Ubiquitous Commons protocol layers

Ubiquitous Commons: architecture and domain updates

Here are some updates about the evolutions of the Ubiquitous Commons platform and of the domains on which the project is focusing.

Protocol Positioning

Let’s start from positioning Ubiquitous Commons within the general technological scenario. Ubiquitous Commons operates on the general domain of the ubiquitous technologies, those devices, apparatuses, objects and processes which are disseminated and distributed in the environment and which are network connected, thus producing data through their functioning and the activities, interactions and behaviours of their users.

Ubiquitous Commons is a legal-technological protocol: it positions itself among the other technological protocols which operate at the level of networks and technologies and among their legal implications and the set of laws, regulations, standards and norms which regulate them. Ubiquitous Commons is an open protocol.

Ubiquitous Commons protocol layers
Ubiquitous Commons protocol layers

Ubiquitous Commons positions itself above the application protocol.

In the image above, we have operated a logical classification of currently available protocols:

  • physical (the ones which deal with the physical interactions which allow to transfer data and information, using electromagnetism, optic fiber, etc.);
  • network (the ones which deal with the logic of data transmission, such as routing, network identification, etc.);
  • cloud (which deals with the localization, whether physical or logical, of the storage, intelligence, processing power of the services and applications which we use, and which can vary from local up to the the effective cloud storage and processing services);
  • application (which deals with the experience connected to applications and services, their interfaces, service access points, sensorial experiences and more).

In this scheme, Ubiquitous Commons is positioned above the application protocol layer, allowing the users to manage (autonomously and by being interconnected with a society of peers) their interactions with applications and services, and the data which they produce through these interactions.

This positioning corresponds to a series of different scenario for positioning Ubiquitous Commons related infrastructure in the applications, services, devices and environment apparatuses which we use everyday. For example, Ubiquitous Commons can be enacted through add-ons or modifications to current web browsing technologies (for example browser plugins or extensions); as modifications to the hardware of devices and appliances; as the transformation of service access points; and more.

Currently two different types of implementations have been experimented: a browser plugin, allowing users to use Ubiquitous Commons in most of their user interactions with social networks, cloud services like Google mail, and more; a series of prototype firmware modifications for a number of wearable consumer devices (such as FitBit running wearables).

Protocol Logics and Architecture

The general architecture is shown in the image below:

Ubiquitous Commons protocol architecture and process
Ubiquitous Commons protocol architecture and process

Here is a step-by-step explanation of the diagram:

When data is produced

  • in the Ubiquitous Commons environment, users can define a series of identities, which they hold and manage in what we have defined as their identity pool;
  • each identity corresponds to a digital certificate, composed by a private and public key;
  • identities can be of different types:
    • individual (e.g.: me, John Smith);
    • collective (e.g.: all the people in my neighbourhood, the citizens of Rome, the researchers of some institute);
    • anonymous (e.g.: an entity who can be addressed, but for whom the correspondence with their legal identity is unknown);
    • temporary (e.g.: an identity whose effectiveness is limited in time);
    • nomadic (e.g.: an identity which can be passed on from one legal-administrative identity to the other);
    • or a combination of the above (e.g.: for example, the people participating to a certain event could constitute a collective, temporary identity).
  • whenever a certain user generates data, this data is encrypted;
  • the encrypted data is coupled with an attribution, stating which Ubiquitous Commons identity generated it (from), and which Ubiquitous Commons identities can access the data (to);
    • this attribution is generated by the “from” identity;
  • the encrypted data goes on to the service or application for which it was generated for;
  • the attribution goes on to a peer-to-peer network or infrastructure  –currently the BlockChain – in which the identifiers of the content (data) and of the from-to identities are published;
  • in this way, the user can grant the availability and access to this data to the specified identities, determined autonomously.

When Data is accessed

  • a user who desires access to the data, executes a query onto the peer-to-peer infrastructure, asking whether data identifier X has been granted access to the user’s Ubiquitous Commons identity (the “to” identity in the attribution, picked from one of the identities in the accessing user’s identity pool) by the generating user (the “from” identity);
  • if the user turns out to be attributed with the possibility to access (the query returns a positive result), the user obtains the decryption mechanism (recomposing the private key necessary to decrypting the data);
  • the user uses the decryption mechanism to decrypt and access the data;
  • the transaction is logged onto the peer-to-peer network.

Possible Domains of Application

The protocol and its implementations, thus, enable users of the various types (the identity types) to autonomously express how they wish the data they produce to be used: the access control to data is externalized from applications and is hosted within a peer-to-peer infrastructure (which is used as a metaphor of society) and which is, thus, managed collectively; the process of ensuring that data is used in ways which are compatible with the ones which the identities producing that data have expressed, turns into a commons.

The research group, as indicated by the many updates from the previous months, are exploring a number of possible application scenarios, indicated in the image below. More scenarios are possible and some are coming up in the upcoming months (both coming from us and from other, independent, communities).

Current Ubiquitous Commons application scenarios
Current Ubiquitous Commons application scenarios

As described above, the emerging uses of Ubiquitous Commons fall within two main families, which can also be simultaneously present in the various scenarios: Internet of Things (IoT) and Digital Content. The first refer to the data produced by the enormous variety of network connected devices which markets are expressing. The second refer to the number of ways in which users generate digital data, information, knowledge and, in general, artefacts within their daily lives.

