Bouncer Locking System; Internet of Risky Things: Investigating the Social Construction of IoT Devices

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Chrosniak, John, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Powell, Harry, EN-Elec/Computer Engr Dept, University of Virginia
Baritaud, Catherine, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia

Internet of Things (IoT) devices have vastly grown in popularity the past decade due to the variety of benefits they provide. With these benefits, however, come a variety of concerns that can put consumers at risk of privacy violations, psychological stress, and physical harm. The technical project addresses the shortcomings of smart-home security systems through a new design intended to prevent package theft and allow homeowners to share temporary passwords with guests entering their home. The Science, Technology, and Society (STS) research project further explores the concerns associated with IoT devices through a synthesis of existing research to identify potential solutions to the noted shortcomings. These two projects are tightly coupled, as they both share the end goal of designing IoT devices more deserving of adoption.
The redesigned smart-home security system was motivated by the recent rise in package theft caused by growth in e-commerce during the COVID-19 pandemic. The device, installed on either a door or package box, allows homeowners to generate temporary passwords for delivery drivers and other guests using a web application. These passwords are then stored in the cloud and shared with a Raspberry Pi microprocessor that controls the functionality of the system. Guests can then enter passwords into a digital keypad that notifies the Raspberry Pi to unlock the electric strike if the received password matches an existing valid code. When unlocked, the Raspberry Pi begins recording surveillance footage to monitor the behavior of entering guests and uploads the footage to the cloud for the user to then view using the web application.
The final prototype of the system met all specifications initially proposed at the start of the semester and demonstrated its operating ability on a makeshift package box. In addition to the core functionality, the system provides added security and usability features to improve its trustworthiness. For instance, the device encrypts data sent over the network and stored in the cloud and grants users full control over when their data is deleted. In future iterations of the system, using lower cost materials and lower power electronics would help reduce the cost and environmental impact of the device.
The STS research project was motivated by the notable shortcomings in IoT devices that inhibit public trust and adoption of the Internet of Things. This project seeks to answer how developers can build more trustworthy systems through the lens of the Social Construction of Technology (SCOT) framework developed by Bijker and Pinch. SCOT analyzes how feedback from various social groups influences the development of technology over time. In the context of the Internet of Things, these social groups consist of device manufacturers, device consumers, governmental bodies, and academic researchers.
Consumer surveys, news reports, federal legislation, and academic journals were used to examine how different social groups have influenced the development of the Internet of Things. Consumer surveys and news outlets have relayed concerns associated with the privacy, security, transparency, and reliability of IoT devices. Academic researchers have proposed many potential solutions to mitigate these concerns, such as more robust protocols and new frameworks for trustworthy design. Furthermore, the European Union recently passed legislation that require companies to protect the digital privacy of consumers, and Congress has expressed a desire to provide similar protections to their constituents.
Designing technology solely based on the technical requirements is almost surely a recipe for failure. As highlighted by the technical and STS research projects, engineers must also consider social, political, economic, and environmental factors that come with introducing technology to society. Doing so can help assure engineers their developments are not just capable but worthy of widespread adoption.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
Social Construction of Technology, Internet of Things, Smart Home Devices

School of Engineering and Applied Science
Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering
Technical Advisor: Harry Powell
STS Advisor: Catherine Baritaud
Technical Team Members: Arthur Given, Derek Martin, Jamison Stevens

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