Kristin Williams, Carnegie Mellon University: “An Upcycled IoT: Reducing the Financial and Social Costs of Adopting New Computing through Lightweight Modification of Everyday Objects”


Position: PhD Candidate

Current Institution: Carnegie Mellon University

Abstract: An Upcycled IoT: Reducing the Financial and Social Costs of Adopting New Computing through Lightweight Modification of Everyday Objects

Society is currently adopting the internet of things (IoT) as replacements for everyday objects: smart light bulbs smart blinds and smart locks replace their common equivalent. Yet replacement introduces substantial costs: investment >$100s if not $1 000s (USD) foreshortened lifecycles growing e-waste’s environmental damage severing personal attachments disrupting routines and making related skills obsolete. Instead everyday objects could be part of new computing infrastructure through augmentation rather than replacement. This prolongs lifecycles and leverages social norms to support adaptation to new computing. To enable this upcycled IoT I employ lightweight form factors and linking techniques from paper user interfaces to develop a low cost IoT. My work presents programmable IoT Stickers in the form of an interactive book called The IoT Codex. These customizable stickers create a low-cost and lightweight infrastructure that supports customizations such as annotation parameterizing their behavior and attaching them to everyday objects. Thus they bring computational services to the idiosyncratic contexts of household clutter. Using RFID these stickers enhance battery-free and wireless communication (< $0.03 USD) with kinetic mechanisms that reveal or block RFID reads to control and track sticker state. To support the Codex’s tangible sticker programming I extend a typical event-oriented architecture to enable tangible programming abstractions capable of handling 1) asynchronous and just in time values 2) simple scheduling and 3) non-standardized hardware. This supports a variety of interaction techniques for householders to customize web services and software supported behavior by manipulating the stickers and makes these capabilities available in situ. The Codex’s form factor gradually introduces complex programming behavior and supports collaboration. Together The IoT Codex and Stickers support families with installing customizing and managing the introduction of new IoT capabilities to their household.


Kristin Williams is a PhD student at the Human Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. She is advised by Scott Hudson and Jess Hammer and part of the research groups the Devlab and the OH! Lab. Kristin’s work focuses on equipping society’s members with the tools to raise critical issues and correct for power imbalances. Before working in human-computer interaction she focused on issues such as DIY publishing access to information and archives dissent and the political abuse of psychiatry. She has an MS in Human-Computer Interaction from the University of Maryland College Park where she worked in the Inclusive Design Lab on head-worn displays to support individuals with aphasia under the guidance of Leah Findlater. She also has a BA in Philosophy from Reed College where she wrote a thesis on the role of Aristotle’s doctrine of the mean in a theory of learning guided by Meg Scharle.