The main directions in which current Ubiquitous Commons applications are being explored are shown in the image above:

  • education;

Ubiquitous Commons can be effectively used in education scenarios. First of all, it can be used to define Knowledge Commons (and this is also valid for practically all of the other listed scenarios). By describing the individual, collective, anonymous, temporary, nomadic identities who can access knowledge it is possible to create knowledge environments in which knowledge is owned and managed by communities of users which can be inclusive as desired.

This notion is particularly valuable for education and research, where this process can be enacted to produce knowledge environments which can benefit wide areas of society which can access them by default, through the open protocol, achieving levels of radical, manageable, relational, inclusive, fine tuneable openness.

For example, this process can be enacted in regards to multimedia education materials, to students projects, to the results of production activities constructed within education processes, and more.

  • research;

The same can be said for scientific and humanistic research.

This goes in the direction of easy applicability and diffusion of Open Science processes, in which the results of research can be easily and conveniently disclosed and made available through the technological and legal protocol and its implications, including interoperability, computational accessibility and more.

This is valid for scientific publications, for example, and even more for data sets.

The implications are such to suggest the emergence of entirely new ways in which Intellectual Property (IP) can be managed, introducing new models oriented towards maximizing collaboration and the emergence of new socially conscious business models.

  • health;

The implications for health are evident. Whether we are dealing with biomedical devices, data, medical records, trials, wearable technologies or the many manifestations of digital data and content in hospitals, clinics, research and general medical practice, Ubiquitous Commons can suggest and enable ways in which digital information can be shared in inclusive and responsible ways, being able to describe precise, inclusive as needed communities who can access the data, potentially causing accelerations on scientific research, the possibility to share efforts, the possibilities coming from being able to access data which is produced by a number of different subjects computationally, through a peer-to-peer network infrastructure, and more.

As in other cases, this also produces the opportunity to create new forms of relationships and of shared perceptions of participation, collaboration, responsibility and objective with all of the involved stakeholders, for example between patients, doctors, researchers and medical institutions.

  • sensors;

Ubiquitous Commons enabled sensors can be used to explicitly express who the data they produce is available for, instantly enabling scientific and social practices, new business models, new alerting models, which can be designed to be shareable with a wide variety of subjects.

  • devices;

The same goes for devices, appliances and other forms of network connected objects, whose data production (automatic or in relation to user interactions) can be configured in similar ways (for example at the moment of purchase, or through an App) to enable pluggable service models, relations, user interactions, businesses, opportunities for science and for civic life.

  • rurality;

At Ubiquitous Commons we have been exploring the many possible usages of this kind of scenario for rural life. Countryside, agriculture and rural villages and areas are progressively generating growing amounts of data, through devices, sensors, digital tools, social networks, smart appliances, IoT and more. The possibility to create common resource pools from these data, and to describe their collaborative management within high quality relational environments creates immense opportunities for business, social innovation, sustainability, shared immagination, construction and valorization of social capital, creation of shared sense of meaning and of objective, and more.

Currently, this is one of the most active threads in which we are experimenting adoption of Ubiquitous Commons based models, thanks to the collaboration with RuralHub.

  • civic scenarios;

From energy to traffic; from participatory decision-making to sharing and recontextualizing spaces; from collaboration to safety; from notification of emergencies to participating to collaborative action and production; from not being alone to creating shared meanings. Multiple types of data can be shared and used to obtain these and more effects.

Ubiquitous Commons is being investigated to bring transformative practices to apartment buildings, neighbourhoods, spaces in the city and to the ways in which people understand how they can actively and meaningfully take part in collaborative processes, also transforming the roles of institutions, which can become effective, caring catalysts, enablers and facilitators of these processes.

  • consumer

The possibility to enable consumer devices, appliances and more to use Ubiquitous Commons opens up entirely new scenarios for exploration of consumer behaviour, both from the point of view of the protection of their privacy and intimacy, and from the one of being able to draw useful insights from people’s behavioural patterns, with enormous benefits for the environment, energy, education, research, policies and more.

  • social scenarios;

The myriads of digital expressions of citizens all over the world constitute an immense wealth which is usable to describe emotions, relations, behaviours, conflicts and emergence in cities. These can be used to collectively extract meaningful insights and valuable understandings of what drives us, what we imagine, the things we desire and expect, and to use all of these understandings to start wide participatory actions and performances to transform our lives, promoting well-being, inclusion, differences, cultures and general, inclusive development.

As of now, the possibility to collect all of this information is limited to a handful of large operators, secret services, marketing companies and other large operators, and is not producing wide social impacts. On top of that, it is also not crear (nor it can be) what data and information people and organizations produce, as algorithms and opaque practices arise and progressively control and orient our daily lives. On one side we cannot use this data; on the other side it is even complicated to understand what it is.

Ubiquitous Commons allows for attributing citizens control over the data which they produce, and also to generate shared, meaningful patterns of perceived sensibility and responsibility, by enabling novel reflections in terms of identity, relation and belonging.

These can be used to foster new practices in which a new concept of digital public space emerges, which is accessible and inclusive, and also respectful of people’s right to self-determination and self-representation and, thus, to be able to more freely express our subjectivities, as individuals and as participants to multiple relational networks, cultures, belief systems. From consensus to co-existence.

More applications and updates are coming up. Please refer to this blog and subscribe to the newsletter (on this website) to be notified of updates.