STiPS: In the wild

The ‘Smart Transactions in Public Spaces’ project began in earnest over the summer with the recruitment of two key members of the team: Dr Ella Tallyn and Amy Isard.

Ella is lead Research Associate and has experience in both commercial and academic posts as a user centred designer, using a range of methods from rapid usability testing to in-depth ethnographic studies. She has expertise in interactive narrative, multi-media memories and combining real world experiences and artefacts with digital media, and particular interest in outdoor UXD and informal education. In recent years she has dedicated time to working with conservation organisations and has completed a research project which applied user study methods normally used in technological development to understanding visitor experience in botanic gardens with the aim of unlocking the wealth of detailed information they hold. Returning to academia at the end of 2015 she has  begun by exploring the potential of blockchains to facilitate new forms of value transaction within the Design in Action Knowledge Exchange Hub. She is now exploring value exchanges in temporary economies such as festivals and how these might inform the development of IoT technologies.

With less time on the project, but equally valuable is Amy who will assist the team in the development of technical platforms that support communication between people and machines, and machines and machines. Amy has a BA in Modern Languages from Cambridge University and an MSc in Artificial Intelligence from the University of Edinburgh. She has been a researcher in Natural Language Processing in the School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh for many years, working on UK and European-funded projects involving natural language generation for dialogue and social robotics systems. Alongside her research work, Amy is now pursuing a PhD in Informatics.

The objective of STiPS is to develop user-centred solutions to support secure, easy to use prototypes for value transactions public spaces. The first phase of the project involves ethnographic studies using a variety of methods (interviews, workshops, technology probes) in public spaces such as parks and festivals to provide insight into the value constellations across which transactions are established and normalised. In this context, the project will understand issues of security, privacy, technical infrastructure and convenience. Early field work at the Royal Highland Show has already revealed a myriad of payment and receipt methods that persist in public spaces.

When cash runs out, chip and pin are now the default means of payment that many people expect. However, when the GSM connection is too weak many vendors still resort to a carbon copy card machine.

But sometimes vendors prefer cash, and will place significant hurdles in the way to encourage us not to use financial technologies, leaving us with hand written proofs of payment.

Findings from fieldwork will be later used to develop our understanding of transaction practices and to map the requirements needed to encourage and secure the trust of the different types of potential so that they can be fed back into the design of the technology teams.

As the future of money continue to shift away from material currencies, vendors and publics require flexible, secure platforms across which transactions can be made that garner the trust of everybody involved in the success of outdoor events. Not always flooded with 3G or 4G networks, outdoor public spaces present significant challenges to how we trade. From the small things such as ice-creams to material goods, everybody in the park wants to know that they can buy or sell what they want in such a way that is care free and with the minimum of friction. In the coming months the STiPS team will begin to map the value constellations that exist in public spaces, to better understand what form value transactions could take that are commensurate with the expectations of the users.