IN SHORT iLab is the experimental in-house laboratory of iHub. iLab’s aim is to offer the technical substrate to iHub’s interdisciplinary research and to experiment with and develop new value-driven proofs of concept and software that puts scientific insights into practice and acts as a means of gaining new scientific knowledge. This way we can quickly test an interdisciplinary hypothesis, and experiment with securing public values and the common good in digitalization processes. Examples include new IRMA applications (e.g. electronic voting), apps and infrastructure for secure storage of medical or pedagogical data. Selected iLab projects are scaled up either in-house or with external partners, and guided to the market.

Teams

There are a couple of teams active within iLab, consisting mainly of software developers and interaction designers. These teams contribute to multiple research projects, and therefore some members of the scientific staff occasionally join such a team.

The iLab teams:

Type of projects

There are 3 types of projects iLab can facilitate.

Proof of concepts The first is a small scale proof of concept, to test an interdisciplinary hypothesis by a researcher. The run time is short: typically 3-6 months. The results can be used in research papers, and for grant proposals (which we can assist as well).

Digital infrastructures Some research project need to have technical support over a longer term, e.g. a few years. Typically, the research projects need to collect research data and store it in a privacy-friendly way. Although other options are possible. iLab can assist with set up experiments, so the experiment adheres to the proper regulations (consent, data protection, etc). And later iLab can assist in managing and analysing the data.

Scale up Selected projects, that have a long term potential to transform and add to the common good in digitalization, are assisted over a long term. They are guided to the market, and eventually transferred to an external partner. This happened both with IRMA and PEP.

iLab values and techniques

iLab projects are typically open-source, using open-standards, and are built with open-source tools, and target multiple platforms (web/mobile/desktop). To work efficiently iLab automates its tasks (such as detecting bugs, analysis on programs, crash reporting). iLab values sustainability: designing concepts for the long term with limited energy footprint and minimal resources.

An important theme is inclusion. Estimates about the number of people with a digital handicap in the Netherlands suggest that around 4.500.000 people in the Netherlands have a reading, cognitive, motor, visual, and/or hearing impairment. That is around 26% of the Dutch society. As we research the whole of society, we have to take these factors into account. That is why we include interaction design in our work process.

We often work with personal data, data that can be traced to a natural person and which can be identified. Besides using encryption to protect the data, we often use pseudonimization, anonymization, and aggregation to avoid linkability and traceability issues. This is also applied in our PEP project, that is using polymorphic encryption and pseudonimization. We apply the principle of data minimization, to store the minimal data that is needed for the requirements. This can avoid data leaks in the future.

We design our systems with high security standards in mind. If possible, we design decentralized systems that offer participants control of their own data. If a centralized system is needed, we design it in a distributed way that enforces redundant access control and logging and an audit trail. We do this to avoid a single point of failure. Typically, availability is one of the default security requirements we start with.