Monday July 7th sees the Tour De France begin in the UK and make its way across the Channel.  Part of the great celebrations of this event will be taking place in London’s Green Park.  ICRI Cities UCL team have been working hard on creating an interactive questionnaire box for attendees to get involved in and provide feedback as to how they are feeling and how connected they feel to both the event and one another.

The Vox Box has been created by Sarah Gallacher,  Lorna Wall and Connie Goldsteijn of ICRI Cities and members of the public are very welcome to come along and get involved.




As part of our on-going research and collaborations with other Institutions, ICRI Cities at UCL have recently had an exchange visitor from the University of Porto, Paula Trigueiros.

Paula began her career as an architect and even created and ran her own studio.  Since 1993 Paula has been a Design Professor at a number of Portuguese universities based in Porto, Lisbon and Coimbra.  She studied a Masters in Product Design at the University of Porto and specialized in Inclusive Design.  She has written and published a number of studies on architectural and design projects and been a guest speaker at numerous events across the continent, especially related to the theme of Design, Creativity, Accessibility and Inclusion.   In 2003 she founded the group PLIM – Free Projects, Ideas in Motion, which is a philanthropic group dedicated to creative exploration of ideas.

Whilst visiting the ICRI Cities centre at UCL Paula engaged with a number of researchers and departments, to further her research.  This culminated in a workshop set around the idea of how individuals experience information in an urban environment. set within their own ‘galaxy’.  It was well supported by the ICRI Cities UCL members and other individuals from around UCL and provided some great feedback and information for Paula’s on-going work.

Paula has now returned to Portugal, but will be greatly missed around the Centre and we wish her all the very best with her future research and endeavours.

Wednesday 28th May marked the first UK workshop by Smart Citizen at the Manchester Science Park.  This workshop saw the kick off of a local community engaged with the development of better tools for citizens to participate in the production of their cities.

The Smart Citizen project uses low-cost sensors to enable people to capture and share data in their local environment, to help understand the effects of urban living on the environment and local citizens.  The platform is open to anyone, anywhere and Manchester marks the beginning of a UK community, with two other communities already established in Barcelona and Amsterdam.  It is hoped that the data collected and shared can be utilized to help build more sustainable and connected cities in the future.

To find out more about the Future Everything event in Manchester click here.

ICRI Cities have produced a second video in a series of videos highlighting the development of Smart Citizen and this can be watched by clicking on this page here.


A few of our ICRI Cities members attended the recent Maker Faire UK in Newcastle last month.  Maker Faire UK is a two day family friendly festival of invention and creativity, bringing together over 300 hackers, crafters, coders, DIYers and garden shed inventors from across the globe – people who love to make stuff and who want to share their passion with the public.  Members of our Intel contingent set up a stall to display some of our latest ideas to engage the public with technology and show how sensors in the community work.   According to Duncan Wilson, one of the favourite devices they brought along was an inter-active bubble machine, whereby members of the public could send texts to the device, which would then blow out bubbles in response.

Users text the bubble machine at Maker Faire uK

Users text the bubble machine at Maker Faire uK

You can find out more about Intel’s experience at the Maker Faire UK here.

Duncan Wilson and Greg Jackson discuss air quality sensors in a short video here.  These air quality sensors lie at the heart of some of our on-going projects, as the data they provide will help our researchers to find the best solutions to some of the most prominent urban centric problems in relation to future sustainability.

The Maker Faire Paris is due to run on the weekend of the 21st and 22nd June, and looks set to be another wonderful weekend of show, tell and discovery.


ICRI Cities PhD student and co-founder of Smart Citizen, Tomas Diez was in Manchester to mark the launch of the Smart Citizen kits.

The Smart Citizen Kit is an open-source package developed at Fab Lab Barcelona for monitoring the environment in a user-friendly way. The kit comprises 3 technological layers: electronic hardware, an online interface and API, and a mobile app. The goal of the project is to allow anyone to collect environmental data, visualize it, and share it with others with very little hassle.

The hardware used by the Smart Citizen Kit consists of 2 printed-circuit boards: an interchangeable daughterboard or shield, and an Arduino-compatible, data-processing board. The shield included in this version of the kit is dubbed as the Ambient Board. As its name suggests, it carries sensors that measure:

  • Air composition (CO and NO2)
  • Temperature
  • Light intensity
  • Sound levels
  • Humidity

ICRI Cities have created a short video highlighting Tomas’s work and the exciting prospects this brings for the future of sustainable connected cities, which can be viewed on our ICRI Cities Vimeo site, here.


Mara Balestrini has recently returned from Ensenada, Mexico, where she has been deploying the first stage of her JokeBox project on enhancing social connectivity.

The JokeBox is an urban installation whose primary purpose is to promote social interactions in the public space, encouraging collaboration and conversation between people. It is a technological device that consists of two pedestals with buttons, which can detect the presence of individuals in a limited radio. When detecting their presence, the JokeBox asks people if they want to hear a joke. To do so, users need to press both buttons at the top of the pedestals simultaneously.

There is much evidence that social connectedness can increase the well-being of individuals and communities. However, little research in HCI has studied the key factors involved in designing robust and easy-to-use interfaces to encourage social interactions among strangers in the public space.  The JokeBox Study is a research prototype that allows us to gain insights into this challenging domain.

