Described as the next iteration, the internet is extending communication to single machines and devices, sensors and objects. Known as pervasive computing, ambient intelligence or ubicomp and currently as ‘Internet of Things’ this convergence towards ever more connectivity is ‘happening’ in the same way as the internet was, but is still in such an early stage that agency is possible. The questions are already obvious: Who shapes the Internet of Things – and how?
The draft paper
A draft paper on the internet of things was prepared by Rob von Kranenburg and his team. Due to important remarks in the discussion the authors will revise their paper over the next weeks. As soon they have finished their work, we will make the new version available here.
The workshop revolved around the development known as pervasive computing, ambient intelligence or ubicomp – and currently as ‘Internet of Things’: extending communication to single machines and devices, sensors and objects. This convergence towards ever more connectivity is just ‘happening’ in the same way as the internet was, but is still in such an early stage that agency is possible.
In the workshop we discussed who are the actors that shape the Internet of Things – and how? Is it through policy or standard making, through choices made by large industrial drivers on business models and technological protocols, or through end-users and citizens, as they are able to self-organize in all kinds of clusters. And what is the Internet of Things anyway?
The comments by the respondents Prof. Dr. Holfger Schlingloff addressed questions of safety and reliability of such distributed systems; Dr. Liesbeth Huybrechts highlighted the importance of design issues in the context of IoT.
Discussion and remarks
The discussion during and afterwards yielded interesting remarks, particularly addressing three aspects:
The Things in the Internet of Things
One of the first issues raised in the discussion dealt with the status of the things in the Internet of the Things. If objects are exchanging information independently (communicating?), and they are so many that human actors can’t oversee this processes – are the objects and the underlying algorithms gaining autonomy? In consequence, does this kind of agency of things come with rights and even responsibilities attached?
“Tsunami” of Data: Access and Ownership
Another important and recurring aspect in the workshop discussion was the inconceivable amount of data (Big Data/”Tsunami” of Data) that is being generated within the Internet of Things by connected sensors and objects. Who owns or controls this data? And is (explicit) ownership really a helpful concept in this dynamic context of tiny bits and bytes? Some participants argued that the more relevant question might be what really happens with the data. In consequence, concepts like transparency and access might prove more helpful, e.g. securing interfaces to the data and sensors.
Actors in this field
A third important aspect was the question who the relevant actors and stakeholders in this field are. This draw us back to the core question what the Internet of Things – and the term – actually is for? What are the purposes and agendas of the actors involved? It was also argued that we as citizens and researchers are becoming actors ourselves by participating in the debate and by doing things with the Internet of Things – building tools, tinkering with the possibilities and thereby shaping the field.
An interesting research suggestion was also to map out the actors, their agencies and agendas in this field.