People in the Machine

I recently delivered a talk at the Symposium on Software Engineering for Smart Systems, on the importance of considering the role of people in various aspects of software engineering for smart systems.  In addition to discussing the challenges that people face when designing, building and using smart systems, I presented some of the approaches we have been developing to help software engineers and users overcome these challenges.  The slides from the talk are provided below, and the abstract is as follows:

People in the Machine: 
Human-centred Software Engineering for Smart Systems
The growth in ubiquitous computing technologies has created ever greater opportunities to use the data gathered by these technologies to develop ‘smart systems’ that enhance a range of human activities, from health and wellbeing to transportation, agriculture, and sustainable living.  These 'smart systems' depend on software as the thread that weaves together a variety of underlying technologies from …

PhD Application Advice - FB Live Session

FB Live Session on Applying for a PhD
I often get contacted by potential PhD students who are interested in pursuing a research degree and I put some slides together as a resource to help answer some of the common questions.  I will be conducting a Facebook Live Session for the Sustainable Education Foundation on this topic on 18 June 2017. 
Of course, there are many similar guides available on this topic and I am particularly grateful to Matt Might for his excellent "Illustrated guide to a PhD", which I have borrowed from to prepare this information.  

SEF - Applying for a PhDfrom Arosha Bandara

Visual programming for 'wiring' the Internet of Things

There is a proliferation of devices being developed to form the building blocks of the Internet of Things (IoT), from Internet-connected power sockets and light bulbs to kettles, toasters and washing machines. However, to realise the full potential of the IoT, it will be necessary to allow these devices to interconnect and share data with each other to deliver the functionalities required by end-users. In recent research on end-user programming for the IoT, my colleagues Pierre Akiki, Yijun Yu and myself have proposed the notion of Visual Simple Transformations (ViSiT), that provides a visual programming paradigm for users to wire together IoT devices. The video above shows a demonstration of the ViSiT solution and full details of the approach will appear in an upcoming special issue of the ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction (ToCHI).

This work is highlighted in a recent IEEE Software Blog: Empowering Users to Build IoT Software with a Puzzle-like Environment and full deta…

Privacy Perspectives for Data Privacy Day

A group of us, who are part of the EPSRC-funded, Monetize Me project, wrote an article on "Privacy perspectives: dos, don’ts, and to-dos", to mark Data Privacy Day on 28th January.   In this article, we highlight some of the challenges of understanding the privacy implications of a variety of new technologies, such as activity trackers and smart watches.  We make the point that:

"... it is not individuals’ responsibility alone to protect themselves from privacy intrusions. Technology companies and developers can adopt privacy by design principles to mitigate some of these risks, and such practice should become common, to avoid us becoming disillusioned with emerging technologies. Therefore, we argue that maintaining privacy is ultimately a collective effort, shared between researchers, developers and those who ultimately use the devices and services they produce."

The full article can be found on the Open University's news portal: "Privacy perspectives: do…

Are we losing the Internet Security battle?

I was recently invited by Heimdal Security to take part in an expert roundup, with the theme of "Is Internet Security a Losing Battle?".  The main thrust of my answer was to question our use of analogies of conflict in the context of Internet Security or cyber security.  As I said in my response:
"... in this context the metaphors of conflict, such as ‘war’ and ‘battle’ are unhelpful because they suggest that internet security is the responsibility of the technologists who act our defensive force against attackers.   Instead, as has been argued by technology activists like Cory Doctorow and others we might have more success by thinking of cyber security using the analogy of public health and communicable diseases.   By using this analogy, we make cyber security issues more relevant to people and spur them to gain a better understanding that, like diseases, any of us can be afflicted by a cyber security attack.  We can also adopt an analogous approach for handling cyber …

Privacy-by-Design Framework for Internet of Things Systems

IOT-2016 7-9 September, 2016, Stuttgart, Germany from Charith Perera
Recent DDoS attacks on key internet services, like the attack that affected the Dyn domain name service, highlighted the security challenges associated with the proliferation of insecure Internet of Things (IoT) systems.  This attack exploited common vulnerabilities like the use of default administration passwords on IoT devices such as internet-enabled CCTV cameras, internet-enabled appliances and smart home devices, to recruit over hundreds of thousands of nodes into a botnet.   This capability highlights the cyber security threats associated with the IoT and brings into sharp relief the importance of considering both security and privacy when designing these systems.

In recent work, presented at the Internet of Things Conference, we describe a privacy-by-design framework for assessing the privacy capabilities of IoT applications and platforms.  Building on more general design strategies for privacy in informaiton …

Privacy Itch and Scratch

Ubiquitous computing technologies are being used to collect, process and share increasing amounts of personal information, from our location and physical activity levels to the things we buy and the web pages we read.  Although these developments have created a wealth of new applications that engage and entertain us, they also pose significant challenges for our privacy - particularly the challenge of maintaining awareness and control over our personal information flows as we go about our daily lives.

My colleagues, Vikram Mehta, Blaine Price and Bashar Nuseibeh, and I have been exploring new interaction metaphors for enhancing our privacy awareness and control.  Our earlier work in this area used haptic interactions through the users' smartphone to enable privacy controls to be configured by physically shaking and moving the device (PrivacyShake).   More recently we have been exploring the role of on-body interfaces to achieve more subtle and non-intrusive mechanisms for privacy …