The Internet of Things (IoT)—the ubiquitous computing vision of objects imbued with computational capacity, connected to and communicating with one another—has largely been conceived of in relation to industry. The most common example of IoT is tracking goods across supplies chains and gathering data along that journey in order to improve logistics. Domestic, or “in-home”, IoT is also a rapidly increasing domain for new products and services, for example through “smart” thermostats, refrigerators, and washing machines. Between industrial and domestic IoT is a domain that has yet to be fully explored and offers a unique set of challenges and opportunities: IoT for public life or what we call Civic IoT. Georgia Tech's approach to Civit IoT is known as PARSE: Participatory Approaches to Researching Sensing Environments.
The goal of this NSF sponsored research is to advance an empirical and systematic understanding of the design and use of IoT technologies for enabling, organizing, and monitoring collective action, particularly in the context of urban communities. Drawing from our expertise in design and social science research, we approach the issues and opportunities of Civic IoT through ethnographic methods together with prototyping, implementation, deployment, and assessment of IoT systems, across multiple sites, each with distinctive communities. Specifically, in Atlanta, we are examining the deployment of a city-wide sensor array and exploring the use of low-fidelity sensors in urban foraging, as well as conducting community engagement workshops. As comparative case studies, these projects provide a basis for the development of an informed set of design guidelines for designing Civic IoT technologies. The outcomes of the research include: structured assessment of IoT prototype systems, qualitative data and ethnographic reports from collaborations with communities involved in the design and use of IoT for public life, and empirically informed design guidelines.