Case Studies of Past Projects

Here we provide three sample case studies of recent projects. There were many more. We build up a listing of projects in the project section of this website. See here.

Heritage meets Innovation: The Tales of Things and Coffee

Our first case study is a regional challenge carried out in October to December 2011. The student involved, Liz Edwards, has a background in art and design and has a strong interest in ubiquitous computing. We placed her in a local company, Atkinsons, which has been supplying and roasting coffee in the Lancaster area since 1837, hence the strength in coffee heritage. The current owners want to balance this heritage with innovation and approached us to see if we could bring (digital) innovation to their coffee business (incl. their e-commerce work). The proposed approach builds on the work of Chris Speed and others on the Tales of Things, i.e. ordinary objects that can tell a narrative. To combine the old with the new, Liz based on the work on a variation of tea cards, which were part of tea culture for much of the 20th century, but this time containing a hidden RFID tag and QR code offering linkage to information about the associated product and also related products customers might buy (with links to the e-commerce site). This work is informing and directly feeding into the creation of an innovation centre around the production and consumption of coffee, a major investment by the company.

HomeSense Project

Two of our students, Natasha Carolan and Richard Wood, carried out their summer project in London working with Tinker London and EDF on the HomeSense Project, which aimed to look at open hardware and collaborative research methods to contribute to innovation in smart homes. Natasha and Richard developed an open hardware kit that used the concept of teaching through narrative and association. This project is currently exhibited at the New York Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), a major achievement in the design world.

The Emergent Digital Economy

In terms of ongoing PhDs, Natasha Carolan and Marcia Smith are looking at changes to the digital economy (in integrated manufacturing and textiles resp.) related to decentralisation, local production and the changing role of the expert stemming from innovations such as rapid prototyping and social media. They are working with a number of thought leaders/ companies including with MakieLab in London who are at the forefront of the design of smart toys.

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