The IoT, easy as anything? - Uncovering the importance of digital skills for the Internet of Things
Pia de Boer is a PhD student in the department Communication Science. (Co)Supervisors are prof.dr.ing. A.J.A.M. van Deursen and dr. T.J.L. van Rompay from the faculty of Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences.
When looking back on previous web developments—from Web 1.0 through 3.0—it becomes apparent that using the internet has not been self-evident for everyone. Some people are better equipped to take advantage of the internet, possessing more advanced skills. Although the characteristics of the internet changed through the development of the web, skills remained a key contributor to digital inequality. With the arrival of Web 4.0, we have transitioned from a people-centric internet to an Internet of Things (IoT) where ubiquitous everyday objects are connected, and can perceive and interact with their environment. The characteristics of the IoT make its use more complex compared to previous web developments.
To expose the digital inequalities caused by the new online challenges of the IoT, this dissertation aimed first at identifying the skills needed to use the IoT beneficially. Three distinct skills for using the IoT were defined: operational, data, and strategic IoT skills. Second, this dissertation aimed at measuring the levels of IoT skills among the Dutch adult population, and third, at identifying the skill-related problems experienced by this population. This was done by conducting two performance tests in which participants had to use IoT applications. The first performance test involved using an activity tracker, and the second revolved around using smart home devices. The results of these performance tests were then utilized to achieve the final objective of this dissertation, which was to provide recommendations for enhancing users’ IoT skill levels and improving the design of IoT applications. Additionally, this dissertation proposed survey items to facilitate future research on IoT skills, as conducting performance tests is a labor-intensive and expensive method for uncovering digital inequalities resulting from differences in skills.