SPHERE is a large, multidisciplinary research project bringing together over 100 researchers from three universities, as well as industrial and engagement partners, to develop a unique system of sensors for the home. This system collects a wide range of information, including heat, light, humidity as well as quantity and quality of movement. The project, which is funded by EPSRC, is working out how to combine these multiple streams of information so they are relevant to clinical care, prediction of illness and to open up new avenues in early diagnosis.

The Public Engagement team have worked in partnership with future end users and local people who will have the unique experience of living with these new technologies in 100 homes. Innovative and participatory methods of involvement, engagement and co-working enabled the technology and research processes to be acceptable, appropriate and relevant.

SPHERE began in 2013 and continues to work with the public; we always welcome people to get involved. In 2016, SPHERE received a finalist award in the national Engage Competition, which recognised our public health and well-being engagement work.

Public advisory groups

An advisory group of individuals and healthcare professionals was set up to enable public and user views to feed into the strategic thinking and development of all stages of the project.

In addition to the public advisory group SPHERE engaged with professional and specialist teams and patient support groups as appropriate when piloting early technology prototypes.

Dress Sense competition

In 2014, the SPHERE project brought together a group of school children, health professionals, computer scientists and designers to design a piece of wearable technology for health. The hackathon was held over three days, and was preceded by a programme of lectures and training workshops to give participants the necessary skills to take part. SPHERE researchers collaborated with the 64 participants to produce a total of eight design concepts with working prototypes. The winners were chosen by four independent judges. A number of the contestants went on to take up PhD positions on the SPHERE project, or become involved in other ways. The competition was launched by the President of Singapore and Vice Chancellor of the University of Bristol and the prize for best device was awarded by the elected mayor of the city of Bristol.

Friends of SPHERE

‘Friends of SPHERE’ is a public forum with over 200 members. They have become partners in a number of research and design activities, including addressing how to manage some substantial and unusual ethical and legal considerations about in-home sensor systems. Their feedback and input has helped to make the system more user friendly, and acceptable for use in homes. Read more about a Friends of SPHERE event, in which 50 members of the public came together to discuss new sensor technology over a home-cooked meal. The members have been the first to be invited to receive the SPHERE system in their homes, which was of great help in the recruitment process.

Test homes

A vital part of SPHERE's research is to test our system of sensors in real homes. To do this we have engaged with people across Bristol to ensure a diverse selection of households take part. After our programme of public engagement, participant households have now been recruited, and a range of sensors are being installed in homes.

Our hope for the future is that we have a cohort of well engaged participants who through their public engagement journey with SPHERE are able to co-produce research relevant to their experiences of having this technology in their homes.

Citizen Science

The SPHERE project is partnering with We The Curious to enable those families signed up as ‘test homes’ to participate in the research process.

The SPHERE Citizen Science Officer meets with participants, finds out their interests and helps them to design experiments, using the sensors, that they can carry out themselves in their homes and that are aligned with how they live their lives.

Participants have so far wanted to find out more about sleep, and about back pain. They will take part in workshops to identify what it is they want to research, and how they can conduct an experiment that will give them the data they need. They will then have an opportunity to analyse the data, and to co-author a paper on it, with support from the SPHERE team.

Over the summer of 2018, SPHERE will also be doing a residency in We The Curious, whereby a house with sensors installed will be fabricated, and visitors will be asked to do an activity, which will be picked up by the sensors and will feed into the research process. This will give more people a chance to be part of SPHERE research and to learn about the sensors and the impact they could have on our lives.

Visit the SPHERE website for more information