Andrés Dominguez: Distributed Infrastructuring in IoT: The case of the Things Network

Large-scale telecommunication networks have traditionally been built in a top-down fashion and with centralized control of the critical infrastructure. Networks incumbents often maintain an oligopoly, by integrating vertically and maintaining centralized control over active and passive network infrastructure.

The top-down strategy is not strange to the realm of the internet of things: 5G, NB-IoT and Sigfox are some examples of network technologies currently being rolled out by operators in this way. Bottom-up and decentralised deployment of infrastructure, on the contrary, (re)appears as an outlying phenomenon driven by political activism, a need to bridge societal gaps or new business opportunities. Owing to the dropping costs of hardware, decentralised and modular architectures and open IoT standards, such unconventional ways of organizing infrastructure are seeing relative of success in the last years. In this presentation I discus the notion of distributed infrastructuring: the process of infrastructure rollout by geographically dispersed actors with a common technological baseline and a high level of autonomy. The concept is illustrated with the case of “The Things Network”, a global internet of things network initiative that crowdsources the deployment of infrastructures to communities of developers and implementers around the world. I will also briefly discuss our work in progress

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