KogniHome celebrates the apartment of the future

14 partners from the region of Ostwestfalen-Lippe gather for project completion

In August 2014, the Cluster of Innovation KogniHome was launched with the goal of developing technology for the smart apartment of the future. On Friday, 23 June 2017, 14 partners from the regional cooperative project presented a key development: the KogniHome research apartment at Bethel, in Bielefeld. A short film shows the functionalities of the apartment. That afternoon, 200 guests celebrated the successful completion of the KogniHome project at the Fachhochschule Bielefeld (Bielefeld University of Applied Sciences). The project was coordinated by the Cluster of Excellence Cognitive Interaction Technology (CITEC) at Bielefeld University. 

Cooking with KogniChef, without anything getting burnt (from left): Gabriele Albrecht-Lohmar from the BMBF, Prof. Dr. Helge Ritter of the Cluster of Excellence Cognitive Interaction Technology, and Prof. Dr. Günther Wienberg of Bethel. Photo: CITEC/Bielefeld University Gabriele Albrecht-Lohmar, from the department of “Mensch-Technik-Interaction; Demografischer Wandel” (Human-Machine Interaction; Demographic Change) within the Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF, Federal Ministry of Education and Research), was one of the first guests to visit the research apartment located at the Gadderbaumer Straße 41. The BMBF funds the Cluster of Innovation KogniHome as part of its research program on human-machine interaction. During her visit, Albrecht-Lohmar experienced what the fully networked apartment can do. “It is impressive how the new technology adjusts to the needs of the residents – and in doing so makes daily life easier,” says Albrecht-Lohmar. “With its developments, the Cluster of Innovation KogniHome has created an important foundation for cooperation between industry and academic research,” she explains. The research apartment combines prototypes from partners’ labs and workshops. The apartment was already honored in 2015 as a “Selected Location” in the “Germany – Land of Ideas” initiative. A year ago, KogniHome was still a simple residential apartment.

“The research apartment makes it possible to experience how we at KogniHome are advancing the topic of smart living, together with our partners from industry, the service sector, and research,” says Professor Dr. Helge Ritter, speaker of the Cluster of Innovation KogniHome. “Our research apartment’s technology is intuitive to operate, and addresses the user’s needs without domineering over them,” explains Ritter, who specializes in neuroinformatics and also serves as the coordinator of the Cluster of Excellence CITEC.

In addition to technological and engineering-related research, the project also deals with the potential impact of these new innovations, ranging from ethical aspects to legal, social, and safety-related consequences.

“Leading a self-determined life in one’s own apartment is especially important for individuals with physical or mental disabilities,” says Professor Dr. Günther Wienberg. Wienberg is deputy chairman of the board of the Bodelschwingh Foundation Bethel, which is one of the 14 project partners. “We made sure that potential users could be involved in the development of the smart apartment. We discussed pressing ethical issues with the consortium, and included social aspects in the research.” In ethics seminars, representatives from Bethel, CITEC, and the Bielefelder Gesellschaft für Wohnen und Immobiliendienstleistung mbH (Bielefeld Association for Residential and Real Estate Services mbH), the law faculty of the Bieefeld University of Applied Sciences, discussed these and other topics with industry partners. A brochure was published just in time for KogniHome project completion, which offered recommendations for dealing with ethical questions and other issues arising from the use of smart apartments.

In the past three years, strong industry partners ensured that the prototypes from KogniHome were driven towards product maturity. In the digital kitchen, for instance, the family-owned businesses Miele and Hettich contributed their know-how. The user, with his or her needs, was the focus of the work. The partners chose the year 2024 as the scenario for developing forward-looking technologies and working in an innovative way. The KogniHome prototypes, which simplify and enrich daily life, resulted from this.

Petra Sadra and Dirk Weber live at Bethel. On Friday, they tried out how the KogniHome mirror helps them start their day off right. Photo: CITEC/Bielefeld University The new film “KogniHome – A Birthday in the Smart Apartment,” depicts one day in the life of the fictional Becker family in KogniHome. Using the Beckers, whose members were conceptualized to serve as a model family, the project initiators were able to set up authentic scenarios: the smart entrance door personally greets residents and guests; the digital kitchen KogniChef helps users “stay in the lane” while cooking; a virtual dialogue assistant provides support while reading a newspaper; a personal trainer (known as the Trimmdich-Sessel [Slim-Down Chair]) leads users in age-appropriate physical exercises; and the smart mirror in the entranceway is connected to the wardrobe and makes sure that residents don’t forget anything when leaving the house.

Even though the project completion of the Cluster of Innovation KogniHome was celebrated on 23 June 2017, the 14 partners will continue to work together and want to establish an association called “KogniHome e.V.” for this purpose. “We would like to carry forward the findings from the first three years of research, and also use the smart apartment in the future,” says Helge Ritter. “We have learned what is important for people in living at home, and in which direction the technology has to go so that such technical systems can contribute to the demographic challenges of the future. In short: we know what is needed so that the bridge between human and machine points towards the future.”

The Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF, Federal Ministry of Education and Research) is providing €8 million in funding to the Cluster of Innovation KogniHome through the end of December 2017. The financial involvement of the 14 project partners brings the total budget to €11.3 million. KogniHome is part of BMBF’s funding focus “Mensch-Technik-Interaktion im demografischen Wandel“ (Human-Machine Interaction in Demographic Change). The following organizations are working together on this project: Bielefeld University, the Bielefeld University of Applied Sciences, Paderborn University, achelos GmbH (Paderborn), the Bodelschwingh Foundation Bethel (Bielefeld), BGW Bielefelder Gesellschaft für Wohnen und Immobiliendienstleistung mbH, DMW Schwarze GmbH & Co. Industrietore KG (Bielefeld), Hanning & Kahl GmbH & Co KG (Oerlinghausen), helectronics GmbH (Büren), Hella KGaA Hueck & Co. (Lippstadt), Hettich (Kirchlengern), HJP Consulting GmbH (Borchen), Miele & Cie. KG (Gütersloh), and the Neue Westfälische GmbH & Co. KG (Bielefeld).

More information is available online at:

Dr.-Ing. Thorsten Jungeblut, Bielefeld University 
Cluster of Excellence Cognitive Interaction Technology (CITEC)
Telephone: +49 521 106 12031
Email: tj@cit-ec.uni-bielefeld.de