Organised Crime and Corruption Forum
Smart Homes as a Safer Place

Our homes are slowly and silently becoming smarter. All the different parts of our home can now be controlled by the touch of a smartphone button. Air conditioning can be automatically switched on and off based on the presence of a mobile phone. Lighting can be habitually adjusted in relation to previous behaviours. The smart television can now listen and respond to user verbal commands or physical gestures. The smart fridge can calculate when supplies are running low. The smart vacuum cleaner remembers what it cleaned and exhibits its cleaning history for the home owner to check. The smart clothes peg can even tell its owner that the washing on the line is dry or send a warning that it is about to rain. The smart home thus enables us to know more about our home, our daily lives and how we use resources.

However, the smart home may also be the site for new forms of potential criminal activity. Smart devices can be used as home-made surveillance infrastructure to harass and facilitate technology-related domestic abuse. Smart homes and their devices can also be hacked and held to ransom by attackers. The smart home thus gives rise to a number of significant legal, social and technical challenges.

This forum will explore some of these challenges in the context of technology-facilitated domestic abuse and the complexities of securing a home that is intimately connected to the outside world through its Wi-Fi connected components and devices. The forum will therefore be used to generate new solutions to better protect the smart home, its participants and its devices, thus ensuring that the smart home becomes a safer space. 

Scoping the issues: video & panel discussion

The first part of the event will be a public panel discussion that will be used to scope the key legal and social issues regarding technology-facilitated abuse in the home and detail current cybercrime/security concerns. The panel discussion has two purposes to: (1) showcase a custom-made short video about the current state of technology-facilitated abuse in the home and to highlight future surveillance and domestic abuse issues in the smart home; and (2) provide the solutions hub audience with sufficient background knowledge of the problem so that potential technical solutions can be scoped.

Scoping solutions: a solution hub

The main part of the event will be a mini-‘hackathon’ in which cross-disciplinary groups of students will work together to scope potential technical solutions to better protect victims of domestic abuse in smart home and the home itself. As detailed above, the panel discussion informs the participants and the Solutions Hub then moves to the scoping and formulation of new solutions.

Normally, a hackathon will run over a 2-3 day period, generally a weekend, in order to develop business solutions and to code/produce a defined, technical output. The purpose of the Smart Home solution hub is really to think about the first element of the hackathon process: the scoping of potential solutions. Accordingly, the Solutions Hub will be aimed at the generation of potential new ideas that could later form technical solutions.

It is anticipated that approximately 50 Solutions Hub participants would take part, of which, hopefully 20 would be law students. That would leave a remaining 30 students from different disciplines who are likely to have already participated in UQ Ideas Hub events. It is anticipated that 5-10 government and industry experts will also participate.

Ideas Pitch & Wrap Up

The final part of the event brings all of the students together again to discuss the outcome of their Solution Hub discussions. This will be an opportunity for different groups to pitch their ideas and to get an overview of the type of developments under consideration. The ideas will be considered by the discussion panel and the experts. The event will then wrap up with a consideration of solutions and possible future avenues of research. 

Speakers and Panel Members

  • Mark Burdon (UQ Law) – an outline of the smart home; how it will look in the future and consider future surveillance issues, particularly in the context of domestic violence and abuse and cybersecurity;
  • Rebecca Shearman (Domestic Violence Action Centre) – details of the current forms of technology-facilitated abuse that is taking place and to highlight the complexities from a victim perspective;
  • Farsam Salimi (University of Vienna) – outline of existing and future forms of cybercrime in the smart home and legal responses.