Visitors to Geniale Discuss Smart Homes

World Café at Geniale science festival explores the possibilities and limits of intelligent apartments

What should an intelligent home be able to do? And what would it be better off not doing? Which decisions should a smart home make for us? During the Geniale science festival, CITEC organized a World Café for the first time – together with the Fachhochschule der Diakonie (Diaconial University of Applied Sciences), the v. Bodelschwingh Foundation Bethel, and furniture technology manufacturer Hettich. The discussion format was part of a total of five program events hosted by the partners at Geniale. At the Fachhochschule der Diakonie in Bethel, visitors discussed the topic “The Future of Living – What Should a Smart House Do?”

At the World Café, Ralf Müterthies and Thorsten Jungeblut discussed the future of living with guests. Photo: CITEC/Bielefeld University “The concept of the World Café worked well – the guests and experts had intensive discussions,” says Jörg Heeren, a speaker for science communication who moderated the Café. Experts in attendance at the World Café included Dr. Thorsten Jungeblut (CITEC), Melissa Henne (Bethel), Professor Dr. Thomas Zippert (Fachhochschule der Diakonie) and Ralf Müterthies (Hettich corporation). After a short round of introductions, each of the four experts proceeded to their table. Heeren divided the visitors into groups who could then discuss their questions. After ten minutes, the groups switched tables, moving on to another key topic.

“Progress in microelectronics has made it possible to produce technical devices that are becoming increasingly intelligent. The increasing networking of such components in the smart home has resulted in unprecedented functionality,” says Dr. Thorsten Jungeblut, coordinator of the KogniHome Cluster of Innovation. “The smart home of the future ought to improve people’s health and quality of life, while at the same time enabling them to live independently at home in their own four walls for as long as possible.” At his table, Jungeblut discussed the technical possibilities of an intelligent apartment.

Ralf Müterthies pointed out how intelligent furniture can change the way one participates in daily life: “An intelligent apartment only becomes practical for the user through the complete integration of smart furniture – smart furniture thus has to be thought of as more than just the installation of electronic components,” says Müterthies.

Jörg Heeren led Geniale visitors through the World Café. Photo: CITEC/Bielefeld University Of particular interest were the ethical implications of an intelligent apartment. “A smart home offers many possibilities in providing support in daily life – especially for people with limitations,” says Melissa Henne, who heads the Stabstelle Unternehmensentwicklung (Office of Corporate Development) at the v. Bodelschwingh Foundation Bethel. “But it also changes our lives in numerous ways. We should reflect on this from various perspectives, and then make conscious decisions about where we want to use this technology in the future – and where we don’t.”

Discussion participants collected their ideas on brown sheets of paper. Photo: CITEC/Bielefeld University At the core of his discussion, Professor Dr. Thomas Zippert addressed how senior citizens deal with an intelligent apartment, and what kinds of needs this user group has. “I think smart homes are good and important if they enable people to live in their own homes for as long as possible,” says Zippert. “I find them problematic if they replace dependence on others, such as neighbors or caregivers, with another non-transparent and difficult-to-use technology.

The conclusions from each table discussion were jotted down on paper table coverings, and afterward the discussion, visitors could again have a look at the findings over a cup of coffee. In addition to the World Café, program events included visits to KogniHome, the smart apartment in Bethel, among others. Each hour, Michael Adams and Nils Neumann from CITEC, along with Jaqueline Langer and Ralf Müterthies from Hettich, led groups of visitors on a tour through KogniHome.

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