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Enabling ordinary people to interact with extraordinary computer systems

Drawing on her research into the use of intelligent systems by users, human-computer interaction design and information management systems, Dr Simone Stumpf's work currently focuses on assisting people to make more efficient use of smart heating systems and health applications.
by John Stevenson (Senior Communications Officer)

Research carried out by Dr Simone Stumpf, Senior Lecturer in the Centre for Human-Computer Interaction Design (School of Mathematics, Computer Science & Engineering), has focused on enabling ordinary people to interact meaningfully with extraordinary computer systems and currently focuses on smart heating systems and health applications.

Several companies have recently emerged, such as Nest, Ecobee and Lyric, whose technologies optimise energy usage for their customers; part of a growing awareness around energy usage and the environment.

Based on factors such as user preferences, home occupancy, weather forecasts and energy demand in the network grid, the systems these enterprises have developed, provides customers with intelligent decisions about switching their heating on or off.

Consumer engagement

Drawing on her research into the use of intelligent systems by users, human-computer interaction design and information management systems, Dr Stumpf is a collaborator on the Freedom (Flexible Residential Energy Efficiency Demand Optimisation and Management) project.

Led by Passiv Systems Ltd, the project is funded by Western Power Distribution and Wales & West Utilities and is the first of its kind to investigate consumer engagement with smart heating systems. The Freedom project has also pioneered the design of user interfaces within the heating systems to explain how consumers make decisions about how to heat their homes. 

It has examined what users need to know about their heating system’s behaviour, when this information should be presented to them, how this information might be presented and what effect this has had on a better understanding of how their heating system works.

This new system developed by the Freedom project is being trialled in 75 homes in Bridgend, South Wales, with a view to bringing the technology to the wider UK market.

In the healthcare field, Dr Stumpf is one of the co-investigators on the Self-Care Advice, Monitoring, Planning and Intervention (Scampi) project which seeks to develop a smart home toolkit to allow people with dementia (and their relatives, carers and healthcare professionals) to self-manage their quality of life. The technology within the toolkit allows the patient to create a plan of their goals and related activities which can be either self-monitored or tracked by sensors. The system will also be able to give suggestions on how to improve quality of life based on the user’s background, goals and activities.

The Scampi project is one of the largest interdisciplinary research projects currently taking place at City, involving colleagues in the School of Mathematics, Computer Science & Engineering, Cass Business School and the School of Health Sciences.

Through a series of workshops, the user interfaces for Scampi’s smart technology have been co-designed with assistance from people with Parkinson’s disease and people with mild to moderate dementia and their carers. Scampi’s designs will be re-evaluated in 2018 with the expectation of being trialled in people’s homes in 2019.

Dr Stumpf’s participation on the Freedom and Scampi projects follows a long list of equally impactful research projects showcasing her expertise.

Machine learning

At University College London, she was involved in a large user trial of biometric security systems and contributed to the design and implementation of a system used by security staff to detect and prevent theft by employees.

At Oregon State University, USA, she worked on the TaskTracer project (as part of an artificial intelligence research project) to develop an intelligent user interface system, targeted at information workers, combining the automatic tracking of users' information resources and the application of machine learning to enable activity-based personal information management.

Dr Stumpf has also conducted research on the use of different media, for example how images are used by professionals and end users in information seeking, how end users interact with music playlists, how music affects visual attention when watching movies and how video can be used to enhance learning.

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