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Residents of wired apartment under surveillance

PlaceLab project studies interaction with home technologies

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In July, researchers monitoring a wired, high-tech apartment in Boston welcomed the first occupants. This 1,000-square-foot testing ground for human interaction with home technology systems, called PlaceLab, features miles of wire stowed within the walls and cabinetry, and hundreds of sensors that monitor human activity and environmental conditions. In a recent 10-day experiment, researchers collected about 350 gigabytes of data, which is enough to fill about 75 DVD discs. Kent Larson, director of the House_n Consortium at MIT, said it's difficult to anticipate how people will interact with home technologies without observing this interaction. "To try to design a system for the home without actually studying how it is used in that complex mix – (you) often end up with products they can't actually integrate in their lives. We thought it was time to build a living laboratory to study these things in the context of everyday life – studying how people interact with...