Digital Lifestyles Centre

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Information doc: 

Dr. Michael Gardner, The University of Essex,

Effective member: 

The Digital Lifestyles Centre is a new interdisciplinary Research Centre at the University of Essex. The centre was originally created to optimize the design and development of pervasive computing technologies in inhabited environments, by combining the expertise of a number of research units at the University. The Digital Lifestyles Centre bridges the gap between the social and technological sciences by focusing on the development of innovative applications and technologies through the use of new people inspired methods and tools. This is centred around the use of the iSpace which is a ‘smart homes’ living lab and fully functioning apartment designed explicitly for studying the use of new technologies in situ within a real-world domestic environment.  

Description of Concept

Within the centre we have developed the following areas of interest:

• Applied Technologies Laboratory

- focussed on the design and development of human-centred applications and technologies. This is supported by the use of new tools and research methods to enable innovation through an understanding of human behaviour. Current application areas include pervasive computing, e-learning and social software.

• Technology and Social Change

- focused on the use of all forms of social science investigation to analyse the relationships between social change and technology

• Intelligent Inhabited Environments

- involved in developing methods to enable non-technical endusers to harness the potential of pervasive computing systems in their everyday lives.

• Wide-area networking technologies

– development of a campus/suburban wireless testbed

• Renewable Energy Systems

– particularly in the context of future living environments. The iSpace will be equipped with a range of renewable energy technologies, including a wind turbine, photovoltaic cells and a series of thermal heat exchangers.

• Development of a ‘corporate club’ to provide commercial organizations with a convenient means of initial engagement with the Digital Lifestyles Centre. The ‘club’ will enable the centre to offer an established package of services, which will help set realistic expectations of what the iSpace can deliver to potential partners.  

References and Track Record

Recent research projects have included:

• SOCQUIT (EU FP6): modelling the links between ICTs, social capital and quality of life.

• eSocTU (ESRC): analysing ICTs and social change using time use data.

• InTouch (EPSRC/BT): Designing new forms of Connectivity for Extended Social Groups.

• eGadgets (EU IST Disappearing Computer program): embedding agents into everyday artefacts

• cAgents (UK-Korean scientific fund) embedded-agents to maintain a sense of shared presence.

• Pervasive Home Environment Networking (DTI Future Technologies and Markets) how to enable non-technical users to define the functionality of digital homes.

• From 2001 to 2004 we co-ordinated the 2.75 M-euro EU FP5 project 'e-Living: Life in a Digital Europe' (IST2000-25409) which replicated the UK household panel study across a further 5 European countries.

• A number of Living Lab experiments in collaboration with industrial partners in the iSpace smart home environment. This has included an investigation into the use of PSTN and VoIP telephony services, and new forms of image management within the home environment.