Digitalization is in fast progression in most domains of our society. While this helps positively with many challenges, this also generates drawback with new issues such as increased e-waste (electronic waste).
Too often, IoT systems suffer from problems because technologies in the value chain are updated or exchanged, which results in breakdowns and premature obsolescence in other chains of the system. For those specific reasons, some municipalities, which have already tried several IoT & Smart City solutions, are becoming reluctant to embark on new projects – or even renew them.
This includes situations when an end-user wants to change one of the vendors along the connectivity chain, for reasons including pricing, quality of service, terms of services, going out of business, etc. This applies in particular to multi-vendor IoT solutions.
In related domains such as home appliances, some regulation efforts are progressing at EU level, in particular with the Right to Repair, (Ecodesign Directive 2021) which is gaining attention and is spreading to other domains. We believe repairability, interchangeability as well as interoperability are key enablers for improving sustainability of IoT solutions.
A first category of efforts has been made to maximize interoperability through common data and communication standards at both technical and ecosystem levels, e.g., the “minimal interoperability mechanisms” MIMs (Open & Agile Smart Cities, Dansk Standard DS-INF 176:2021, United Nation’s United 4 Smart Sustainable Cities, FIWARE). However, we observe that, in practice, it is not tenable for an end-user to change some layers of their IoT solution, due to e.g. hardcoded addresses, inflexible security, and simply not owning or having access to the essential connectivity elements to configure.
This project will build upon the Danish Standard “Guide for sustainable, digital transformation in Denmark” (DS-INF 176:2021) as a base for our strategic focus. The guide provides concrete tools for how municipalities, companies and others should organize themselves around digitalization and data. The goal of the guide is to create a common language and guidelines on how standards can be used to ensure interoperability in Denmark. Our project will continue this work, extending it with guidelines for interchangeability and repairability.
The aim of the project is to identify and propose solutions for the main remaining barriers to repairability and interchangeability, hereby improving sustainability.
The project will create a framework with guidelines and good practices in particular at connectivity level to mitigate the risks of premature obsolescence of multi-vendor IoT solutions. In other words, reducing the circumstances when IoT hardware components need to be exchanged while still being perfectly functional, simply because some upstream changes in the connectivity chain were not accounted for.
By making such a framework available for Danish companies delivering IoT components, the project will help the companies develop stronger and more competitive products for a future where there will be increasing attention towards sustainable IT products. Furthermore, the framework will help the customers of IoT-based solutions to focus on repairability and interchangeability when writing tenders and specifications for IoT solutions.
Facts about the project
- Alexandra Institute
- Aarhus University
- Seas NVE
- Kibo Sikring
The project is funded by DigitalLead