Design Brief

Living with Difference in the Connected Home

The big question

Living together in all our differences, is part of our present and will shape our futures.

How might we use connected Internet of Things systems and products to re-imagine collaborative and communal living that is sensitive to differences between members of these living spaces?

What we are looking for

  • Early stage designs that use connected IoT systems and products to explore new ways of living together
  • Ideas about how to balance personalisation, privacy, and the experience with the interests and preferences of different people who live together
  • Creative interventions in using connected devices to provide for life together, not only as individuals

How the Design Challenge Works

The Design Challenge has two rounds.

Round 1

Deadline: rolling until June 24th

Submit your “napkin sketch” - very early sketch and description of your idea

Round 2

Deadline: June 24

Selected applicants from Round 1 are given VIRT-EU beta tools to support their concept development and are invited to submit full materials of technical diagram, user storyboard and business plan.

We will consider all of the concepts submitted within the deadline and evaluate them.

On or before June 27th, we will announce the finalists who will be invited present their concept at the final VIRT-EU design challenge event as part of ORGCon on 13 July 2019 in London.

ORGCon is Open Rights Group's conference in London.

The selected concepts will be the ones that best answer the Challenge question and have the most potential for impact.


One winning team will win £1,200 and one runner-up team will win £750. The winner and the runner-up will be invited to London to present their concept to the ORGCon conference on Saturday 13 July, where they will also receive one hour of 1-to-1 mentoring from an IoT industry leader. Limited travel support is available.

Who can take part?

Who can submit concepts? You must be a working professional in the field of design and technology.

Can I use an idea I already came up with? Yes.

Can we apply as a team? Can we apply as a team? Yes. If selected, you will need to have at least one team member attend the Design Challenge in London on July 13th.

Who will see my concept? Only our reviewing team, unless you are selected to attend the final event, in which case you will present your idea on stage along with the other finalists to the broader public.

Design constraints

  • This challenge is for concepts around IoT in the home
  • The home users are families, groups or individuals who live together
  • The concept addresses or reflects on challenges or consequences of connected life
  • The concept should interface with at least one conception of ‘difference’ as outlined above and through the personae described below
  • Take into account how your connected IoT product or system would interface with at least one of these aspects of difference:
    • Language
    • Intercultural
    • Intergenerational
    • Ability and capability
    • Socio-economic status

Submission material

Round 1

Your concept should present a description of your idea and an image

  1. Description (max 500 words)
    Write a short description of your concept for an IoT system or product that deals with questions around living with difference in the connected home. (required)
    • What does it do?
    • How will it be used?
    • Who exactly is it for?
    • What problem does it solve?
  2. Upload an image or diagram illustrating how your concept would be used in a possible scenario. (optional)

Round 2

Submit the following:

  • a full description of the idea (with no word limit)
  • a technical diagram
  • a user storyboard
  • a business plan


To provide some inspiration around the ways that you might think about living at home, with difference, here are some sample personae. You don’t have to design only for them but perhaps these sketches will help to provide some sparks for thinking about the ways in which the idea of home is changing, and how connected IoT products might play new roles in these communal spaces. Unlike most personae, these are of groups of people who live together in different ways, rather than individuals.

Sara, Marco and Xian

Sara, Marco and Xian all share a large house. They are all between their mid-20s and mid-30s. Sara and Xian are working, Marco has gone back to university for postgraduate training. They are all single and dating, but their home life is important, even though they were not friends before they moved in. They want to share music, files and expenses, and really enjoy having collective dinners and parties that they all contribute to. But they also would like to keep some parts of their lives private from each other. They each have a different mother language and grew up with different cultural practices around food, space and privacy.

The Farooqs

Lisa and Mohammed Farooq have two small children and both work full time. Recently Mohammed’s mother Lutfun moved in with them since she is becoming elderly, and also to help care for the kids. She and Mohammed share a language that they are teaching to the children, but Lisa doesn’t speak it. Lutfun doesn’t see very well but is very independent and also wants to help with the children.

The Stevens

Anabel and Todd Stevens live with their son Barney. Barney suffered an mountain climbing accident over his gap year and needs some help with daily tasks due to his injuries, which have also prevented him from beginning university, although he would like to go. The whole family are eager technology users.

Molly, Mia and Mo

Molly lives with her lodger Mo, who is really nice but sometimes struggles to make ends meet. Her daughter Mia splits her time between Molly’s house and her dad’s home, which is on the other side of town. Molly wants Mo to feel at home, but also tries to keep her family life separate. Mia takes her homework between Molly’s place and her dad’s, and both parents try to keep on top of helping organise activities as well as get Mia to them.

Related materials

  • “The increasing sophistication of the sensors embedded in technology makes it possible for devices (‘things’) to read, gauge and understand consumers at unprecedented levels. Sensors measure physical inputs and transform them into raw data, which is then digitally storable for access and analysis.” ( Ernst + Young Report on IOT+Media)
  • “Technology is stepping in to help people enjoy life in their own homes for much longer as well. With the latest advancements in smart home technology, you can help older family members to achieve a comfortable, independent, and safe life in their own homes…While there seems to be widespread agreement about the potential for telehealth and telecare, there are some cautionary notes: Almost a third believe that trying to manage technology in the home of an elderly relative will create more worries”

Join the Design Challenge


VIRT-EU is a consortium of international organisations and universities seeking to understand how the Internet of Things (IoT) designers and developers enact ethics in practice in order to develop tools to support reflection on ethics, data and privacy throughout the development process. Partners include IT University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design, Uppsala University, Politecnico di Torino, London School of Economics and Open Rights Group.

This project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 732027.

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