Smart Cues Toolkit: Supporting Physical Activity at Home with Interactive Contextual Cues

Lead Research Organisation: CARDIFF UNIVERSITY
Department Name: Computer Science


Physical activity is a miracle drug: even a small amount of activity has a positive impact on our health and wellbeing. However, finding time to exercise is difficult, especially if we have other things to do every day. One solution is adding movement to our everyday routine and moving a bit more when we do other things, e.g., standing on one leg when brushing your teeth to work on our balance. Behaviours like that help to add more activity into our day without extra effort or having to find time - but we still have to remember to do it, which is not easy. But what if we did not have to remember?

Habits could help. Habitual behaviours are automatic and do not require conscious remembering. However, as anyone who has ever tried to start a new habit knows, it can be difficult - especially if that habit involves physical activity. Habits form when the behaviour is consistently repeated in the same environment: in the same place, in the presence of the same objects, etc. It is the environment and contextual cues that with time start to prompt the behaviour so that it happens automatically. Internet of Things (IoT) technologies could help us control such contextual cues and create our own 'smart cues' that are tailored to our routines and the behaviours we want to turn into habits. So far IoT has been used in home settings to help control the environment (e.g. controlling lights) and provide health monitoring (e.g. fall detection), but as IoT technologies often become part of the home environment - and habits depend on the environment to form - they could be used to facilitate and support habit formation. While there has been limited research on the use of IoT to support behaviour change, no work has focused on supporting habits, even though long-term change in behaviour depends on the formation of habits to ensure that the new behaviour continues. We want to address this gap.

This project aims to apply habit formation research to the development of IoT systems ('smart cues') that could support the formation of exercise habits at home. We will develop a Smart Cues Toolkit that will include: a set of interaction techniques, design patterns, recommended materials and form factors for smart cues; a set of validated prototypes; and case studies showcasing implementation challenges and solutions. The toolkit will provide guidance on developing home IoT systems for supporting physical activity habits that can be used by researchers to help inform behaviour change interventions. The development of the toolkit will depend on an in-depth understanding of users' needs, attitudes, and expectations, as well as identifying how smart cues could best fit into people's homes. As a result, the toolkit will also benefit other types of behaviour change interventions that rely on the formation of new habits, e.g. home-based rehabilitation or supporting sustainable behaviours.


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