[Talk] Factors of Trust in IoT App Interfaces Redux

Talk presented at UX Camp Brighton 2016 – Redux on 14/06/16 at 68 Middle Street
See original blog post for the version of this talk given at UX Camp Brighton, 2016 (19/03/16).

Video version of original talk.FACTORS OF TRUST IN IOT APP INTERFACES from Fiona MacNeill on Vimeo. Session description:
Does your app rely on OAuth to offer connection to other apps and services? Based on my research studying app-to-device relationships in Internet of Things systems (e.g. Fitbit, Jawbone UP, Nest, SmartThings, Glooko), I have uncovered some best practice recommendations when it comes to inspiring trust within your interface.

Trust definitions used in this video are from Pavlidis, Islam, Mouratidis, and Kearney (2014).

This research is aligned with the SenSe research Cluster at the University of Brighton (secure and dependable software systems).

About SenSe
The SenSe cluster aims to develop novel and pragmatic ways to assure the dependability of software systems with particular emphasis on security, trust and risk. We focus on theories from model-based engineering and analysis-based assurance to develop methods, models, practices and tools that promote the provision of security and dependability in complex interconnected and heterogeneous systems and information infrastructures that underpin our economy and society.



Preliminary recommendations: UX Questions to Ask in Relation to IoT Apps

# Category Questions to ask
1 System dialogues and Semantics Are system dialogues consistent?

  • For data permissions
  • for use tips
  • for motivational messages
2 Settings

Are all the settings housed together?

Are items like the privacy policy and standards adherence available from this area?

Can the Terms of Service (or a shortened format of ToSs) be accessed from within the app?

Can connected apps and devices be reviewed/managed from within the app?

Can support documentation be accessed from within the app?

3 Checkups for Setup/Workflow/Privacy
An essential part of onboarding. Also a method for supporting trust and helping users to invest time in learning the higher-level functions of an app, which promotes realisation of app benefits and long-term commitment to use of the app (Brignull, 2013).
Periodic reminders about setup:

  • Can the setup be improved?
  • What devices could be added safely?
  • What benefits might be available as part of the system that the user may be unaware of?

Periodic review of workflow:
ask users to review the workflow in the system to add a level of human oversight. If the app is not accessed frequently then email and text message may be effective ways to prompt engagement. Think of it like entering a monthly gas meter reading.

  • Is an automated workflow still operating as intended?
  • Is the function still needed?

A possible incentive could be that the workflow will stop/timeout if it is not reviewed a la IFTTT.

Periodic review of privacy:
privacy overview and audit tools within the app.

  • What information is shared with third-party developers?
  • For what purpose/s is it shared?

Non-legalese overview of changes to T&Cs should be included in privacy checks.

4 Role/function of the app
Applies to central app and third-party apps.

This sounds really obvious, but a lot of primary IoT apps don’t actually explain their purpose within the system.

What service does the app offer?

What need does the app fulfill?

What does the app do?

How important is the app to the operation of the system? E.g. is it the primary interface or management tool for the system?

What data does it need? – Make it clear what is used and why, in plain English.

5 Health/status of hub/sensor/device
At any point in time the user should be able to view a basic log of what is currently going on in the system.

What is going on in the system right now?

Is recent system activity accessible?

Is it possible to access logs from other time periods?

Is it possible to see what communication channels are in operation?

What third-party apps are connected to the system, what are they doing?

What third-party devices are connected to the system, what are they doing?

This should be more like what you expect from your banking app when it comes to overseeing the operation of high-importance health, home/business automation IoT systems.

6 OAUTH and API: secondary app data use

Respect users and prove that your app is more trustworthy by only calling data that you are actually using.

What data is needed into order to provide the desired third-party service?

How is the data used to provide the service?

Note: platform manufacturers/developers need to ensure that third-party apps aren’t over-privileged in terms of the data they access and the calls they can make via APIs (See the work of  Fernandes, Jung and Prakesh, 2016). Developers need to state their intention when it comes to use of information that they call via the API. This doesn’t stop those with malicious intent, but it helps users to distinguish between those who pay due diligence to privacy and those who are either malicious or sloppy.

7  What is shared?

Can data access be allowed/disallowed?

Once disallowed from the primary app, is this decision upheld?

Ideal world: provide granular options for allowing/disallowing access to data which is not necessary for the operation of the service offered by the app. Better yet, don’t ask for the data at all if it isn’t essential to operation.

8 Access control

Is two-step authentication an option for the web app and login from a new device?

Does the smartphone/tablet app offer biometric authentication?

Does the app offer the option of setting a passcode for auto screen lock?
Particularly if the app controls home appliances.

9 Dependency and operational relationship

As systems become more complicated it is crucial that the user is aided in building a mental picture of the basic configuration of the system. I keep thinking of Max when I think of this: https://cycling74.com/products/max/

Is logging available?

What is going on in the system right now?

What is attached to this system (devices/sensors/users)?

Is the system visualised in any way?

10 Try before you buy

Wearables have the right idea on this one, allowing you to trial a wearable companion app using your smartphone’s built-in sensors. What if you could try out the perks of the system before you buy the actual device?

Is a preview of how the app will operate with devices, provided as part of onboarding?

Can you try of some of the functionality of the system without buying a system-specific device?


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