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· 3 min read
Alberto Monge Roffarello
Assistant Professor

People nowadays have access to Digital Self-Control Tools (DSCTs) that can help them manage their technology use. These tools offer features such as timers and the ability to disable distracting functionalities like recommendations and newsfeeds. However, researchers have identified several limitations with existing DSCTs, ranging from theoretical gaps to an overreliance on users' self-monitoring abilities.

In our work, we tried to overcome such limits and effectively support people in regaining control over smartphone use in the long term, focusing on teaching users how to relate better with technology, so that they can break unwanted smartphone habits and establish alternative behaviors without being forced to use a supportive tool forever.

Specifically, we designed, implemented, and evaluated StepByStep, a novel mobile DSCT that proactively assists users in learning how to regulate smartphone use.

Some screenshots from the StepByStep app

By monitoring user's behavior, the app suggests new personalized learning paths composed of adaptable and continuously variable interventions to reduce and change unwanted behaviors with the smartphone. These paths can be at phone or app-level, and may be used to shape different behaviors, from avoiding using the smartphone in specific circumstances to using an app for an established amount of time. The main idea behind a learning path, in particular, is to progressively reduce the degree of support of the tool - i.e., the intensity of the associated intervention - based on user's achievements, until the user acquires a sufficient level of independence, i.e., it is able to sustain the new behavior without the help of the tool. To this end, StepByStep follows a gamification approach through which the intensity of an intervention is divided into four different levels. Users can gain points and advance in levels, i.e., by receiving less support, if they consistently respect the intervention with its current intensity for a sufficient amount of time. However, they can also lose points and downgrade to previous levels, i.e., by receiving more support, if they consistently fail to respect the intervention with its current intensity.

· 2 min read
Luca Mannella
Ph.D. Student

Luca Mannella has recently co-authored a new research article titled "Security at the Edge for Resource-Limited IoT Devices", in the special issue "Emerging IoT Technologies for Smart Environments, 3rd Edition" of MDPI Sensors. This research is a collaborative effort with Daniele Canavese (Institut de Recherche en Informatique de Toulouse), Leonardo Regano (Università degli Studi di Cagliari), and Cataldo Basile (TORSEC research group, DAUIN, Politecnico di Torino).

The proliferation of IoT devices (14.4 billion active endpoints at the end of 2022) has introduced security vulnerabilities stemming from limited computing power, absence of timely security updates, and intrinsic design flaws. This paper aims to improve the security of IoT devices presenting the IoT Proxy, a modular component crafted to enhance security in resource-limited IoT scenarios. At its core, the IoT Proxy is crafted to externalize security-related functions from IoT devices, mitigating limitations arising from constrained computing power. This is achieved through a secure network gateway equipped with diverse Virtual Network Security Functions (VNSFs), allowing for adaptability and scalability.

Architecture and workflow of the IoT Proxy

· 4 min read
Alberto Monge Roffarello
Assistant Professor

The last few years have seen the flourishing of Digital Self-Control Tools (DSCTs) both in academia and as off-the-shelf products. These tools allow users to self-regulate their technology use. The two screenshots, for example, are taken from Apple Screen Time, an app available on every iOS smartphone. It allows users to monitor time spent and smartphone pickups, with the possibility of defining interventions like usage timers and lock-out mechanisms for specific applications.

Screen Time app on iPhones

While these emerging technologies for behavior change hold great promise to support people’s digital wellbeing, we still have a limited understanding of their real effectiveness, as well as of how to best design and evaluate them.

To close these gaps, we conducted a systematic literature review and a meta-analysis of current work on tools for digital self-control. Our analysis was published on the ACM Trasactions on Computer-Human Interaction, and surfaced motivations, strategies, design choices, and challenges that characterize the design, development, and evaluation of DSCTs.