Living lab


A living lab, or living laboratory, is a research concept, which may be defined as a user-centered, iterative, open-innovation ecosystem, often operating in a territorial context (e.g. city, agglomeration, region or campus), integrating concurrent research and innovation processes within a public-private-people partnership.[1]


The term "living lab" has emerged in parallel from the ambient intelligence (AmI) research communities[2] context and from the discussion on experience and application research (EAR).[3] The emergence of the term is based on the concept of user experience[4][5][6][7][8][9] and ambient intelligence.[10][11][12]

William J. Mitchell, Kent Larson, and Alex (Sandy) Pentland at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are credited with first exploring the concept of a Living Laboratory. They argued that a living lab represents a user-centric research methodology for sensing, prototyping, validating and refining complex solutions in multiple and evolving real-life contexts. Nowadays, several living lab descriptions and definitions are available from different sources.[13][14][15][16][17][18]


A living lab is a user-centered, open-innovation ecosystem,[19][20][21] often operating in a territorial context (e.g. city, agglomeration, region, campus), integrating concurrent research and innovation processes[22] within a public-private-people partnership.[23]

The concept is based on a systematic user co-creation approach integrating research and innovation processes. These are integrated through the co-creation, exploration, experimentation and evaluation of innovative ideas, scenarios, concepts and related technological artefacts in real life use cases. Such use cases involve user communities, not only as observed subjects but also as a source of creation. This approach allows all involved stakeholders to concurrently consider both the global performance of a product or service and its potential adoption by users. This consideration may be made at the earlier stage of research and development and through all elements of the product life-cycle, from design up to recycling.[24]

User-centred research methods,[25] such as action research, community informatics, contextual design,[26] user-centered design, participatory design,[27] empathic design, emotional design,[28][29][30] and other usability methods, already exist but fail to sufficiently empower users for co-creating into open development environments. More recently, the Web 2.0 has demonstrated the positive impact of involving user communities in new product development (NPD) such as mass collaboration projects (e.g. crowdsourcing, Wisdom of Crowds) in collectively creating new contents and applications.

A living lab is not similar to a testbed as its philosophy is to turn users, from being traditionally considered as observed subjects for testing modules against requirements, into value creation in contributing to the co-creation and exploration of emerging ideas, breakthrough scenarios, innovative concepts and related artefacts. Hence, a living lab rather constitutes an experiential environment, which could be compared to the concept of experiential learning, where users are immersed in a creative social space for designing and experiencing their own future. Living labs could also be used by policy makers and users/citizens for designing, exploring, experiencing and refining new policies and regulations in real-life scenarios for evaluating their potential impacts before their implementations.[citation needed]

How it worksEdit

The living lab process,[31] which integrates both user-centred research and open innovation, is based on a maturity spiral concurrently involving a multidisciplinary team in the following four main activities:

  • Co-creation: bring together technology push and application pull (i.e. crowdsourcing, crowdcasting) into a diversity of views, constraints and knowledge sharing that sustains the ideation of new scenarios, concepts and related artefacts.
  • Exploration: engage all stakeholders, especially user communities, at the earlier stage of the co-creation process for discovering emerging scenarios, usages and behaviours through live scenarios in real or virtual environments (e.g. virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed reality).
  • Experimentation: implement the proper level of technological artefacts to experience live scenarios with a large number of users while collecting data which will be analysed in their context during the evaluation activity.
  • Evaluation: assess new ideas and innovative concepts as well as related technological artefacts in real life situations through various dimensions such as socio-ergonomic, socio-cognitive and socio-economic aspects; make observations on the potentiality of a viral adoption of new concepts and related technological artefacts through a confrontation with users' value models.

MIT Living Labs/City Science/Media LabEdit

From 2004 to 2007, the MIT House_n Consortium (now City Science), directed by Kent Larson, created and operated the PlaceLab,[32] a residential living laboratory located in a multi-family apartment building in Cambridge. Massachusetts. The PlaceLab was, at the time, the most highly instrumented living environment ever created.  Hundreds of sensors and semi-automated activity recognition allowed researchers to determine where occupants were, what they were doing, the systems they interacted with, and the state of the environment.  Volunteer occupants lived in the facility for weeks at a time to test the effectiveness of proactive health systems related to diet, exercise, medication adherence, and other interventions.  Kent Larson, Stephen Intille, Emmanuel Munguia Tapia, and other PlaceLab researchers twice received the “10-Year Impact Award” from Ubicomp: a “test of time” award for work that, with the benefit of that hindsight, has had the greatest impact.  This work was followed by BoxLab, a home furniture object that captured and processed sensor data in the home, and CityHome, which integrated architectural robotics into furniture to effortless transform space from sleeping to socializing to working to dining (now launched commercially as ORI Living).

