BOP – Making Sense of Space was a £1 million, two-year, multidisciplinary project, funded by the UK government’s Technology Strategy Board. It investigated how ubiquitous computing, using wireless sensor networks (WSN), could be used to create a better understanding of the creative workplace. The project ended in December last year but I am still finalising the last few *project management* items.

I have been asked by a few people to provide a summary of the project and what we learnt. A summary pdf was created for the final conference. Below are my thoughts.

What did we do? BOP gathered quantitative and qualitative data about the physical environment, the use of space and the mood of the work force. The WSN toolkit enabled the collecting, manipulating and displaying of both tangible environmental factors, for example, light levels, heat levels, noise levels and people’s presence, and workforce reports on intangible factors, such as perceptions of personal energy levels, sense of well-being, stress and feelings of connectedness with others. In practical terms this meant we deployed a 20 node WSN capturing environment data, activity based sensors and prototyped several different polling devices.


Crossbow WSN – light, temperature, pressure


Arduino based CO2 sensor

arduino presence on table

Arduino based activity sensors – presence at meeting tables

BT proximity ultrasounder

Beastie based activity sensors – ultrasounder to monitor corridor activity

weigh your opinion

Weigh your opinion – polling devices


Visualisation – ticker playing in entrance to office


Visualisation – intranet, screen based

sound installation


Why do this? Organisations are potentially interested in space from three main perspectives: cost efficiency; employee performance; and brand image. Current measurement practice relies largely on hard-wired sensors, for monitoring of building services, and on manual clipboard surveys and/or online surveys for occupant feedback. Relative to these approaches, the toolkit offered several advantages, such as easier, cheaper data collection, more rapid analysis/presentation and the wherewithal to collect a broader set of data. In addition, the use of playful ‘front-ends’ offered the prospects of higher participation rates, hence more complete data sets, while the use of rapid visualisation techniques offered the prospect of a speedy feedback loop to building/office managers, line managers or the work groups themselves.

What did we learn? Here are my top three:

– The WSN technology worked but takes longer than acceptable to set up and use. Getting a network configured to reliably measure the data you want without intervention is not trivial.

– It is difficult to solicit qualitative environment information in an automated manner. Whilst the polling devices worked well I often found the data analysis sessions left me wishing we had measured more, or differently. I often doubted the scientific validity of the conclusions we reached.

– Presenting the sensory objects and data in a human readable manner increased peoples desire to participate / interact with an object. Sensing and monitoring should be a two way street. (maybe this is why self surveillance works)

Ubiquitous computing is still in its commercial infancy. BOP was the first project to use WSN to get a better understanding of the fit between built environments and the organisations and people who use them.

Other resources:

more photos on flickr

summary podcast with ppt slides

video of an IET presentation I made on this project