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In this section we would like to share our research progress. We put together Milestones that describe important steps in the process of the project, because they shaped our work and narrowed it down towards our final product.

1. Proposal

When writing the proposal we decided to focus on the overall topic of Internet of Things and Smart Objects. To scale the project down to something we could actually finish within the given timeframe, we decided to have a closer look on IoT objects for domestic spaces.

At this point, we wanted to make an application that made it possible for users to interact with the smart objects. The goal that we’ve had in mind was to make people think about the desirability of smart objects in the home.

To make a simple version of the app, we decided to use the program Gamesalad. This is a software program which can help you design games. We thought this would be useful, because of the elements of gamification we wanted to add to the app.

The literature used for our proposal was related to how smart objects work, what the impact of the smart objects can be and the issue of privacy.

2. Feedback Proposal

The peer feedback gave us valuable insights and a feeling on where we needed to narrow down our project and make some choices about where we wanted to focus on. The main points that we took away from the peer reviews were that we needed to specify our aims of the project further and that it was a bit unclear what the final product would be for some reviewers. We realised that what we had in mind, was not exactly what the peer reviewers got out of our proposal. We reworked parts of our proposal, to make it more clear and to bring formulations on point.

3. Realisation

While working through the realisation of our project, we experienced, that our previously chosen tool Gamesalad didn’t fulfill our needs, to come up with visuals or mock ups we’d like to present. That’s why we chose a different tool called Roomle, which gave us more freedom in creating the visuals and videos and was more on point to what we had in mind.

Since there are many smart objects for homes already on the market, as mentioned on several websites (for example IoT list), we came to the conclusion that we had to pick a few to focus on. To achieve our goal, which is raising awareness and thinking critically about IoT home furnishings, we chose 5 objects to study more closely.

During the week in which data infrastructure was the topic of the NMRP lecture and seminar, we started thinking about the issues of privacy and data gathering that is related to smart objects. We found several articles that gave us a more focused topic for our blog post.

4. Data infrastructures

During week 5, the theme of the course was ‘opening up invisible infrastructures’. This topic made us think about smart objects and our project in a new way. The data that smart objects gather differs per object, but can be extensive and wide ranging. Even smart toys, meant for children, work like this (see for example the New Barbie House). Sometimes, companies aren’t clear about what data the objects gather, therefore we had to work with the “functions” with which the objects are advertised, and draw conclusions from them. This was sometimes challenging, but at the same time interesting because it confirmed the importance of our project.

5. Office Hours & Data Visualisation

The feedback that was given to us in the feedback and during the office hours also helped us to shape the project and even focus it a little more. We decided that the focus regarding the academic debate should lie on “dataveillance”. This notion came up during the seminar on data visualisation. In this seminar, we also worked on ways to visualise the infrastructure of the data that is gathered from the smart objects. This led us to also think about visualizing the data smart objects collect. The outcome from the information we gathered can be seen in a heating map. (With the objects we decided to work on further). 

Originally, we thought we concept both a landing page and an app. But after careful consideration, we decided to focus on the landing page, and have the app as a starting point to think further on the topic and how it can be realized. The advantage of the app would be that you can access it more easily from your phone. And regarding the technical developments, it might be possible to include an Augmented Reality option, that makes it possible for users to directly connect a smart object to the app. 

6. Final outcomes

After the office hours and further discussing our aims for the blog and the presentation, we came up with a WordPress website where we were able to put all the extra information on the project that did not fit in the blog or the presentation. We finalised the animations and visuals for the presentation and uploaded our final blog post.

7. Challenges

Throughout our research we came across some challenges that eventually had impact on our project:

  • lack of accessibility of information on smart objects
  • time-limitations to research different kinds of smart objects or different brands of smart objects
  • reverse-engineering the functionalities of smart objects (wich complicated the process of producing the heat map)
  • re-focus on specific parts of the academic debate