The JokeBox is a prototype of ubiquitous technology created by researchers Mara Balestrini, Jon Bird and Paul Marshall (University College London, UK), Raymundo Cornejo and Monica Tentori (CICESE, Mexico), with the help of students from both institutions. The study has been supported by the Ubihealth project, aimed at fostering research on technologies that promote the well-being of individuals either to prevent disease or promote healthy behaviors.

The first prototype of the JokeBox was created in November 2013 in London, where a small semi-controlled usability test was held in order to improve the design. Later, in March 2014, an in-the-wild study was held in Ensenada (Mexico) to test the JokeBox in four different locations (a park, a food stall, a shopping plaza and a bus stop), over four weeks. The collected data is now being analysed, with further in-the-wild studies planned over the coming months.

The JokeBox study received significant media attention in Ensenada and was published in different local newspapers, TV channels and radio stations.



ICRI Cities to Jointly Sponsor CHI Party Event at CHI Toronto, Canada


ICRI Cities are proud to be involved with hosting a small party event to celebrate London researchers and their work at the upcoming CHI Conference, to be held in Toronto on Tuesday 29th April.

The ACM SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems is the premier international conference on human-computer interaction and is a hugely popular and well respected event.  ICRI Cities are proud to be involved with this event and are excited to confirm that a number of our researchers have had their papers both accepted at CHI as well as receiving honourable mentions for their exemplary work. The SIGCHI Best of CHI Awards honour exceptional submissions to SIGCHI sponsored conferences.  Receiving an Honourable Mention Award indicates that the paper submitted was identified by the CHI Associate Chairs as being among the top 5% of all submission to CHI 2014.

Honourable mentions include:

“Understanding Sustained Community Engagement: A Case Study in Heritage Preservation in Rural Argentina”.  Authors: Mara Balestrini, Jon Bird, Paul Marshall, Alberto Zaro, Yvonne Rogers.

“Never Too Old: Engaging Retired People Inventing the Future with MaKey MaKey”.  Authors: Rogers, Y., Paay, J., Brereton, M., Vaisutis, K., Marsden, G., and Vetere, F. (2014).

Other papers accepted:

“Bigger is not always better: Display Size, Performance, and Task Load during Peephole Map Navigation”  Authors: Roman Rädle, Hans-Christian Jetter, Jens Müller, HaraldReiterer

“Poverty on the Cheap: Estimating Poverty Maps Using Aggregated Mobile Communication Networks”. Authors C. Smith-Clarke, A. Mashhadi and L. Capra.


The Guardian newspaper recently ran an article on ‘Ten social Innovators to Watch’ about the ten most exciting people to watch out for on the digital innovation front.  Highlighting the importance of digital creativity in providing more sustainable and collaborative ways in which to enhance our environments and society, ICRI’s very own Tomas Diez was named number one.

1. Tomas Diez, co-founder, Smart Citizen kit @tomasdiez
Tomas Diez is the co-founder of the Smart Citizen Kit project – an initiative that empowers citizens to improve urban life through capturing and analysing real-time environmental data. The Smart Citizen Kit is based on two components: the “kit” itself and the platform used to share data between people operating a kit. It is built on the open hardware product Arduino, and equipped with sensors that can measure air quality, temperature, sound and humidity. Via the platform anyone who owns a kit can share and visualise their data.

Great work Tomas!


“Interdisciplinary research brings with it diversity” Julie McCann, ICRI Cities, Imperial College London.

girls on top 2

(From L to R) Yvonne Rogers, Han Pham, Lorna Wall, Sarah Gallacher, Jessi Baker, Lisa Koeman, Licia Capra and Julie McCann


ICRI Cities recently held its annual retreat, an opportunity for Industry and research to get together and discuss their work and possibilities for the future.  Workshops were held over a two day period and everyone involved had a positive experience.  During the evening a drinks reception was held and an opportunity arose to photograph the women involved in ICRI Cities.  It is great to see so many inspiring and talented women working within the centre to help work towards producing some truly innovative and ground breaking research that works towards making cities more sustainable and connected for the future.


Two of ICRI Cities’ recent projects in education and public health have been highlighted in the inaugural issue of Adjacent Local Government, February 2014 Special Issue.

Produced quarterly, with a distribution of 70,000 senior figures throughout local government and associated organizations across both the UK and EU, the Adjacent Local Government magazine covers a variety of topics from sustainable living to how local authorities can utilise the latest thinking and research into their wider strategies for communities.

Visit the full edition here:

Brixton Listening Lab: Moving communities forward

Katz Kiely and Han Pham examine how future cities can sustain sustainable behaviours through nudging citizens and community activities…

In less than a month, key leaders in London’s Brixton community – all at the leading edge of technology, behavior change, and policy – from local council, public health professionals, teachers, faith leaders, social innovators, entrepreneurs and local media, to social scientists, data specialists, designers, and programmers – will design a new community experiment to tackle a difficult dilemma: London is Europe’s most polluted capital city. The bigger challenge? To make it fun. The judges? Kids.

Read more here:

Data driven education

Han Pham, Intel Collaborative Research Institute for Sustainable Connected Cities explores how young digital citizenship can be taught…

Data is flowing into our cities, homes, and schools at an increasing rate. How can the UK help prepare our next generation of school children not only as future consumers of the digital data economy, but also its creators?

In a busy corner of a conference filled with 30,000 people, a young girl was exploring a new world. She raised her arms to the side and began flapping imaginary wings. Suddenly, she began experiencing London from an entirely new perspective… London, and its data, made tangible.

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