Responsibility and the Internet of Things

Research Group 6

Both the legal regulation and the moral sanctioning of private life in Germany and most industrialized countries are based on individual self-determination. The individual makes decisions for which he assumes full responsibility – i.e. assumes liability risks, acquires property rights, divulges data, etc. The ubiquitous and all too often hidden technology can impair this self-determination, but it can also expand it.

New markets, new products, new currencies

The “Internet of Things” is not really about “things on or in the Internet,” but about a huge new market with new products and a new currency: data. There is no data generated when a light switch is pressed, nor when looking at an advertising pillar. The “Internet of Things” promises nothing less than to finally capture the modern life in data. But central questions remain unanswered: questions of liability, questions of ethics — in short: questions about Responsibility and the Internet of Things.

Umbrella term Internet of Things

The Internet of Things unites many currents and technological developments. If we look at ubiquity and unambiguous addressing, the Internet of Things has a direct precursor in RFID technology. With regard to communication protocols, some people may remember Jini, who promised as early as the late 1990s that the refrigerator would take care of ordering milk in time. A brief history of sensor and actuator technology in private as well as industrial use (“Industry 4.0”) complements the history of technology.

Influence of the Internet of Things

The Internet of Things exposes the data shadow of humans in the sensually perceptible world, this has an enormous influence on privacy, in both negative and positive respects. But who evaluates what is positive and what is negative? When was the term “Internet of Things” coined by whom and in what context? How is this topic reported on, which currents can be observed, who participates in the discourse, which voices are heard? These are all the questions that will be asked in a comprehensive discourse analysis and hopefully answered satisfactorily.

Research Method

Our Research group 6 „Responsibility and the Internet of Things (IoT)“ is mapping the domain of the IoT from four different angles:

  • the perspective of „Consumer IoT“ covering the issues of consumer privacy and how IoT can be engineered in order to protect the rights of its consumers,
  • the research topic „IoT in Smart Cities and Communities“ asking which chances and risks our society will face when sensor-collected data sets contribute to our daily life,
  • in the domain of „Industrial IoT“ investigating how IoT-technology transforms innovation and infrastructures in a sense of safety, effectiveness, and co-creation
  • the research focus „Civic IoT“ deals with questions of accountability, freedom of contract and speech by taking a legal perspective.

To cover the responsibility aspect, the group addresses the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that have been published within the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity. Although these goals are widely shared by two communities, the sustainability community and the tech community respectively, they seldom spoke to each other, at least here in Germany. We see that from a research perspective, our group can contribute in this domain bridging concepts among the communities while taking into account international perspectives from collaborating research institutes.

From a research point of view, it is very useful to provide a framework for interdisciplinary work on such a large topic as the »Networked Society«. Therefore, we further propose the SDGxICT framework for the Weizenbaum Institute for the Networked Society. Doing so, we try to design a confusion matrix of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and our 20 research groups, so that every research associate tackles at least one of the goals to create an interdisciplinary and sustainability-driven working atmosphere.


Research Group Members

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Prof. Dr.-Ing. Ina Schieferdecker

Principal Investigator

 

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Dr. Stefan Ullrich

Research group leader

 

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Veronika Kirgis

Research group assistant

 

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Jacob Kröger

Doctoral Researcher

 

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Andrea Hamm

Doctoral Researcher

 

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Hans-Christian Gräfe

Research Associate

 

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Anjuman Ara Bithi

Student Assistant

 

Towhidur Rahman Bhuiyan

Student Assistant

 

Jorinde Duthweiler

Student Assistant

 

Florian Müller

Student Assistant