April 12, 2018, by Stuart Moran

Internet of Things & Research Ethics Cards

Internet of things (IoT) devices & services are increasingly embedded in different aspects of our daily lives. These range from smart speakers (Amazon Alexa) and intelligent thermostats (Nest) in our homes, to smart workplaces (the Edge[1]) & a plethora of smart city projects around the world changing how we interact with urban public space.

As acceptance & awareness of IoT grows, the volume of data generated creates new opportunities to understand the world around us. Accordingly, the deployment of IoT in university research projects is an emerging trend, offering exciting opportunities for a variety of disciplines. Whilst data driven approaches may be well-trodden within computer sciences and engineering, our new project seeks to explore how IoT is / could be being used by researchers across different research groups, such as veterinary medicine, architecture and sociology.

However, whilst the IoT holds great promise, the risks to privacy and security need to be thought through and mitigated as early as possible. Research funding calls for compliance with legal frameworks like the EU General Data Protection Regulation 2016 and ethical frameworks like Responsible Research & Innovation (EPSRC; European Commission)[2].

In our project, we are developing a new tool to examine the uses and implications of incorporating IoT within research. Based in the School of Computer Science, our main motivation with this work is examining how best to ensure ethically sound approaches are being used & to anticipate the range of challenges that might arise from deployments of data driven technologies.

Our goal is to create a prototype deck of physical cards that support both ideation and evaluation around IoT in research. This hybrid element is the novelty. Within computer science there has been research into the role of ideation cards in structuring thought around complex topics, and to support generation of new ideas. This includes Mixed Reality Gaming cards, Ideation Box for designing cultural heritage and Envisioning Cards for Value Sensitive Design. We are building on previous research conducted by the investigators, namely Urquhart’s research exploring how cards can support engagement with law. This has been in a previous project on ‘privacy by design’ cards between Nottingham & Microsoft Research[3], & a current project called ‘Moral-IT and Legal-IT’ cards [4] [5].

Over the next few months we plan to run workshops with researchers from across the university, getting their perspectives on how IoT might be used in their work, and using our prototype cards to think about the risks therein. Please get in touch with the team if you want to be involved. This work is funded by the Digital Research team[6] and involves Drs Lachlan Urquhart, Martin Flintham & Stuart Moran.

[1] The Edge smart workplace: https://www.bloomberg.com/features/2015-the-edge-the-worlds-greenest-building/

[2] Responsible Research and Innovation: https://ec.europa.eu/programmes/horizon2020/en/h2020-section/responsible-research-innovation ; https://epsrc.ukri.org/research/ourportfolio/themes/healthcaretechnologies/strategy/toolkit/home/integrity/ri/

[3] Privacy by Design Cards: https://www.horizon.ac.uk/project/privacy-by-design-cards/

[4] Moral-IT and Legal-IT: https://www.horizon.ac.uk/towards-moral-it-and-legal-it-by-design/

[5] Moral-IT and Legal-IT: https://www.horizon.ac.uk/project/moralit-enabling-design-of-ethical-and-legal-it-systems/

[6] https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/it-services/digital/team.aspx

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