KAUST: Using design thinking to create the Smart Home of the Future

Applying human centred design remotely

The challenge

King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) is a world renowned science and technology University in Saudi Arabia, located on the Red Sea.

On the KAUST campus, there are approximately 3500 houses and apartments for international residents, including students, faculty members and their families, who come from around 100 different countries.

The Smart team at KAUST is in the process of creating a Smart Home of the Future as a first step to converting one ordinary home into an intelligent ‘smart’ living space, with a view to potentially converting more homes in the future.

Treehouse Innovation, the human-centered design consultancy that created Sprintbase, was appointed to help the university develop a a set of innovative living experiences that would inform the vision of the smart home of the future, starting with the collaborative design of the home’s layout blueprint.

What they did

To ensure that the design of these smart homes was not technology or gadget driven, the KAUST team wanted to use a human centred design thinking process.

The project started at the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdown and meant that this 10-week project had to be done virtually. Using Sprintbase, the Treehouse Innovation team kicked off the project with a Design Thinking 101 event for 75 members of the KAUST community. This gave everybody an overview of the innovation process and engaged them with the challenge at hand.

The team then conducted extensive field research and gained deeper insight into factors affecting the challenge, such as the area’s extreme weather conditions, which include high temperatures, severe winds and sand storms.

“Using Sprintbase saved us a lot of time. The outcome of the design thinking workshop was automatically documented and available to the team by a push of a button.”

Capturing everything on Sprintbase made it easy for the wider team – which is spread across three countries – to see updates and contribute both in groups and individually in different timezones. The platform acted as a virtual project space to store all the generated content and data for the project.

Treehouse Innovation also ran a series of virtual community events with KAUST residents using Sprintbase, so they could contribute their ideas and provide feedback throughout the process.

Now that they’ve gained a clear understanding what residents need, KAUST are identifying how technology can be used to deliver useful, intuitive and delightful living experiences for future residents.

The results

  • High level community engagement with KAUST residents.
  • Extensive field research including one-on-one interviews , group interviews,  photo diaries and online workshops with local residents at KAUST.
  • Strategic design principles to be applied to the design and build of the Smart Home and used by the architectural team.

Benefits of using Sprintbase for this project

  • Simple way to take an ordinarily face to face project online swiftly and achieve real results.
  • Real-time sharing of project data and updates across timezones.
  • Opportunity for colleagues to work together and individually to share their feedback and ideas on the platform.
  • Whiteboards ideal for sharing visual findings and ideas for a project where visuals are key.

What the team had to say about Sprintbase

“Sprintbase enables you to accommodate a big audience using one platform.”

“Sprintbase has been particularly helpful during COVID-19. It helps our team to collaborate now that we are not able to meet face to face.”

“I found Sprintbase easy to use and intuitive even though I’m not familiar with these kind of tools from before.”

“I liked how Sprintbase allowed us to interact during the workshop.”

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