Building Performance Simulations Can Inform IoT Privacy Leaks in Buildings

26 Mar 2023  ·  Alan Wang, Bradford Campbell, Arsalan Heydarian ·

As IoT devices become cheaper, smaller, and more ubiquitously deployed, they can reveal more information than their intended design and threaten user privacy. Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) sensors previously installed for energy savings and indoor health monitoring have emerged as an avenue to infer sensitive occupant information. For example, light sensors are a known conduit for inspecting room occupancy status with motion-sensitive lights. Light signals can also infer sensitive data such as occupant identity and digital screen information. To limit sensor overreach, we explore the selection of sensor placements as a methodology. Specifically, in this proof-of-concept exploration, we demonstrate the potential of physics-based simulation models to quantify the minimal number of positions necessary to capture sensitive inferences. We show how a single well-placed sensor can be sufficient in specific building contexts to holistically capture its environmental states and how additional well-placed sensors can contribute to more granular inferences. We contribute a device-agnostic and building-adaptive workflow to respectfully capture inferable occupant activity and elaborate on the implications of incorporating building simulations into sensing schemes in the real world.

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