Location-Based Home Technologies

Elliot, K., Neustaedter, C. and Greenberg, S. (2006)Sticky Spots and Flower Pots: Two Case Studies in Location-Based Home Technology Design. Report 2006-830-23, Department of Computer Science, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada, T2N 1N4. April.

The paper is about two case studies in home technology design based on ethnographic studies on domestic locations to motivate the designs and to make them location-based:

The first case is StickySpots – a location-based messaging system that allows household members to send short digital messages to various places in their home. The second case is location-dependant information appliances – a pair of physical ambient displays that show different information depending on where they are placed within the home. We reflect on these case studies to motivate and discuss an initial set of guidelines for location-based design in the home.

However, I am less interested by the services they came up with; but instead by the home study:

When participants explained what a certain message was, these explanations fell into five general types of information, categorized by how the information is used or its intended use.

1. Memory Triggers are intended or used as time sensitive memory support. This includes reminders, to-do lists, and notes that alert household members to critical information – e.g. food containing allergens, or light switches that should not be flipped. This is the most common type of information present in the home. 2. Member Awareness information provides knowledge of the activities and whereabouts of household members. This information is sometimes left explicitly – like calendars or notes, but can also be understood implicitly, from the presence or absence of keys, bags, cars or shoes. 3. Exhibits are to be shared, noticed or admired. These are infrequently updated. They include items such as cards, pictures, awards, children’s artwork and travel souvenirs. 4. Notices provide household members with information about activities or people outside the home. This includes newsletters, phone messages, school notices, etc. 5. Resource Coordination information is used to coordinate the sharing of common household resources. This includes things like grocery lists, receipts, bills and chore charts.

And location is very valuable for that matter:

When participants were asked how they knew who a piece of information was for, what needed to be done with it, or when it should be seen, the answer was almost always some variation on “Because it is there.” (...) The location was what provided household members with the context they needed to understand, filter and manage the information in their homes.

And, among all the recommendations the authors proposed, I like the following:

Location-based designs should add virtual value to existing house-hold spaces and organizational systems. They should provide more power when compared to paper or other traditional workarounds. This could include adding search, sort or networking capabilities; providing dynamically updating information, adding multimedia, or integrating further interaction opportunities. [of course the others like "Location-based designs should be flexible and able to integrate into the existing routines and patterns of the household." are important too]

Why do I blog this? because it's also important to consider location-based applications in other context than "the city" or a field, home (and micromobility at home) is relevant too.