Design thinking

Humanizing sensor data

Ellen Sundh

Veryday has become a key player in this context since we work with all the interfaces that collect and display sensor data. And with our people-driven approach, we look at the data differently.

Sensors range from simple motion detectors to advanced depth cameras that determine age and gender or analyze facial expressions. Sensors can provide detailed descriptions of physical activity in a particular environment or track people’s movements and behaviors on a scale that was previously impossible. But what can we do with the immense amounts of data they collect? How do we uncover the real human needs behind all those observed behaviors?

When qualitative research augments sensor data, we gain a deep understanding of the user needs behind the data and become inspired to find totally new ways of leveraging insights.

Here’s a great example. Say we use sensors to capture data on how people move around their homes, how they use appliances and interact with smart home products. By combining this information with knowledge on attitudes, feelings and moods captured during qualitative research, we can make a smart home smarter – predicting when its occupants are about to feel depressed or even when they’re likely to feel more loving! Data allows the home itself to adapt and change, encouraging certain behaviors and discouraging others. Music, lighting and responsive products become the tools that make it happen.

Data allows the home itself to adapt and change, encouraging certain behaviors and discouraging others.

When we interview people in a workplace and track how space is used, we’re often able to predict and understand when they feel seen in the organization or if they’re stressed. Simple presence sensors in gyms, restrooms and conference rooms tell us if people are getting ill, whether they’re taking care of themselves or even if they have lots of ideas brewing. Being aware of employee rituals in a workplace and collecting that data in real time allows us to more effectively respond to their needs. Data collected by sensors is no longer just a bunch of numbers; it can be a sign of emotional well-being that brings us closer to humanizing data. Acting on information can give an organization another way to ensure well-being and increase performance.

But qualitative user insights can be complex and difficult to find. In a project for the municipality of Dubai, Veryday helped shape medical service centers and reduce waiting times. Sensor data gave us average waiting times (far longer than we expected), while our qualitative research showed that the nature of certain medical tests made their wait times much longer than others. For example, we discovered that people felt embarrassed to wait in line for a stool test and avoided the waiting line. A waiting room made them feel more comfortable. This insight was key in optimizing people flow and understanding data coming out of the medical center.

Today Veryday works as a creative translator at the intersection of technology and humanity, connecting these two worlds in relevant ways. Through research and prototyping we help clients analyze and interpret sensor data, and even understand what type of data they may need to collect. We also help analyze existing IoT solutions and set strategies going forward. Through the Veryday approach, we see a future where humanizing data can make a fundamental change to your product and business!