Exploring the Internet of Things with Mozilla

Tomorrow’s Internet is going to be everywhere. Connectivity will be embedded in your transportation, your home, your places of learning and work, your clothing and probably even in your skin. It is estimated that by 2020, 41 billion devices will be online, driven by an Internet of Things (IoT) market worth $7.1 trillion.
The Internet is a global, public resource that should be open and accessible to all. As the Internet evolves, it must remain a public resource. It will also offer opportunity for creativity and innovation beyond the screens of our computers and phones.
The rules aren’t yet written. We believe strongly that everyone should be able to read, write and participate in their connected environments on their terms. What is needed to ensure the future Internet is open and accessible to all?
With a proud history of protecting and contributing to the Internet, Mozilla invites you to engage in these questions with us.

Exploring the Internet of Things

To explore these questions through action, the Mozilla Foundation is cultivating a professional learning community who can shape the Internet of Things with Mozilla’s values in the decade to come.
In 2016, we will convene leading thinkers, designers, researchers and makers to collaborate on provocative prototypes that make these core values–such as privacy, open practices and participation–accessible and feasible for the Internet of Things.
We will be guided by these principles:

  • Learning by making. We don’t know yet how to influence IoT. Mozilla is exploring its role in this new space. The best way we can figure that out is by trying and learning from these efforts alongside inspired collaborators.
  • Participatory and inclusive. We’re only going to make truly innovative things by inviting a diverse set of people to be part of the process. We have to include new voices and foster creativity at the edges. This means a deep commitment to open practices and participatory design and having humility about our role.
  • Strength in networks. We can’t do this alone, and many others are already active in this space. We’re stronger when we take action together with allies. We will augment Mozilla’s existing leadership network, while engaging new kinds of leaders and practitioners to know more and do more with the Internet of Things.

This is a new field for Mozilla and the world. The norms and best practices of IoT are not yet established. Nevertheless, as Mozilla, we have strongly articulated beliefs about the Internet. The tenets of the Mozilla Manifesto and efforts like the Web Literacy Map and Mozilla’s policy and advocacy initiatives will provide a foundation for where we should go as the Internet finds its way more intricately into our physical lives.

Our Approach

There are three main elements to our work:

  • Provocative prototypes. Create tangible expressions of how things could be, should be and shouldn’t be for IoT. The prototypes will provide the “collaborative substrate” that supports community leaders in learning and making together, while putting our values into action. The prototypes will be grounded in user research and user testing.
  • Convenings. Gather smart, interdisciplinary practitioners to prototype and innovate with open values. Building prototypes is better, faster, and more impactful when people are together. We want to invite new partners to take action with us–designers, technologists, activists, educators and more–as well as collaborate with Mozillians such as the Connected Devices team, Participation team, and others in the Mozilla Leadership Network.
  • Cultivation. Foster partnerships and funding opportunities to grow and sustain the initiative. Insights can be shared that inform future Mozilla efforts. We will leverage and contribute to the larger Mozilla network and document processes in the open so others can learn from and participate in them.

Importantly, our explorations of IoT will advance Mozilla’s 2020 strategic plan by taking action in the key topic areas of privacy, inclusion and web literacy.

What’s next

In the first half of 2016, we’re going to set a thematic focus and test our process. The first topic we will focus on is around privacy in IoT, namely: “User Control of Personal Data in the Connected Home.”
It’s clear that our thinking and experimentation have to be grounded in reality. We need to affect the lives of people and situations they face. So, to better understand what this topic means and to guide participants to make meaningful prototypes, we’ll try out the following process:

  • Conduct research. Driven by human-centered design principles, our efforts will be grounded in data from user research. We plan to learn from people who live in different parts of the globe, to reflect their different perspectives about user control of personal data in the connected home. We’ll conduct field research, interview experts and read existing reports. Diverse voices will be at the center of anything we design.
  • Produce design briefs. Our research insights will be woven into design briefs that guide what prototypes we make. the production of prototypes. We’ll pose specific problems that can be explored via prototypes. The design briefs will be open for anyone to respond to, as well as provide the framework for in-person events.
  • Convene to build prototypes. Based on the design briefs, we’ll meet to create physical prototypes. We’ll focus on using open practices, design thinking and participatory research to improve how we make things.
  • Exhibit and engage public. Once we have some things to show, we will place our work out in the open. We will welcome diverging opinions and feedback as people interact with our prototypes.
  • Test and document. As we exhibit, we will gather feedback, record stories, and provide inspiration for iteration.
  • Evaluate. Afterward, we will carefully scrutinize our findings, ensuring that we still cover the values and problems that we set out for initially as well as debrief on the whole process.
  • Iterate and repeat. Continue to try and refine this approach until we have something impactful.

With this implementation strategy and the principles that guide it, we hope to leave 2016 with a solid understanding of how to research and contribute to IoT—demonstrated by some powerful prototypes—and a diverse network of IoT thinkers and practitioners to provide a foundation for growth and leadership in the future.

How to Get Involved

Tell us about what resonates (or doesn’t) about this approach, and give us feedback on the methodology.
Let us know about any related projects you’re working on and suggestions on how we might work together.
Help us develop design briefs that ask important questions about the Internet of Things as it relates to Mozilla’s values.
Share your experience in IoT, privacy, or design research as part of our expert interview series.
Contact us by email at iot@mozillafoundation.org or in our Github issue tracker. Say hi on IRC and Twitter by pinging Michelle Thorne (@thornet).

5 responses

  1. D Alger wrote on :

    https://blog.webmaker.org/exploring-the-internet-of-things-with-mozilla shows as an untrusted site with a certificate error.

    1. Mozilla wrote on :

      Hi David, sorry to hear you’re having issues. What browser are you using?

  2. Laurence Cuffe wrote on :

    It is, as you say, very early days on a lot of these issues. You seem to be looking for input at this stage which you are going to then share and get feedback on. Do you have any more specific plans for forums or other such media where the dialog would be more immediate?
    I’m hoping to send you a longer response to the more substantive issues you raise once I have had time to consider it further.

    1. Mozilla wrote on :

      Hi Laurence,
      Thanks for reading and writing! We’d love to chat further — send us a note at iot@mozillafoundation.org.

  3. Sil wrote on :

    It hapensed the same to me as to David. I’m using Chrome.