Things move people around

So this is interesting for Internet of Things experiences. Objects telling us to where they want to go…

Part of the Tourism Work Package led by Janet Dickinson and Julia Hibbert from Bournemouth University has involved working with visitors to the Tom’s Field campsite in Purbeck. The visitors have been using the Sixth Sense Tourism app for iPhones that let’s users share information about where they are, what they can share: car journeys or collect things from nearby shops for them.

At the RGS Conference in August I got a chance to play and it was a very unusual experience. Usually when we ask for ‘things’ we are in close contact with the system that will provide it for us. For example I can pop into a corner shop and buy a bar of chocolate from the shop keeper. One more degree of separation away from this I can order a bar of chocolate from an online supermarket store and a nice man/woman delivers it – but that’s their job so no surprises there.

But in this workshop 20 or so participants roamed the area around the conference and in pairs they used the 6ST App to request objects to be delivered to them, and picked up tasks to do some delivering. Objects were scattered across a small area of South Kensington including tennis balls, fly swatters and beach balls. As participants moved in to the ‘field’ from the workshop HQ they could pick up tasks to move objects around from one location to another. They could also request objects to be purchased from nearby shops and delivered to a desired location.

The extraordinary part of the experience was watching objects move around the streets in the care of subservient humans. Because carriers didn’t know the purpose of the object, they could be seen carrying an object to another location as though the object was leading the way.

My workshop partner and I requested some chocolates, the request was accepted by strangers also taking part in the workshop and 45 minutes later the chocolates turned up back at base. It is this flow of things that seemed quite amazing – as though objects are able to move themselves into position in the world to help people out.

This is a quick and dirty video of the event and you’ll see what I mean as objects flowed from one space to another with the help of humans:


Research context;

The work is part of the larger Sixth Sense Transport project that involves case studies across the domains of Tourism, Logistics and Education.

This is a deeper video describing how the Tourism app works and how it supports collaborative practices including:

  • Provision of lifts;
  • Cooperative shopping for various items (food, drinks, camping gas);
  • Cooperative transportation of equipment (e.g. beach gear, BBQ) for fellow tourists;
  • Recommendations about local tourism products and services.

and a further video of the Logistics Case Study that Southampton and Edinburgh developed for moving ‘things’ around Oxfam:

In both instances it is the flow of things that is particularly interesting for the Internet of Things. How social networks across people allow products to be moved with great ease – or in the case of the RGS workshop even seem to gain a life of their own as not everyone in the network knows what an object is for, or who it is for.

Duncan Shingleton RA to 6ST uncovered this video which provides a ‘thing’ perspective on their movement through the human world:


Digital Economy workshop

We’re running the workshop again at the RCUK Digital Economy Open Digital conference in Manchester at the end of November. More information here:

If you fancy it sign up…

Spaces of Flows 1.0: A working experience using Sixth Sense Transport technology

“the space of flows . . . links up distant locales around shared functions and meanings on the basis of electronic circuits and fast transportation corridors, while isolating and subduing the logic of experience embodied in the space of places” (Himanen, 2001).

The networks that constitute businesses, organisations and social groups often retain consistent patterns of movement and flow across time and space. Tourists visit the same locations in a city, shops use the consistent suppliers who in turn use the same routes to supply goods to the shops, and social networks walk the same streets to the same bars on a regular basis. Although not predictable, these patterns may allow opportunities for exchange and potentially energy saving if networks are shared and commonalities correlated at a database level. The aim of this workshop is to introduce participants to two new smart phone Apps that demonstrate how network technology can use patterns within existing industrial and social activities to reveal new opportunities for sharing.

Proposed Activities & Outcomes

1. Introduction

An introduction to Sixth Sense Transport research work will set the scene of the research challenges that explore how to reduce/re-distribute transport options through a flexible interpretation of time.

2. Physical activity

This workshop will loan smartphones to participants and embed them within a social network using the Sixth Sense Travel App to explore the flow of objects and information across Media City:

The Sixth Sense Travel App, designed for a campsite community, gives people a sense of being in time by enabling users to follow the collective physical traces of other users in the past, present and, based on space-time memories, into the future. This enables users to make sense of network movements so they can reflect on their place in the social network across space and time.

Workshop participants will be set travel tasks based on the collection of objects around the Media City conference venues. This replicates a shopping trip activity and demonstrates how an awareness of others within a social network might create opportunities for collaboration and reduce the need for car trips.

3. Reflection

Following the activity we will re-convene to reflect upon the experience.

The experience will highlight the opportunities for collaboration and reduce the need for car/van trips. Following the activity we will re-convene to discuss how the activity offers opportunities across the Digital Economy and reflect upon the following questions:

  1. What insights did the experience reveal: personal, social, ethical, technical or other?
  2. To what extent did the demonstration of the App offer an insight into the potential for sharing resources?
  3. Can the group identify opportunities for similar application of the technology and how might the approach address the Conference Challenges areas: Sustainable Society, Communities & Culture

The reflective session will also allow an opportunity for the team to extend discussion through the commercial application of the research in the Sixth Sense Logistics App developed for Oxfam. The App is designed to improve the visibility of transport options and facilitate collaboration for Oxfam shop managers and area managers at the local level. The app allows Oxfam’s local communities to better engage and visualise the state of assets and the location of transport both in the present and into the immediate future. In a dynamic and continually evolving business setting, this can help make better commercial decisions.

Technical & Accommodation Requirements

The research team will provide 10 smart phones preinstalled with the Apps, and it is anticipated that participants will work in groups of 2 offering 20 places in total on the workshop.

The team require a room with data projector to accommodate 25 people with easy access to the outdoors.

Any Additional Information / Comments

We anticipate that the workshop will involve a fair amount of movement around the Media City complex so we would ask participants to consider this when applying.


The Sixth Sense Transport project is supported by an Energy/Digital Economy UK Research Councils grant. Additional credits go to the wider 6ST team: Cherrett, T., Davies, N., Filimonau, V., Ghali, K., Harding, M., Hibbert, J., Kubitza, T., Lau, M., Mcleod, F.N., Norgate, S., Shingleton, D., Smith, L., Winstanley, C.


Castells, M. (1996) Rise of The Network Society. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

Himanen, P. (2001) Informationalism and the Network Society” in The Hacker Ethic and the Spirit of the Information Age. New York, Random House pp. 155–78

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