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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/W024780/1
Title: Fixing the Future: The Right to Repair and Equal-IoT
Principal Investigator: Urquhart, Dr LD
Other Investigators:
McAuley, Professor D Stead, Dr M Luger, Professor E
Lindley, Dr JG Terras, Professor MM Coulton, Professor P
Sailaja, Dr N Lechelt, Dr S
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Dr DP Darzentas
Project Partners:
Active Ingredient BBC Federal Government of Canada
NCC Group The Making Rooms Which
Department: Sch of Law
Organisation: University of Edinburgh
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 October 2022 Ends: 30 September 2024 Value (£): 1,006,120
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Human-Computer Interactions Mobile Computing
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Information Technologies
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
09 Feb 2022 Equitable Digital Society Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Our 2-year interdisciplinary project will investigate how the lack of repairability in the consumer Internet of Things (IoT) will adversely impact equity, inclusion, and sustainability in the digital economy.

IoT products are becoming the default, with wireless connectivity and automation bundled into mundane household items like TVs, energy meters, toys and phones. Whilst the IoT can still be a consumer choice now, its growth means citizens may see it imposed on them in the future. We use theory and methodologies from Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), Design and Law to anticipate the future impacts of a digital divide caused by redundant IoT devices, particularly for lower income households. We will envision how to build more equitable IoT devices and avoid future inequalities posed by the poor long-term cybersecurity, exploitative uses of data and lacking environmental sustainability that define the current IoT.

Some citizens can afford to replace broken devices but others cannot and require support to repair them or face the impacts. We will examine how equality issues from IoT arise across society, generations and geographies. We will then investigate how to create more repairable devices that respect citizens legal rights, provide long-term cybersecurity, minimise eWaste, and are supported by local community repairability networks.

To do this, we have a research programme driven by stakeholder engagement and co-creation with citizens and project partners, namely:

- Local community repair and maker space, The Making Rooms Blackburn

- Consumer rights and advocacy group, Which?

- Public broadcaster and new media experience developers, BBC Research & Development

- IoT cybersecurity firm, NCC Group

- Climate futures focused artist, Rachel Jacobs/Active Ingredient,

- Social inclusion and digital skills body, the Department of Employment and Social Development in the Canadian Government.

Our 4 integrated work packages (WPs) are underpinned by technical prototype development; qualitative evaluation and participatory research activities; public engagement; and policy driven activities to foster change in the sector to address current IoT led inequalities.

Key focal points of the WPs include: examining legal and ethical challenges for equality posed by current IoT; creating and running an IoT Repair Shop installation in Blackburn with citizens and local repair networks; designing prototypes and user experiences that demonstrate how to build in repairability to address inequalities posed by current IoT; and developing an 'Equal-IoT' toolkit that will practically support development of more equitable futures when living with IoT.

The toolkit is a novel contribution that includes design recommendations and action plans for manufacturers to change current practices; policy guidelines and briefings to shape government activities; digital skills guidelines for enabling repairability in the community; development of an IoT repair shop blueprint model to roll out to other parts of the UK; touring the Repair Shop as a public engagement activity with citizens; developing a manifesto for citizens and repairers to showcase their rights and champion change in IoT development.

Key Findings
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