Understanding the Production of Smart Power Sockets: Update from the UK
Ned Gatenby, MSc student, Sustainability, Culture and Development, Durham University
The Kemuri Smart Power Socket was conceived to solve a problem that its founder experienced: how to prolong an aging parent’s independence in their home and ease their worry about safety and well-being. As the UK population ages, he felt this must be a problem shared by many. The PEOPLE project provides industry partner Kemuri with a team of interdisciplinary social scientists to assist in the solution to this growing social problem.
As we enter the second half of the first Learning Cycle, our team is reflecting on the progress made in the first half. Following research on the Kemuri Smart Power Sockets, the five of us visited the Bernicia Housing Association, who have installed four sockets within residences in Sunderland, UK. This was our first chance to engage with the wardens who oversee the residences, and to gather some preliminary data that would shape the rest of our study. This session opened the door of opportunity to arrange a future visit when we will supply tea and cake, to begin to build a relationship with the service users that we hope to interview.
In the New Year, two of us travelled to Woking, a small town in the South-West of London, where we witnessed the production of the device and discussed the next steps of the project with Kemuri. In the three hours we spent with their team, we first explored what they expected from us as social scientists. They were thrilled to be involved with us – they hoped that we could shed further light on how to best design both the device and the overall service, in order to serve the needs of ageing people and their families and carers. Following this, we were led through all the stages of the socket’s production at the small facility, thus gaining knowledge into how the device came to be and understanding what the scope for hardware developments was, should we encounter concerns with the device itself. Overall, this visit has helped us to establish the scale of the project so far.
The partnership with a small company like Kemuri compliments the ethos of the PEOPLE project – designing with people, not just for them. Our established contact with stakeholders at both ends of the product’s lifecycle allows us to identify and investigate pathways for the device to reach as many people as possible and make as big an improvement to lives as possible. The next stage of our process is to interview the residents at Bernicia – both those who use the device, and those who don’t – to see how we can utilise a people-centred design to improve the product itself and to solve a societal problem.