Mozilla’s Open IoT Studio: the first half year

Earlier this year, Mozilla launched a program exploring the Internet of Things. This is an update of what we’ve made since then. We’ll soon publish more about what we learned and how we’d like to take this program forward.

Why is Mozilla interested in IoT?

The internet is changing forms. Today we live in a network of physical objects and services that continuously gather data and exchange it over the internet. These connected systems are increasingly invisible, inaccessible and immutable to us.

Take for example personal data in IoT. It is extremely vulnerable, due to:

What’s more, IoT innovation is highly unequal in access and participation. Many consumer IoT products are targeted at affluent users. Or, if designed for the economically disadvantaged, then citizens lack the skills and tools needed to see what data is being collected, how it is being used, and how they can advocate for themselves. Like much of the tech industry, this disparity in IoT innovation reflects a lack of diversity in the offices, incubators and board rooms.

Across Silicon Valley there’s an obsession with “fail fast.” However, it’s failing fast with other people’s lives. The Internet of Things is a rapidly growing field, with a lot of promise if done well. Yet we’re also at risk with its failures. That’s why it’s important to establish professional practices and leading products that take these concerns into account and shift the ecosystem for the better.

That’s why Mozilla is getting involved in IoT. We believe that as the internet evolves, it must remain a global public resource that is open and accessible to all. To achieve that, we all must take action now.

What is Mozilla doing in IoT?

Mozilla has several efforts related to IoT. One is the Connected Devices team, which is building connected products with Mozilla’s values. There’s also the Innovation and Participation team, supporting Mozillians to learn and apply open innovation practices.

Working together with those teams is Mozilla’s Open IoT Studio, a global network of professionals committed to open IoT, working alongside Mozilla to make IoT more open, accessible and empowering. It’s a program within the Mozilla Leadership Network, which offers a series of programs striving for similar change in the fields of education, science, gender issues and more.

What does Mozilla’s Open IoT Studio do?

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Group photo of Scotland design sprint participants

Mozilla’s Open IoT Studio invites professional participants to collaborate on prototypes that serve local communities and celebrate the unique affordances of physical places. We test and critique best practices for embedding privacy, digital literacy and diversity & inclusion in IoT. We publish and exhibit our results as a way to reflect and advocate for these values as the internet evolves into more physical and ubiquitous forms.

We’re working with professionals who are currently active in IoT: product designers, web developers, hardware manufacturers, data scientists, user researchers, and internet activists. We believe these professionals are critical to IoT’s development and together they can champion change in the field.

To put these ideas into practice, we’ve hosted three events so far in 2016. The results can be seen in our Github repositories at https://github.com/openiotstudio, where you’ll also find a calendar of upcoming events.

Mozilla’s Open IoT Studio is here to learn by making and shape professional practice, especially in technology, because we want IoT to be more open, more accessible. Therefore, we have to think about learning and advocating in more holistic and reflective way.

Sheer market forces alone shouldn’t determine what happens to our homes, our neighborhoods and our cities. Let’s examine what brings us joy, what truly connects us and what we really need. My hope is that we can find humane voices to shape emerging technologies. Let’s make meaningful interventions that can inspire and shift IoT for the better. Let’s rapidly prototype using a slow philosophy. Let’s take the time to listen, observe, be in a place, be present in our practice.

Publications

To read about what we’re learning and making, check out these publications, in particular:

Prototypes and Process

Below are examples of the prototypes and process we’ve tried out so far:

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How might we repurpose public infrastructure to strengthen social connections among rural youth? Painting a phone booth as part of the Anstruther Teen Local Information Network prototype made during our design sprint in Scotland.

haarmonic

The Haarmonic. When the haar (fog) rolls in, you can physically connect to the cloud by walking to a special location. There you are treated to a unique song, poem or story by a local artist.

Visiting local manufacturers and craftspeople to create shared products.

Visiting the workshops of local manufacturers and craftspeople in Ahmedabad, India to create products together.

connected kitchen

What role does the kitchen play in the social connections among neighbors and families in the pols of Ahmedabad, India? User research and insight gathering with local communities.

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How might trust be brokered among two parties? A conductive contracts prototype made with notaries in India at the Unbox Caravan.

bubblemaker

Kids visiting the Museum of Conflict in Ahmedabad play with connected objects and create bubbles.

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Participants at the design sprint in Anstruther, Scotland.

tea towel

Where do superstitions sit in a connect world? Inspired by the ‘Tea Towel of Fisheries Superstitions’ in the Scottish Fisheries Museum, we have made our own as a way to see thoughts and new myths.

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Interviewing local farmers in Anstruther, Scotland.

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The Wayback Machine, a prototype for how to control the level of connectivity in your home, developed at the design sprint in Berlin.

invisible bearing

Invisible Bearing plots invisible data with a centuries-old navigational technique.

agrigator sketch

Sketching the Agrigator, a self-hosted tool agricultural data including IoT farming equipment and radio communication throughout a huge farm space. Low power/old technologies are juxtaposed with new ones in the aim to put the farmer in the middle of the conversation.

code screenshot

A screen of the code powering the Colour Harvest, which tracks the level of nitrates in crops by measuring the shade of green.

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The Colour Harvest brings visibility of the health of farming fields in Scotland as they transition to organic practices.

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Creating a color palette from the farm field and painting boats to bridge the Anstruther communities on land and sea.

madenearyou

The Made Near You project includes labels, a map and a website. The labels aim to show consumers in a visual way how far away their food has come from and where it has been processed. The map and website allow you to enter your postcode to generate an easy-to-print map of local food producers who sell to the public.

Bubble

Bubble, offering basic geolocation AR in the browser. An open, autonomous, anonymous messaging board for public places. Using a wifi hotspot, Bubble creates an invisible layer for hyper-local conversations in disconnected spaces.

team at work

The Shutupify team at work at the Berlin design sprint.

Participants introduce themselves at the Unbox Caravan with our smiling host Babitha.

Participants introduce themselves at the Unbox Caravan with our smiling host Babitha.

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