Proposal

Home Sweet Smart Home
Discussing the feasibility of smart objects at home: how smart is too smart?

New Media Research Practices
Rianne Riemens (rianne_riemens@hotmail.com)
Marlene Scherf (marlene@marlenescherf.com)
Harry Sullivan (hrsullivan@hotmail.com)
Pieter Vliegenthart  (pietervliegenthart@gmail.com)


Introduction

A fridge that automatically re-orders groceries when they are running out, a smart diaper that sends a tweet when your baby gets wet and a voice controlled Barbie’s Smart Home that takes playing with Barbie’s to a whole new level (Bohn; Katz; Mynihan). All of these everyday objects are examples of what Miorandi et al. and Bohn et al. describe as the ‘Internet of Things’(IoT)- objects that contain a microcomputer equipped with various sensors and some kind of communication technology (Miorandi et al. 1497; Bohn et al. 7). The general purpose of the IoT is described by the overarching phenomenon ‘Ambient Intelligence’, which is concerned with ‘user-friendliness, user-empowerment and support for human interactions (Friedewald et al. 222).’ Although these objects are generally designed to make our lives easier, they also gather and send information to various databases. Bohn et. al. argue that these smart objects play an increasingly important role in our daily lives, but also stress that this technology has the potential to transform our society (6).

 

Project objective

Smart objects have already found their way into our everyday lives. Hand in hand with these developments comes a series of concerns and questions. Does it affect people’s social behaviour? Information and data of users are sent to and stored in databases, but are people aware of what happens with the data? We will investigate both the possibilities and concerns of IoT objects and how they can shape the home environment. Our aim is to encourage people to think critically about the extent to which the possibilities of smart objects are desirable.

For that purpose we will develop a landing page/mobile app, that focuses on smart objects in homes. Through a simple interface users can furnish their homes with smart kitchen supplies, toys and furniture. This process should aim to make the user realize 1) what is possible, 2) where their own boundaries lie when it comes to letting smart objects into their home and 3) what functions smart objects have and what they are able to collect. The app will show the impact that each smart object has on the home environment. By taking this process to a surrealistic level, we want to make an intervention that is fun as well as thought provoking.

 With this research we want to create awareness and make people realize that, when it comes to smart objects, not everything that is possible might be desirable.

 

Academic relevance

As mentioned in the introduction, the IoT is a form of ambient intelligence that is aimed at improving our quality of life.  In a paper published in 2013, J. Gubbi et al. break the developments and the change of the range of usage down like this:

The term Internet of Things was first coined by Kevin Ashton in 1999 in the context of supply chain management. However, in the past decade, the definition has been more inclusive covering wide range of applications like healthcare, utilities, transport, etc.. Although the definition of ‘Things’ has changed as technology evolved, the main goal of making a computer sense information without the aid of human intervention remains the same (1646).

Nowadays, the IoT is used in an ever growing number of objects, the emergence of these objects often not even noticed by its users (Bohn et al. 7). As Bohn et al. argue, “standards could soon be set for the rest of our lives” (7). Bohn et al. distinguish 4 domains that are subject to change due to widespread use of this technology: privacy, surveillance, social and delegation of control (21).  The aim of our project is to make people think critically about smart objects. We will specifically focus on how the 4 domains are being influenced by the IoT.

In addition, Friedewald et al. write that smart objects in households “should not dominate the overall function of housing (236). They also mention the invasion of privacy as a possible thread: “The more complex the systems become, the more vulnerable they are to malfunction” (236). All the objects together could turn into a surveillance network that can register every move within the house (Bohn et al. 14)

 

Methodology

The project will be realized in three phases, with the internet playing an integral role throughout-especially with regards to research. First of all, we will build a theoretical framework on smart objects and IoT projects. In this way, we can define the most important terms and get a grip with critiques from authors in the field. To make sure that our use of smart objects in the game is up-to-date, we will keep an eye out for new developments and new smart objects.

In the second phase we will design a simplified version of the app using the program GameSalad. The app will follow the simple principle of a home furnishing website or app with the possibility to drag and drop smart objects into the living space. This approach was chosen for two main reasons: The principle of home furnishing apps or websites (like IKEA uses it) are already broadly known and secondly, the process of dragging and dropping objects on a screen or a smartphone is easy to use and already known and ‘natural’ to most users. Combining these two pillars, the chances of people using the app -and therefore reaching people and bringing them closer to the topic and our research goal- will increase. The app will provide feedback on what the smart objects (some existing objects, some made-up) can do and what data they gather.  This makes it possible to let users face the critiques on Ambient Technologies  The new media format used in our project is the landing page and the mobile app. They will be visualized through mock ups. After designing our product, we will enter phase three in which our collected findings will be put down on paper and presented in a research blog.


Bibliography

Bohn, Dieter. ‘Samsung’s New Fridge Can Order Fresh Direct Groceries from Its Humongous Touchscreen – The Verge’. The Verge. 22 Sept. 2016. <http://www.theverge.com/2016/1/5/10708380/samsung-family-hub-fridge-mastercard-app-groceries-ces-2016&gt;.

Bohn, Jürgen et al. ‘Social, Economic, and Ethical Implications of Ambient Intelligence and Ubiquitous Computing’. Ambient Intelligence. Springer, 2005. 5–29. <http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/3-540-27139-2_2&gt;.

Friedewald, Michael et al. ‘Perspectives of Ambient Intelligence in the Home Environment’. Telematics and Informatics 22.3 (2005): 221–238. CrossRef. Web.

‘GameSalad – Drag & Drop Programming – No Coding Required. Game Creation for Everyone’. Drag &  Drop Programming. 25 Sept. 2016. <http://gamesalad.com/&gt;.

Gubbi, Jayavardhana et al. ‘Internet of Things (IoT): A Vision, Architectural Elements, and Future Directions’. Future Generation Computer Systems 29.7 (2013): 1645–1660. CrossRef. Web.

Katz, Leslie. ‘TweetPee: Huggies Sends a Tweet When Baby’s Wet’. CNET. 22 Sept. 2016. <https://www.cnet.com/news/tweetpee-huggies-sends-a-tweet-when-babys-wet/&gt;.

Miorandi, Daniele et al. ‘Internet of Things: Vision, Applications and Research Challenges’. Ad Hoc Networks 10.7 (2012): 1497–1516. CrossRef. Web.

Mynihan, Tim. ‘Barbie’s Hello Dreamhouse Is Better Than Your Smart Home | WIRED’. Barbie’s New Smart Home Is Crushing It So Hard. N.p., Web. 22 Sept. 2016. <https://www.wired.com/2016/09/barbies-new-smart-home-crushing-hard/&gt;.

 

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