Domesticating home networks

Brown, Anthony (2016) Domesticating home networks. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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This thesis addresses the following question: How should domestic networks be reinvented to support self-management by domestic users? It takes a user-centred design approach to redesign the underlying domestic network infrastructure to better fit domestic users. The overall aim of this work is to create user-centred mechanisms to support self-management of domestic networks by domestic users. Two areas of the domestic network are studied in detail, user-centred mechanisms for domestic network infrastructure control and user-centred presentations of network data.

User-centred mechanisms for domestic network infrastructure control are explored to improve Wi-Fi device association in domestic environments. A user-centred design approach is adopted to create a new method for sharing Wi-Fi credentials between devices, specifically tailored for domestic environments called MultiNet. The network performance impact of MultiNet is quantified using the standard metrics of throughput, latency, and jitter in a lab based experiment. MultiNet's usability is then compared to Wi-Fi Protected Setup in a lab based usability evaluation. These show that better Wi-Fi device association methods targeted for domestic environments can be built. It also shows that user-centred networking infrastructure can support self-management by domestic users.

User-centred presentations of network data address the poor legibility of domestic networks hinders configuration and maintenance of them. A user-centred approach is adopted to design and construct a network data visualisation and annotation platform, HomeNetViewer. Through a series of deployments in real households the HomeNetViewer platform is used to explore user-centred presentations of network data to support the local negotiation of domestic network policy. HomeNetViewer improves domestic network legibility by enabling the construction of user-centred presentations of domestic network data. Additionally, it shows that users are comfortable annotating their network data using activities, applications, and users as a vocabulary. Together this highlights, with the correct user-centred tools, that domestic users are able to gain new insight into their networks to support self-management. HomeNetViewer also shows that manually annotating domestic traffic place an ongoing burden on the users.

Automating user-centred presentations of network data are explored to address the burden the annotation process places on users. The use of enterprise traffic classification techniques to generate user-centred presentations of network data struggle to classify the data annotated by HomeNetViewer participants. It concludes by suggesting two ways in which these difficulties could be addressed in future work.

Overall the domestic access point provides an important point of configuration, visibility and control over the domestic network infrastructure. This dissertation demonstrates that taking a user-centred design approach to reinventing the domestic network, to support self-management by users, can resolve the existing problems and merits further research and exploration by industry and standardisation bodies.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Rodden, Tom
Mortier, Richard
Keywords: domestic networks, user-centred design
Subjects: Q Science > QA Mathematics > QA 75 Electronic computers. Computer science
T Technology > TK Electrical engineering. Electronics Nuclear engineering > TK5101 Telecommunication
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Science > School of Computer Science
Item ID: 34145
Depositing User: Brown, Anthony
Date Deposited: 18 Nov 2016 11:45
Last Modified: 18 Nov 2016 12:08

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