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Rise in devices has huge environmental consequences, conference hears

15 Feb 2024

• The transformation brought by the rise in connected devices has significant environmental consequences, UCC and MTU conference hears.
• The number of Internet of Things (IoT) devices worldwide is forecast to almost double to more than 29 billion IoT devices in 2030.
• Conference addresses issues in human-computer interaction with smart objects and materials.

The sustainability of smart devices, the future of reactive materials and wearable technology were explored at an international conference which concluded in Cork on 14 February 2024. World-leading scientists and researchers addressed issues in human-computer interaction, new multi-sensory technologies and interactive arts at The International Conference on Tangible, Embedded and Embodied Interaction (TEI).

Now in its eighteenth year, it was the first time the conference took place in Ireland. This year’s theme was “On the Edge” and the programme covered topics including wearable technology, biological computing, educational toys, and multisensory technology tools to support employee wellbeing.

The latest report shows that the number of devices or ‘things’ embedded in our lives is ever-growing, reaching 15 billion by the end of 2023 and projected to more than double by 2030 with some predictions suggesting up to 125 billion devices. Professor Dirk Pesch, UCC School of Computer Science and Information Technology, addressed the environmental impact of this “Internet of Things” phenomenon in the conference closing keynote address on Wednesday.

“Many of the devices are used to create networked interactions between the digital and physical world. However, many IoT devices are only used for a short period of time, compared to their useful life. This leads to sustainability issues where technology involving batteries, rare earth elements, and hazardous materials is often discarded and not necessarily reused or recycled,” Professor Pesch said.

“We need to explore and promote approaches to making IoT devices and networks that may be used in interactions more sustainable. This includes exploring research into reusability, re-programmability, and interoperability of IoT devices as well as the use of alternative materials, energy harvesting, and flexible sensors,” Professor Pesch said.

TEI 24 was jointly hosted by University College Cork (UCC) and Munster Technology University (MTU) with Professor Luigina Ciolfi, UCC School of Applied Psychology, and Dr Trevor Hogan, Department of Media Communications, CCAD and MTU Cork, as co-chairs of the conference.

“We are so excited to host this conference in Cork with leading international researchers and early-career researchers who are working at the forefront of tangible interaction design. Cork is a perfect place to explore this year’s theme; it is an ancient yet post-industrial city, pushing the edge of arts and sciences, a port city on the edge of Europe, an island nation, and yet connecting to the other places, cultures and opportunities,” Professor Luigina Ciolfi said.

“This week, we have celebrated cutting-edge scientific research and art that is on the edge of disciplines and on the edge of new unique developments and possibilities,” Professor Ciolfi said.

Adrien Segal, an artist based in Oakland, California and Adjunct Professor at the University of San Francisco, delivered the opening keynote address on Monday, 12 February. She shared her perspective and experience working in partnerships across the fields of science, art and design, technology, and data visualisation. Drawing from landscape, science, history, emotion, and perception, her interdisciplinary work bridges the gap between scientific rationality and the emotional nature of human experience.

Represented institutions spanned 26 countries and included New York University, University of Tokyo, Toronto Metropolitan University and Pontificial Catholic University of Peru.

University College Cork

Coláiste na hOllscoile Corcaigh

College Road, Cork T12 K8AF