Mozilla's Open IoT Studio
We want a healthy internet where people make meaningful connected things.
The Internet of Things (IoT) describes an emerging global network connecting everything around us: from what we wear, to the homes we live in, and even medical devices embedded in our bodies. IoT encompasses everyday objects as well as complex data systems in cities and industries. This so-called “third wave” of the Internet is often defined by orders of magnitude: “billions of devices connected, trillions in generated revenue, zettabytes of multi-directional data.”
Mozilla’s Open IoT Studio seeks to advance responsible open IoT through professional practices and a network of IoT practitioners who conduct research, make prototypes and build meaningful collaborations.
In 2017, we are focusing on two internet health issues in IoT, privacy & security and decentralization. To affect change in IoT, we are targeting IoT professionals, who are currently defining the field and establishing professional norms. We will reach them through the following activities:
- Unearthing actionable insights through original research
- Advancing responsible practices through prototypes and learning resources
- Cultivating a network of collaborators who are taking action on this issue
What we're working towards: internet health
As part of the Mozilla Foundation, we understand internet health to include the following five issues:
Privacy & Security.
We are particularly interested in exploring the professional practices of privacy and security that can empower individuals to grow trust and be in control of their connected products and services.
IoT will significantly amplify the security and privacy challenges we currently face. One reason for this is because IoT brings computing power much closer to us physically and more pervasive. There are already examples of how this physical proximity and digital control of physical resources can result in life-threatening scenarios, such as a car being hacked or a pacemaker compromised.
IoT also collects more and different data than previous eras of the internet. This includes our physical location, appearance, and even emotional state.
As we build meaningful connected things, we must ensure that these objects don’t compromise people’s agency. People must be able to understand and control their digital lives. And control depends on context. We want to understand how designing for specific contexts can inform privacy best practices broadly.
We are exploring this through this question:
How can we design contextually relevant privacy controls in IoT that are knowable, modifiable and empowering to the people using them?
Currently, several large corporate players are shaping IoT. Their power is quite centralised, even though they compete against each other. Centralised power means there is a single point of failure. And it means that individual agency is limited, especially at the edges of a network.
For this reason, we are committed to making meaningful things in local contexts. Open innovation at the edges can shift centralised power, leading to products that are locally relevant and adapted. We can break horrendously short cradle-to-grave lifecycle that the digital technology industry has artificially generated.
In this way, when the inevitable stresses and shocks occur, local communities are more resilient. They can repair their tools, they can repurpose them, and they will benefit for having meaningful things that last and make sense in their context.
We are particularly interested in exploring the contexts of decentralization that can empower communities to be more resilient through making locally relevant IoT.
We are exploring this through this question:
How can locally relevant and locally produced IoT contribute to more resilient systems?
People everywhere make things that are meaningful to them. And they make them in different ways. We want to understand and enhance making that is in tune with its context. At times this can look really messy, reflecting the messiness that life and the world around really is.
Local crafts are highly adapted to local contexts, such as language and local materials. We want to celebrate this diversity and support others in using local approaches to create meaningful things and share them openly.
We are exploring how open innovation happens across the Internet of Things ecosystem. We’re not fully sure where this is heading right now, but one thing we are sure of is that it’s good to start with actionable insights drawn from local contexts and test designs through lived experiences.
When IoT is made by just a few power players, then the interests of some people might be overlooked or deemed not profitable enough to cater to. By innovating openly and making meaningful things locally, more people can have a voice and shape the technology environment around them.
We want to contribute to an ecosystem that is diverse and collaborative. That means championing things made by different people in different contexts to address different needs.
Through inclusive practices, we want to futher challenge the centralisation of power and advocate for digital equity, ensuring that the internet remains a global, public resource that is open and accessible to all.
We learn to make and make to learn. The process of making reveals insights that will help us grow and improve. These reflections can be shared with others and support them as they learn as well.
We are keen to collaborate with educators on learning opportunities and curriculum that empowers people in making meaningful IoT, especially professional practitioners seeking to improve their craft.
Through improved professional practice that embeds internet stewardship and local context, we believe that the connected products we make will support more people to have agency in their online lives. They will be able to read, write and participate fully with technology.
How we work
As a professional learning network, we conduct action research to unearth insights around the issues of internet health for IoT. Responding to those insights, we make prototypes through commons-based peer production to directly impact the professional development and the formation of best practices among the IoT professionals we work with.
We reflect on this process and share what we learn through participartory events and open publications, seeking to strengthen Mozilla's leadership network and influence the IoT larger ecosystem towards a healthier internet.
These themes are central to the studio:
The internet is an integral part of modern life—a key component in education, communication, collaboration, business, entertainment and society as a whole. It is a global public resource that must remain open and accessible. It is built on standards, interoperability and decentralized. We build things with and for the open internet.
We prioritize working with the development boards and physical artifacts offered by the open hardware movement. Thanks to their high quality through peer review, vibrant communities contributing to libraries and bug fixes, and the freedom to study, modify and manufacture the parts, open hardware leads to better products, less duplication of efforts, and a healthier internet.
To be a citizen of the digital world, you need the ability to read, write and participate in it. We research and prototype IoT so that individuals can also build, create and engage meaningfully through internet-enabled products and content.
Crafting considered objects.
We specilize in locally appropriate ways of building IoT that are sensitive to individual and community needs. At the heart of the studio, we explore ways in which craft can support sustainable manufacturing in terms of the environment, local economy, and local relevance.
Locating our work in places.
Going hand-in-hand with our approach of crafting considered objects, we are locating activities in specific communities in diverse geographical locations. This includes conducting studio activities in communities that are not usually associated with technology development. While the results are expected to be highly specific to the localised communities, we see this as an important way to approach global technology development in parallel with the studio’s digital inclusion issues.
Working with people.
Understanding the lives of people is fundamental to building the next generation of IoT. Market research and global trends will allow you to understand the existing landscape, but it will not bring you closer to concepts that are change-making. Drawing from design ethnography, field research and action research we are taking in insight-led approach to creating original ideas that matter.
What we make
To learn more about upcoming and past events, check out our calendar.
To see all the prototypes made so far, check out these repositories: https://github.com/openiotstudio
To read about what we're learning, check out these publications.
Open IoT Workbench
A digital resource for designers, developers, technologists and user experience professionals working within the field of IoT.
A program of the Mozilla Leadership Network
We are part of the Mozilla Leadership Network, a series of programs working to advance openness in science, education, advocacy, gender-issues and IoT.