Funding for project to fix sustainable future of smart devices

Researchers at the University of Nottingham are part of a project awarded £1.2 million to understand how to create a more circular and equitable digital economy, underpinned by reuse and repair.

The 2 year Fixing the Future: The Right to Repair and Equal-IoT’ project, has been funded by the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and will explore the societal inequalities created by poor sustainability, data protection, and cybersecurity in current consumer internet of things (IoT) devices.

The research is led by the University of Edinburgh with collaboration from the University of Nottingham and Lancaster University. The team will tackle the issue of IoT devices like smart speakers and watches going out of use and creating environmental consequences from e-Waste. They will aim to understand how to create a more circular and equitable digital economy, underpinned by reuse and repair.

The project draws together expertise in human computer interaction, design research, technology, law, ethics, and digital humanities to investigate how to build more equitable IoT devices that enable inclusive participation in the digital economy.

This will be achieved through an exciting programme of work over the next 24 months which:

  • Maps the changing legal and ethical landscape, particularly around shifting current IoT design practices and examining the role of the right to repair in supporting citizen needs.
  • Explores how to create the IoT Repair Shop installation with the Making Rooms Blackburn to understand issues faced by local citizens and to understand practical challenges of repairing IoT devices in the community.
  • Creates blueprint prototypes and user experiences that demonstrate how to design for repairability, to support IoT manufacturers to change current practices.
  • Designs a toolkit that will practically support development of more equitable futures when living with IoT by targeting needs of different citizens, governments, and industry stakeholders.

The research agenda will be closely co-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 explosion of IoT devices on the market and constant encouragement to upgrade is creating a range of sustainability and privacy issues that must be addressed in order to protect users and the environment. It’s a big task but as the technological landscape continues to evolve it’s vital we use our combined expertise to tackle these issues and ensure the future of IoT is sustainable and equal.

The project is led by Principal Investigator, Edinburgh Law School’s Dr Lachlan Urquhart, together with a multidisciplinary team of investigators from across the Universities of Edinburgh (Dr Ewa Luger , Prof Melissa Terras , Dr Susan Lechelt), Lancaster (Dr Mike Stead , Dr Joseph Lindley , Prof Paul Coulton), Nottingham (Dr Neelima Sailaja , Prof Derek McAuley), and Napier (Dr Dimitrios Darzentas).

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