Suspicious Boxes and Friendly Aliens: Exploring the Physical Design of Urban Sensing Technology

HC Jetter, Sarah Gallacher, V Kalnikaite, Yvonne Rogers
in Urb-IoT 2014 - 1st International Conference on IoT in Urban Space, Conference Proceedings, Conference paper (text)


This paper explores how the physical design of urban sensors (i.e. shape, appearance) can change city dwellers' attitudes and perceptions towards being sensed. We illustrate different physical designs of urban sensors that were created by participants during a design workshop. We then describe how actual citizens reacted to the different designs during short-term deployments in the city. Based on this data and related work, we reflect about more general implications for the physical design of urban sensors. For example, we found that anthropomorphic and zoomorphic designs resulted in greater engagement and trust while neutral or less visible designs created rejection and anxiety. We illustrate our implications in the form of a fictitious urban sensing device. This device uses zoomorphism to create trust but also lets citizens exert control over what is sensed and when it is sensed.