In 2010, Mitchell, Larson and Pentland, formed the first US-based living labs research consortium. According to the consortium website:[33]

The convergence of globalization, changing demographics, and urbanization is transforming almost every aspect of our lives. We face new choices about where and how we work, live, travel, communicate, and maintain health. Ultimately, our societies are being transformed. MIT Living Labs brings together interdisciplinary experts to develop, deploy, and test - in actual living environments - new technologies and strategies for design that respond to this changing world. Our work spans in scale from the personal to the urban, and addresses challenges related to health, energy, and creativity.

The consortium has since been reorganized as the City Science Initiative at the MIT Media Lab, within the School of Architecture + Planning. There is now an international network of City Science Labs at Tongji University (Shanghai), Taipei Tech (Taipei), HafenCity University (Hamburg), Aalto University (Helsinki), ActuaTech (Andorra), and Ryerson University (Toronto).[34]

As of August 2019, Larson is Director of the City Science Initiative at the MIT Media Lab.[35] and Pentland is Professor of Media Arts and Sciences, and MIT Media Lab Entrepreneurship Program Director (also within the School of Architecture + Planning).[36] He has recently formed a partnership with the South Australian Government to set up a living lab in the Lot Fourteen hub, similar to MIT Living Labs in New York City, Beijing and Istanbul.[37]

