University of Limerick
Poppe_et_al_2021_Is_it_a_bug_or_a_feature_Software_obsolescence.pdf (414.41 kB)

Is it a bug or a feature? The concept of software obsolescence

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conference contribution
posted on 2021-06-17, 20:15 authored by Erik Poppe, Eduard Wagner, Melanie Jaeger-Erben, Jan Druschke, Marina Köhn
Unlike physical objects, software sees no natural wear and tear such as oxidation or physical and thermal stress. Once a software is correctly and functionally implemented into a system, it could run forever, at least in theory. In practice, recent times have seen a growing number of empirical examples, where a malfunctioning software, high performance requirements or cancelled support services caused the end of lifetime of an otherwise functioning product. So far, software obsolescence (SO) was mostly studied as software rot or software blow in sectors like aviation or military, where reliability is most crucial. But with an increasing market penetration of embedded hard- and software systems such as SmartTVs, Bluetooth Speakers, Smart Home Appliances, and other Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS), there is growing attention to software induced obsolescence in the consumer electronics market. From an environmental perspective the problem is evident and is already targeted by recent strategies in national and European legislation such as the German Digital Policy Agenda for the Environment (BMU 2020) or the European Circular Economy Action Plan (EC 2020). However, applied research on SO is still young and lacks concepts and heuristics to systematically study the causes, appearances and impacts of the problem. The aim of this paper is to (i) propose a formal definition, illustrate the difference of direct and indirect software obsolescence (ii) to present a four-level scheme (legal-executable-usable-functional - LEUF) to analyze and classify mechanisms of software obsolescence; and (iii) to give a proper overview of the current state of regulations on SO. Based on our considerations we discuss mitigation strategies to prevent software obsolescence and identify further policy and research needs.



4th PLATE 2021 Virtual Conference, 26-28 May 2021;



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Umweltbundesamt –UBA



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