SINAIS – Sustainable Interaction with social Networks, context Awareness and Innovative Services


Star Date: June 6, 2013 End Date: December 31st, 2012
PIs: Nuno Nunes (UMa) Anind K. Dey (CMU)
Dual Degree Ph.D. Students: Christian Koehler (Electrical and Computer Engineering) Teams: UMa, FEUP, FCEE/UCP, Carnegie Mellon University
AREAM, Electricidade da Madeira, Greenwave, Horários do Funchal, IP Cube, ISA, Logica, Turkcell, Zon Madeira

Environmental sustainability is an increasingly important global issue. Quite simply, humans, particularly those in the western world, use resources far faster than they can be reproduced. This behavior is arguably a consequence of the seductive vision of “wellbeing” afforded, enabled and encouraged by industrialization; a vision based on personal ownership and mass consumption. A society expressing wellbeing in this way is intrinsically unsustainable and the research challenge addressed in this project is the creation and discovery of methods for people to achieve self-fulfillment sustainably. The work is situated in the multi-disciplinary field of Human- Computer Interaction (HCI) and has three major foci: (i) use of sensors and machine learning to monitor and make sense of human behavior; (ii) application of motivational theory to intentionally influence people’s behavior; and (iii) use of a design mode of inquiry to address “wicked problems,” such as sustainability. The practical work takes place in two key areas of human activity: resource use in the home and transportation. A major theme throughout the project is the use of social networking services as an enabling technology.

The transition to sustainability must involve personal behavior change. This will only take place in response to peoples’ changing needs, drives and motivations. Correspondingly, an important element of this project is the grounded practical application of motivational theory to encouraging sustainable practices. Specifically, we will investigate social networks, and explore techniques in which a connected community of users can be supported as they disseminate, discuss, adopt, deploy and create sustainable practices. Example techniques include group goal setting and empowerment through the use of collective visualizations (promoting action by increasing the capacity to act). These social network services will leverage data from sensor deployments monitoring human activities in smart homes (to monitor how people consume energy and water resources) and smart transportation systems (to monitor and model behaviors around individual and public transport). The outcomes of this will be a series of robust motivational techniques supporting the development of sustainable behaviors in smart communities.

Design methods, with their emphasis on context, ethnographic study and detailed involvement of all stakeholders, offer the deep, encompassing level of understanding which intervening in the complex domain of sustainability requires. This approach will explicitly enable the full integration of this project into the framework of a Living Lab, in which a cycle of open innovation is supported through collaboration between skilled designers, corporations, utility providers and user groups.

This approach is one of research through design and will leverage new methods and materials emerging in the field of interaction design. The results will be a series of product/service systems that enable novel forms of enduring sustainable behavior, the exploration of these from the perspective of entrepreneurship and the development of new businesses and business models.

See a video about this project: .