Case Study

Co-creation & the IoT

Service design workshops to co-create use-cases for the Internet of things.


  • Co-creation
  • Facilitation
  • Rapid Protoyping
  • Concepting
  • Design requirements

Mobile and sensor technologies offer great opportunities, yet making these means work for social innovation is not self-evident. Based on the Context Mapping method from the Technical University Delft, people centred workshops were designed to co-create the Internet of Things (IoT) together with multidisciplinary stakeholders and end-users. The workshop methodology emphasises people-product interactions and services instead of IoT as a technology. After identifying use cases metaphorical ‘sensors’ and ‘things’ are added to link these with technology to create meaningful solutions within two and a half hours.

"Over 150 participants took part in numerous Co-create The IoT workshops to create meaningful solutions within two and a half hours"

The workshop originated during the Internet of Things Week in Rotterdam (2013), where the first workshop was organised around the topic Social Smart Cities and Mobility. The original workshop kit, consisted of a workshop booklet, interaction cards and words, a print out of the map of Rotterdam and object- and sensor images The artefacts were designed to enable multidisciplinary stakeholders and end-users to co-create use cases around a, for many people, incomprehensible and complicated technology. The workshop booklet contained a number of tasks, the interaction cards were meant to trigger ideas and the object and sensor images could be placed on the map of Rotterdam to visualise their ideas in the form of a smart sensor network. Instead of technical sensors, human senses functioned as a metaphor to visualise the registration of sound, vision, taste, touch and smell.

First Co-create the-iot workshop First Co-create the iot toolkit First Co-create the iot workshop booklet
First Co-create the IoT workshop during the IoT Week in Rotterdam.

The first workshop was held with seventeen participants and was facilitated by two facilitators, one to lead the workshop session and the other to document it. The proces and results of the workshop were documented in a Fanzine that was sent to all participants. After the successful facilitated workshop in Rotterdam, more workshops were requested by SocIoTal an European FP7 Research Project (2014).

A second iteration of the workshop was developed. The workshop booklet was changed into a workshop poster with guidelines and space for participants to write down their process, decisions and conclusions. Also workshop templates each symbolising a digital device were added, to understand how end-users would like to interact with interfaces of IoT services. Instead of providing participants with interaction cards and words there was decided to just provide them with the cards, since the words turned out to be redundant. The cards were printed on firmer paper and were cut in advance instead of letting the participants cut them out themselves and consequentially waste valuable time. The object and sensor images were redesigned, especially paying attention to usability, since the previous artefacts were primitive and therefore were distracting participants from the main workshop goal. In this second iteration the artefacts were laser cut and engraved in acrylic plastic. The artefacts were enhanced with actors, to enable participants to replay the scenario they put together with the artefacts.

Mock-up for the second toolkit Co-creative toolkit and actor Second Co-create the iot toolkit
First Co-create the IoT workshop during the IoT Week in Rotterdam.

For the SocIoTal project numerous workshops were held in Santander, Spain and in Novisad, Serbia to co-create use cases and distillate requirements together with consortium partners, multidisciplinary stakeholders and end-users. For every workshop the interaction cards were adapted to the topic of the workshop and if necessary new object tokens were laser cut. The workshops were captured through notes, videos and photos. The new artefacts were a great succes. Participants used them to visualise and communicate their ideas.

“The traffic light sees the car, which communicates with the bicycles to create a green traffic flow through the city”

The objects almost became living things talking to each other, since the metaphorical senses made it easy to associate actions with human behaviour. The visualised network enables participants to express their needs and wishes more easily while building and in the discussion held afterwards. By capturing these needs and wishes useful insights to formulate requirements for development can be required. After the workshop the findings were analysed and documented in a formal report that was shared with all consortium members and participants. The reports contained requirements and recommendations for the design and development of IoT applications and services.

Interaction cards with votes Participant filling in the workshop guideline poster Co-create the iot workshop Participants drawring user interface on device templates Co-create the iot workshop result Value propositioning template
Service design workshops to co-create use-cases for the Internet of things.

During the Level Up Conference (2014) in Tunis the workshop was held with thirty-six participants in the age of eighteen to thirty-five, who participated in groups of nine people. During the workshop two translators were present to translate the tasks and to help facilitate the workshop. The insights of the workshop were used in the SocIoTal project. Besides serving its purpose in European Projects, the workshop is also used to assist large companies, i.e. Accell Nederland (2016), to distillate requirements and incorporate IoT solutions into their designs.

For U4IoT a European H2020 Research Project, there is currently worked on an online (portal) and offline (handbook) training to support Large Scale European Pilots on IoT to engage end-users through co-creative workshops (2017). The workshop methodology and toolkit is redesigned to be generally applicable for numerous projects without having to make adjustments. The toolkit will be accompanied by a handbook containing the methodology.

Publications & Related Work

  • Co-creation as the Key to a Public, Thriving, Inclusive and Meaningful EU IoT

    Van Kranenburg R., Stembert N., Moreno M.V., Skarmeta A.F., Lopez C., Elicegui I. and Sanchez L. (2014) UCAmI & IWAAL, IoT Everywhere: Towards smart objects everywhere.

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