Brief – Designing for a billion sensors…

In our daily lives we encounter sensors all the time, like when a motion sensor turns a light on in a dark place, or when a carbon monoxide detector tell us that the air is becoming hazardous. Sensors extend our abilities to see, hear, and feel far beyond what we ourselves can take in – from arrays of telescopes sensing the edges of the universe to nano-scale biological sensors amplifying our own sense of smell.

In a world with a billion sensors, how will we make sense of it all?

How will sensors change the way we perceive not only our environment but ourselves and others? How will sensors change the way we live and work? What interfaces, services, devices and experiences will be necessary to make sense of it all and avoid sensory overload?

What are key problems this data can be used to help solve, what new troubles can we anticipate it creates?


Because this is a very broad topic, it will be critical for you to focus in on a particular community, type of sensor and data, and problem you feel has impact.  Below are some scenarios you might begin with, to narrow in on a particular project:

Physical objects.  Imagine physical objects with sensors:  a door that knows when it’s opened; a refrigerator that knows the ambient temperature of the kitchen; a car that knows when it was turned off and on, and how far it traveled; shoes recorded with speed and GPS data; a television that allow you to tell it what you like and what you don’t.  With all this data from my personal objects, how might it actually improve my life in a holistic way?

Getting things done.
Today my phone, and personal sensors such as a Fitbits, Shoes and Glasses begin to monitor my actions.   How might sensors be used to better motivate an individual to define goals to get things done?  How might these sensors give advice at just the right moment to keep someone on track?  How can we design systems which know an individual and reward appropriately to avoid being ignored or becoming an “annoying nag” which gets turned off?

Sensors which inspire.
Many scenarios are practical, but they don’t appeal to the emotion of humans.  Design and prototype a mind-blowing physical computing urban installation in a large public space. How does this make people in the city a bit happier, bit friendlier, and aspire to change the way people interact and become a symbol of what embedded computing could be in the future.


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