The Smart Contracting in Public Spaces project is located within the Ambient Environments Constellation, and sets out to better understand the value constellations that occur between the stakeholders who inhabit and move through public urban environments.

From communicating with love ones to organising our finances, IoT technology enables us to perform an increasingly wide range of tasks on the move, and in a variety of public spaces. At the same time personal banking data will soon be opened up to third party use by the Open Banking Project, which will enable individuals’ greater choice on how to access and use their financial data in new and creative ways. Whilst we have found that transactions involving money form a small part of the total value transactions taking place everyday between individuals, the exchange of money plays a pivotal role in a large proportional of them, and provides a point of record around which other value exchanges are clustered. STiPS aims to better understand this, and explore how it might open up opportunities for new uses of transaction data in Fintech solutions. Observational studies have revealed the dynamics of connected micro-transactions, and we have extended the concept of connected value transactions to the broader context of the supply chain in two separate prototypes: the Bitbarista; an autonomous coffee machine that provides coffee and a vote for future coffee supplies in exchange for Bitcoin, and a chatbot that enables visitors to the Royal Highland Show to record and review their transactions journeys and the broader context of supply in a joined up way.  

In conjunction with Edinburgh City Council Public Art Research Project

The Ethnobot was utilized to generate insights and reach a understanding of the project’s problem areas. The public art research project, which is supported by the Scottish Graduate School of Arts and Humanities in partnership with the City of Edinburgh Council, investigates the key factors that influence public art practice in the city of Edinburgh, including funding, legislation, policy and planning as well as what needs to be in place to ensure that local settings are beneficial to the development of public art. There have been three strands of research. The first focused on deep interviews with Edinburgh City Council professionals, Directors of galleries in Edinburgh, Public Art Officers, Scottish Artists, and Academics from the University of Edinburgh. The focus was to open up and generate the focus towards pertinent questions that need to be asked. The second strand of research brought the same stakeholders together in a Design-led workshop to feel out tensions between parties and delineate a clear focus on the multiple issues involved with a public art commission. The Ethnobot was run and developed as a third phase of research designed from insights from the first two strands of research. Here key stakeholders were invited back to have a conversation in public space with a chatbot. They moved around three specific self chosen public works of art in a curated moment focused on transformative and contentious spaces, as well as problematizing the development of new works of art.


We are surrounded by a proliferation of connected devices performing increasingly complex data transactions. Traditional design methods tend to simplify or conceal this complexity to improve ease of use. However, the hidden nature of data is causing increasing discomfort. This paper presents BitBarista, a coffee machine designed to explore perceptions of data processes in the Internet of Things. BitBarista reveals social, environmental, qualitative and economic aspects of coffee supply chains. It allows people to choose a source of future coffee beans, situating their choices within the pool of decisions previously made. In doing so, it attempts to engage them in the transactions that are required to produce coffee. Initial studies of BitBarista with 42 participants reveal challenges of designing for connected systems, particularly in terms of perceptions of data gathering and sharing, as well as assumptions generated by current models of consumption. A discussion is followed by a series of suggestions for increasing positive attitudes towards data use in interactive systems.

For more information about Bit Barista, watch the OiT UK interview with Ella Tallyn HERE.

Link to the paper

Link to the project

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Crossing Borders as part of FuturePlay Festival Edinburgh

As part of Future Play festival, part of Assembly Room activities on George Street our co-director Chris Speed led a discussion on Designing for Near Futures with Bettina Nissen and Larissa Pschetz on the 17th August. The short talks offered a glimpse into the near future of a society without money and biological civil war. For more information about the event and the full Future Play programme visit the Future Play website. 

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The Ethnobot


Computational systems and objects are becoming increasingly closely integrated with our daily activities.
Ubiquitous and pervasive computing first identified the emerging challenges of studying technology used on-the move
and in widely varied contexts. With IoT, previously sporadic experiences are interconnected across time and space in numerous and complex ways. This increasing complexity has multiplied the challenges facing those who study human experience to inform design. This paper describes the results of a study that used a chatbot or ‘Ethnobot’ to gather ethnographic data, and considers the opportunities and challenges in collecting this data in the absence of a human ethnographer. This study involved 13
participants gathering information about their experiences at the Royal Highland Show. We demonstrate the effectiveness of the Ethnobot in this setting, discuss the benefits and drawbacks of chatbots as a tool for ethnographic data collection, and conclude with recommendations for the design of chatbots for this purpose.


Link to the paper

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In December 2017, IoTUK travelled to Edinburgh to take part in a workshop on blockchain, The Block Exchange. This was run by Chris Speed and Ella Tallyn at Design Informatics, who are exploring the notions of value and design in blockchain as part of PETRAS.

The world has changed. The push economy where advertisers sell us products and services that has long dominated the way we consume has been disrupted by a new pull economy, characterised by platforms such as Uber and Airbnb, where consumers take part in providing and shaping the services provided.

Alongside this, the rise of the digital currency Bitcoin, along with its supporting technology Blockchain, offers a radical new model of peer-to-peer trading, which raises questions about our existing economic models, and threatens to undermine long accepted financial power structures. This has precipitated an explosion of new products and thinking around decentralised trading of goods and services.

The workshops is fast paced, involving a pack of cards which symbolise oil, sheep, wood and other goods and materials, a big box of Lego and a lot of frantic trading.

Watch the IoTUK and PETRAS case study video on the Block Exchange: Value and Trust by Design to learn more HERE.

For more information and to download the toolkit visit the project website-

Any queries please contact Ella Tallyn:

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