HOMESYS 2014 workshop report

Technicolor and the User-Centric Networking project supported the workshop to fund students to attend the workshop and the subsequent UbiComp/ISWC conference, which was greatly appreciated by all involved.

Ohomesys2014ver 40 attendees from academia and industry met in Seattle on the 13th September for HomeSys 2014, a day-long event to present and discuss research around technology in homes.

This was the third HomeSys workshop held as part of the UbiComp/ISWC conference. Prior to that, the event emerged from two HomeNets workshops at SIGCOMM. The high attendance, quality and diversity of work presented emphasised how much this research area is developing.

Three themed sessions of presentations and panel discussions were followed by small group discussions of the interesting directions and challenges facing this area. A great feature of the day was the ways that advanced technical research intermingled with user-centred approaches to design and social science approaches to understanding domestic life with regard for technology.

  • The first session focused on the theme of ‘Building’, and featured talks exploring two major areas: Means through which the household can control and direct technologies towards achieving their goals (Despouys et. al. and Coutaz et. al.), and means through which sensing data in the home, such as room occupancy (Castelli et al.), network activity (Brown et al.) or appliance use (Liu et al.) could be conducted and utilised.
  • The second session focused on the theme of ‘Bodies’, with papers exploring people and entities in the home. This included furniture that could react and potentially become more of a member of the household (Mennicken et al.), and systems based on an awareness of activity and occupancy (Thomas et al. and Kleminger et al.). Additional presentations explored how wearable technologies provided an alternative to infrastructure-based data collection in the home for researching behaviour (Shipp et al.) and an ethnographic study of energy advisors and their work to reduce fuel poverty (Fischer & Costanza).
  • The final session of talks and discussion focused on ‘Boundaries’. These talks included the connections between technologies in the home and other design spaces, such as the car (Cycil et al.) and the city (Ballestrini et al.). Security and privacy was the focus of Pavard et al., who presented a new approach to understanding the characteristics and threats to security of different devices in our personal networks. In addition, talks by Mallaband et al. and Wilson et al. explored how we can approach research in the home as a fundamentally cross-disciplinary area and improve the effectiveness of working across these boundaries.

homesys2014Important themes in the panels and small group discussions included ways of overcoming the challenges of building technologies that effectively integrate with the household, and the means of co-creating and iteratively evaluating these in homes to progress towards usable, mainstream systems. The different ways the home can be conceived – as a collection of individuals, a household, in terms of physical rooms, walls and doors, devices and data, or in terms of activities extending out from this single building were discussed as alternative views.

Although a great deal of progress is being made in areas such as effective sensing in the home, there is still a long way to go to match technological possibilities with approaches to design that give households control and desirable results. Seeds of user-centred goals, extending the current drivers of automation and efficiency, could be found throughout the talks and discussions, from empowering the household through end-user development, to participation in sharing data, or structures for security that more accurately reflect a household and it’s technologies.

Attendees voted for a best talk award, and while there were several papers that received a high number of votes, the award was given to Sarah Mennicken for her paper ‘Finding Roles for Interactive Furniture in Homes with Emotocouch’. As well as reporting on an interesting physical prototype, her talk and paper was provocative in raising a number of discussion points about the ever growing potential for technology to take new roles and forms in our homes.

All the papers from HomeSys 2014 are currently available from: and have also been published by the ACM in the Digital Library at:


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