27 October 2006

Third generation Living Labs: the quest for user-centred mobile services

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Living Labs
Faced with a context of a vast and still growing supply of relatively cheap and effective information and communications technology (ICT) and stimulated demand for new solutions to achieve mobility, even seamless mobility, Prof Jan Annerstedt and Sascha Haselmayer raise the issue of understanding user needs and of feeding that understanding into applications:

  • “How to foster – at the very early stages of the product cycle – user-oriented or user-centred mobile applications for business firms and for public agencies, for professionals as well as for ordinary citizens?”
  • “How to face the quest for novelty among ICT applications with regard to actual user needs, when many current applications in a world of increased mobility have emerged unexpectedly from the twists and turns of invention as digital technology was combined with other technology, often driven by advanced user-demands for new mobile applications?”

Annerstedt (a professor at the Department of International Economics and Management, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark, where he holds the UNESCO Chair in Communication) and Haselmayer (co-founder of Interlace-Invent, a research-based consultancy firm in Copenhagen with operations across Europe, and an expert in Knowledge and Innovation intensive Urbanism) wrote a paper addressing these questions, based on their analytical insights and practical experiences while engaged in companies and city regions that appear to be more prominent than others in developing specialized software and other technology in support of mobility.

They focus specifically on the so-called “Living Labs”, which they see as “one of the most vitalizing modes of fostering user-led or user-centric innovations”.

“A Living Lab is an open innovation space, which recognizes the design and development roles of users or user communities even in the early phases of an innovation process. A Living Lab contains a set of facilitating instruments to sustain effective interactions between the producers and users.”

The authors are most interested in the third generation of Living Labs that cover an entire city area which operates as “a full-scale urban laboratory and proving ground for prototyping and testing new technology application and new methods of generating and fostering innovation processes in real time”, in other words as von Hippel-inspired local, user-driven innovation environments.

Currently, Living Labs initiatives have been taken by groups of stakeholders in cities like Almere (the Netherlands), Barcelona (Spain), Copenhagen (Denmark), Lund-Malmö (Sweden), Helsinki (Finland), London (United Kingdom), Mataro (Spain), San Cugat (Spain), Sophia-Antipolis (France), Stockholm (Sweden), Tallinn (Estonia), Torino (Italy), Bergslagen/Grythyttan (Sweden), and Kalmar/Västervik (Sweden).

The paper was presented at eChallenges 2006, Barcelona on 26 October 2006 and can now be downloaded from the Living Labs blog.

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