Other living labsEdit

The term "living lab" or "living laboratory" is also used for representing a residential home research facility where the behaviour of people living in this house is observed and usage patterns are collected by researchers that are investigating methods for merging new technologies with user-centered design. In this type of living lab, users are more observed subjects than engaged in the co-creation of ideas and breakthrough scenarios. There are examples of other such research facilities like ExperienceLab at Philips Research. Signify (formerly Philips lighting) has UX research and living labs group.[38] In the Netherlands, Utrecht University has created the Governance Lab Utrecht.[39]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Pallot M. (2009). Engaging Users into Research and Innovation: The Living Lab Approach as a User Centred Open Innovation Ecosystem. Webergence Blog. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-05-09. Retrieved 2011-06-07.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ "AMI@Work on-line Communities". AMI@Work Communities Wiki. Retrieved 30 August 2010.
  3. ^ ISTAG EAR working group report "Involving users in the development of Ambient Intelligence" on
  4. ^ Gaver, W.W., Boucher, A., Pennington, S. and Walker, B. (2004). Cultural probes and the value of uncertainty.
  5. ^ Gaver, B., Dunne, T. and Pacenti, E. (1999). Design: Cultural probes, interactions, 6 (1). 21-29
  6. ^ Csikszentmihalyi, M. and Larson, R. (1997). Validity and reliability of the Experience Sampling Method, Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 175. 526-536
  7. ^ Garett, J (2002). The element of user experience, Paperback
  8. ^ Csikszentmihalyi, M., Larson, R. and Prescott, S. (1987). The ecology of adolescent activity and experience, Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 6. 281-294
  9. ^ User Experience (
  10. ^ Aarts, Emile H. L.; Stefano Marzano (2003). The New Everyday: Views on Ambient Intelligence. 010 Publishers. p. 46. ISBN 978-90-6450-502-7.
  11. ^ de Ruyter, B. & Pelgrim, E. (2007). Ambient Assisted Living research in CareLab, ACM Interactions, Volume 14, Issue 4, July + August 2007.
  12. ^ de Ruyter, B., van Loenen E. & Teeven, V. (2007). User Centered Research in ExperienceLab, European Conference, AmI 2007, Darmstadt, Germany, November 7–10, 2007. LNCS Volume 4794/2007, Springer.
  13. ^ Core Labs (2006), Archived 2006-07-16 at the Wayback Machine.
  14. ^ Niitamo, V.-P.; Kulkki, S.; Eriksson, M.; Hribernik, K. A.: State-of-the-art and good practice in the field of living labs, Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on Concurrent Enterprising: Innovative Products and Services through Collaborative Networks, Milan, Italy, 2006, 349-357.
  15. ^ Pallot, M; Trousse, B.; Prinz, W.;Richir, S.; de Ruyter, B.;Rerolle, O.: Katzy, B.;Senach, B.: Living Labs Research. ECOSPACE Special Issue Newsletter 5 dedicated to Living Labs, pages 15–22.
  16. ^ Schumacher, J.; Feurstein, K.: Living labs – a new multi-stakeholder approach to user integration, Presented at the 3rd International Conference on Interoperability of Enterprise Systems and Applications (I-ESA'07), Funchal, Madeira, Portugal, 2007.
  17. ^ Kusiak, A., The University of Iowa, "Innovation: The Living Laboratory Perspective", Computer-Aided Design & Applications, Vol. 4, No. 6, 2007, pp 863–876
  18. ^ European Commission Information Society and Media, Unit F4 New Infrastructure Paradigms and Experimental Facilities. Living Labs for user-driven open innovation. An overview of the Living Labs methodology, activities and achievements. January 2009.
  19. ^ Von Hippel, E. (1986). Lead users: a source of novel product concepts. Management Science 32, 791–805.
  20. ^ Chesbrough, H.W. (2003). Open Innovation: The new imperative for creating and profiting from technology. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.
  21. ^ Almirall, E., Wareham, J. (2011). Living Labs: Arbiters of Mid- and Ground- Level Innovation. Technology Analysis and Strategic Management, 23(1), 2011 pp. 87-102.
  22. ^ Bilgram, V.; Brem, A.; Voigt, K.-I. (2008). User-Centric Innovations in New Product Development; Systematic Identification of Lead User Harnessing Interactive and Collaborative Online-Tools, in: International Journal of Innovation Management, Vol. 12, No. 3, pp. 419-458.
  23. ^ Pallot M. (2009). Engaging Users into Research and Innovation: The Living Lab Approach as a User Centred Open Innovation Ecosystem. Webergence Blog. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-05-09. Retrieved 2011-06-07.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  24. ^ Kusiak, A.; Tang, C.-Y.: Innovation in a requirement life-cycle framework, Proceedings of the 5th International Symposium on Intelligent Manufacturing Systems, IMS’2006, Sakarya University, Sakarya, Turkey, 2006, 61-67.
  25. ^ ISO 13407:(1999), titled Human-centred design processes for interactive systems, is an ISO Standard providing Guidance on human-centred design activities throughout the life cycle of interactive computer-based systems.
  26. ^ Beyer, H. & Holtzblatt, K. (1998). Contextual Design: Defining Customer-Centered Systems. San Francisco: Morgan Kaufmann. ISBN 1-55860-411-1
  27. ^ Schuler, Namioka (1997). Participatory Design, Lawrence Erlbaum 1993 and chapter 11 in Helander's Handbook of HCI, Elsevier 1997.
  28. ^ Norman, D. (2004). Emotional Design. : why we love (or hate) everyday things, NY: Basic Books.
  29. ^ Norman, D. (1998). The Invisible Computer, Why Good Products Can Fail, the Personal Computer Is So Complex, and Information Appliances Are the Solution, Cambridge MA, MIT Press
  30. ^ Norman, D. (2007). The Design of Future Things. Basic Books.
  31. ^ Pallot, M., & Pawar, K. (2012). A holistic model of user experience for living lab experiential design. In 2012 18th International ICE Conference on Engineering, Technology and Innovation (pp. 1-15). IEEE.
  32. ^ "The PlaceLab". Retrieved 31 August 2019.
  33. ^ "MIT Living Labs". Archived from the original on 16 July 2010.
  34. ^ "MIT City Science". Retrieved 31 August 2019.
  35. ^ "Looking beyond smart cities: People". MIT. Retrieved 31 August 2019.
  36. ^ "Alex 'Sandy' Pentland". MIT. Retrieved 31 August 2019.
  37. ^ "Adelaide's Lot Fourteen to house Australia's first Living Lab". Optus. 4 July 2019. Retrieved 31 August 2019.
  38. ^ "The smart building living lab at Atea Stavanger". Interact. Retrieved 2019-12-06.
  39. ^ "Governance Lab Utrecht".{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)

External linksEdit

  • Peer-reviewed Technology Innovation Management Review special issue 2012 on living labs (open access journal)
  • Eskelinen, Jarmo, García Robles, Ana, Lindy, Ilari, Marsh, Jesse, Muente-Kunigami, Arturo, Editors, 2015. Citizen-Driven Innovation – A Guidebook for City Mayors and Public Administrators. World Bank and ENoLL.