’ project, led by Dr Lachlan Urquhart (Edinburgh University) includes Dr Michael Stead, Professor Paul Coulton and Dr Joseph Lindley, from Lancaster University’s design-led laboratory ImaginationLancaster and researchers from Nottingham and Napier universities.

This project will develop various programmes of work over the next 24 months, including an extension to a current project, The Repair Shop 2049, led by Dr Stead.

“Smart devices have a double impact when it comes to obsolescence and e-waste,” says Dr Stead. “Frequently their hardware cannot be repaired or reused, and there are often limits to how many times their software can be updated. This interdisciplinary project will help support the transition to more repairable smart devices and ecosystems.”

The collaborative research agenda will be created with citizens and a series of international research partners, including The Making Rooms Blackburn; BBC Research & Development; Which?; NCC Group; the Canadian Government; and climate data focused artist Rachel Jacobs.

The project will start in August 2022.

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